RECORDS: Capitals 33-17-7 Hawks 24-26-8
PUCK DROP: 7:30
THE NATIONALS HAVE NEVER WON A PLAYOFF SERIES: Japers Rink
At this point, we should just enjoy every game for the singular event that it is. I guess. So tonight is the one time per year that Alex Ovechkin comes to town, and if you’re headed to the UC tonight remember that you may be seeing the greatest goal-scorer of all-time (if you adjust for the era and such). So that’s cool. Other than that… well, it’s more to the Lance Bouma-Tommy Wingels Showcase Showdown.
When looking at the Caps, it’s actually really hard to tell just what the hell they’re doing at the top of the Metropolitan. Maybe it’s just that division is so bad, or was until the Penguins turned on lately. For fuck’s sake, the Flyers are in third in that division. Did you know that? No, you didn’t, because you don’t ever think about Cold Ones. And you don’t know who the hell is on there anymore. And they’re in third.
The Caps are a bad possession team. They’re a bad defensive team, as they actually have a worse expected goals-against than the Islanders, and the Islanders defensive policy is to fart into the wind. The Caps haven’t even really gotten a high-level of goaltending, as both Braden Holtby and Phillip Grubauer are carrying SV%’s right around league average. Holtby of late has been terrible, with an .898 in February. At least Trotz has figured out to not punt him out there 70+ times a season.
What the Caps do is shoot well, with the league’s best SH% at evens. The Caps have never needed to dominate games possession-wise with the skills of Ovie, Backstrom, Oshie, Kuznetsov, and they still have bottom-six finish with Eller, Connolly, and Vrana. They get some help in that area from the back end as well, with Carlson and Orlov each having over 20 points (and Carlson over 40). But the extent at which they’re overcoming their deficiencies so far makes you believe this is all a house of cards. And of course, once the Caps spit it in Round 1 or 2, we’ll get the now springtime tradition of Caps and turning their road jerseys into home ones by opening up a vein or six.
The Caps busted a modest two-game losing streak by stuffing the Wild but good on Thursday. They’ve been ho-hum this month, going 3-2-2 and giving life to the division chase of Pittsburgh. The Pens are three points back but have played two games more, so it’s still a ways to go but if the market corrects on the Caps before the playoffs, you can see where this is going.
Still, for tonight, it’s an awful lot of firepower for the Hawks beleaguered defense and goalies and… you know, let’s just change this to “beleaguered Hawks.” The Caps can get you from three lines and the power play is always something you don’t want to mess with. Trotz likely won’t hold anything back tonight, as the Hawks look like easy prey to just about everyone right now. The word’s out that if you get the Hawks in any kind of antsy situation, they’re probably going to find a way to lose and/or pack up the cats. So Washington will be looking for an early lead to get themselves an easy night. Not like the Hawks can score three goals anyway.
For the Hawks, lineup changes look like Connor Murphy will be punished for catching a rut on Thursday in Quenneville’s every increasingly-logical world. David Kampf also looks like he’ll draw back in for Tomas Jurco, so he can center Duclair and Anisimov for seven minutes or so. Everything else should stay the same, and Forsberg will get two straight starts if you can believe it.
Nothing to do now but play spoiler and see how much Schmaltz, Top Cat, and now Dahlstrom can grow. At least the Hawks showed some chutzpa on Thursday. That’s another thing to watch, whether Q can keep them trying until the end. We have so little to hang on to.
Game #59 Preview