Saturday, April 5, 2008

A perfect opportunity

For many of the Washington Capitals, tomorrow's game will be the biggest of their career. With Carolina losing its last game of the season to the Panthers tonight, they are stalled at 92 points. If the Caps will against the Panthers tomorrow, they will win the SE Division outright and a ticket to the playoffs as the third seed.

Pressure? Maybe just a bit. So what do the Caps have to do to win?

- Dont underestimate the Panthers. Yeah, they are out of the playoff race. But, the Cats are a dangerous team. Until the Capitals eliminated them from playoff contention a week ago, they were still making a run for it. Much like the Capitals, the Panthers have been trying to rebuild and are slowly - at times painfully - getting there. After tonight's win against a Canes team that had once ruled the SE Division and were desperate for a win, the Panthers are going to feel pretty confident. And when you are out of playoff contention, whats more fun then playing spoiler?

- Get physical. When the Caps are throwing their weight around, are aggressive on the forecheck and pass the puck well, they are very very good. Milan Jurcina, Tom Poti, Matt Bradley, Matt Cooke, Donald Brashear and of course Alex Ovechkin are all capable of bone jarring hits. The trouble with the Caps is that they often dont maintain their physical play through the game, which leads to...

- Consistency. What has made me the most hopeful about the Cap's recent run is that they have become more focused and consistent for all 60 minutes. Yeah, there are some blips here and there, but for the most part their minds are wholly in the game. If the Caps can be consistent in playing their game, they'll emerge the SE Division champs.

- Alex Ovechkin. No doubt, AO has carried this team all alone at times. Now that he is getting some more help from the likes of Brooks Laich, Matt Cooke, Sergei Federov, and Victor Kozlov, AO can relax...just a little. For the Caps to win tomorrow and in any playoff round, the AO machine must continue on track, and there certainly isnt an indication its slowing down. Something tells me the pressure of the playoffs would only ignite Ovie some more.

- Secondary scoring. Ok, ok...I just said that Alex Ovechkin's scoring was one of the key points of the Caps recent streak. And this point also very much pertains to any games that the Caps would play in further rounds but the likes of Brooks Laich, Matt Cooke, Sergei Federov, and Victor Kozlov must continue racking up the assists and/or goals. Defensemen will be on Ovie like a puck bunny at a player's party, and he'll need some help.

At the end of the day, the Caps know what they must do to win. Carolina handed them a perfect situation tonight to show the NHL how far the Caps have come in a short period of time, and I dont think anyone on that team is going to give up that opportunity.


The Acid Queen said...

Just go ahead and claim the Division, m'dear. That drooling moron Nathan Whoreton as much as bragged last night that the Panthers were going to throw their game today just to spite the Hurricanes, so I think the Caps will be able to take the night off and STILL win the Division.

dmg said...

Another thing the Caps have to do to win: score more goals than the other team.

Sorry, couldn't resist.

Shmee said...

AQ: Nathan Whoreton? I love it.

But as someone who has also had some painful times with her team, I sympathize! I hope you rip them a new one...

DMG: Good point!

Dan, Jr. said...

You've hit on all the right points. I completely agree. I'm confident they will pull it off. It's the perfect opportunity. It's their last opportunity.

"Opportunity, opportunity
This is your big opportunity
They shop around
follow you without a sound
Whatever you do now
Don't turn around"
-Elvis Costello