Sunday, November 21, 2010

Preview: Capitals @ Devils

Washington Capitals @ New Jersey Devils

Washington: 14-5-2, 30 points
Leading scorer: Alex Ovechkin, 10-16-25, and Alexander Semin, 14-12-26, in 21 GP
Tied Fenwick% last season: 51.1%
Notable injuries/illnesses: D Tom Poti, F Mike Knuble
Starting goalie: Michal Neuvirth (12-3-1, 2.63, .912), though look for Braden Holtby (2-1-1, 3.33, .869) to maybe get the start
Player to watch: C Marcus Johansson

New Jersey: 5-13-2, 12 points
Leading scorer: Patrik Elias, 2-10-12 in 20 GP
Tied Fenwick% last season: 52.1%
Notable injuries/illnesses: G Martin Brodeur, W Jamie Langenbrunner, D Matt Taormina, LW Zach Parise, C Jacob Josefson, D Bryce Salvador, D Anssi Salmela, D Mark Fraser
Starting goalie: Martin Brodeur (4-10-1, 2.74, .901), though look for Johan Hedberg (1-2-1, 4.53, .855) to get the nod
Player to watch: LW Patrik Elias

Season series:

Devils 2 @ Capitals 7 (10/9)

New Jersey is coming off a close 3-2 defeat at the hands of the St. Louis Blues, while the Capitals lost 5-4 to Philadelphia in a shootout. Both teams appear to be playing better as of late, though of course that means the Devils are playing mediocre again while the Capitals are playing like a pretty good team.

1) Don't let Johan Hedberg get into a groove. He can be starting caliber for stretches. Score early so he can't settle into a rhythm. Hedberg playing great is really one of the only ways the Devils can win this game.

2) Up tempo. The Devils have injury issues and don't have the youth or "horses" to play an up-tempo game with the Capitals. The Capitals need to play fast, forecheck hard, and use their speed and skating to create chances. Marcus Johansson did a terrific job of that against Philadelphia. Sitting back plays into the Devils' strengths.

3) Play along the wings. Travis Zajac and Jason Arnott are a better 1-2 down the middle than Backstrom and whomever else the Capitals can put out there. The Capitals are much better at wing and on defense, though, so keeping the attack from the blueline to the wings will help.

4) Discipline. Don't fall into a penalty-taking frenzy. Even though the Devils' PP is only 11% (29th in the NHL) with guys like Elias, Kovalchuk, Arnott, Zajac, and Greene, it could strike rapidly and frequently given the opportunity. Don't give them that opportunity, boys in white.

5) Play dirty. I don't mean dirty like Todd Bertuzzi, but dirty like Mike Richards or David Backes--frustrate the Devils, play some borderline hockey, run into their goalie, get them off their games. The Devils will lose this game in another blowout if they don't maintain their defensive structure. Get them focused on revenge instead of playing hockey and that's exactly what will happen.

Two blowouts against the same stingy Devils team in a single season? Don't bet against it. It is kind of hard to blowout the home team, though. I'm looking for a strong all-around performance, including from the captain. Capitals 4, Devils 1.

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