Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Preview: Capitals @ Hurricanes

Washington Capitals @ Carolina Hurricanes

Washington: 14-6-2, 30 points
Leading scorer: Alex Ovechkin, 10-16-25, and Alexander Semin, 14-12-26, in 22 GP
Shot differential/game: +2.2
Notable injuries/illnesses: D Tom Poti, F Mike Knuble, G Michal Neuvirth
Starting goalie: Michal Neuvirth (12-3-1, 2.63, .912), though Semyon Varlamov may get the start.
Player to watch: W Alexander Semin

New Jersey: 9-19-2, 20 points
Leading scorer: Eric Staal, 9-14-23 in 20 GP
Shot differential/game: -1.1
Notable injuries/illnesses: none
Starting goalie: Cam Ward (9-7-1, 2.84, .914)
Player to watch: C Eric Staal

Season series:
Capitals 3 @ Hurricanes 0 (10/27)

Carolina is coming off two shootout losses over the weekend to Pittsburgh and Nashville. Carolina recently added defenseman Ian White via trade, and he looks like he's playing with Joni Pitkanen.

1) Play conservatively against Pitkanen. He's underrated because he's played for Edmonton and then Carolina, but make no mistake, Pitkanen is a legitimate 1D. He's capable of playing tough minutes and actually boasts a positive plus-minus. He loves to skate and jump into the attack. The Caps better be wary. With Ian White as his partner, that makes two defensemen that can move the puck and skate very well.

2) Dump and chase against Staal, Skinner, Sutter, and Samsonov. The four "S's" are the most creative offensive forwards the Canes have. The formula for beating creative offensive playmaking talents? Force them to play defense. Staal and Sutter are pretty good defensively too, but a physical, fast forecheck should neutralize them. Well, as long as Pitkanen and White aren't playing back there, guys who can effectively counteract the forecheck with skating and puck moving. This could work wonders against Corvo, who had trouble last season with dump-and-chase.

3) DISCIPLINE!!! This gets all caps here because it's so critically important. The Hurricanes are perennially one of the best teams at drawing penalties. The Caps? One of the best teams at taking them (that is to say, the Canes get lots of PPs and the Caps PK a lot). A couple of early power play goals and this could get ugly for the Caps really quickly.

4) Hey, hey, whad'ya say, Sasha? Alexander Semin is 23-15-38 in 30 career games played against Carolina. He's a real Canes killer, especially over the past three seasons or so. Considering his recent cold streak, plus the controversial incident with Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk after the NJD stinker, I'm sure Boudreau has had a nice little chat with Semin. Look for him to respond in a big way.

5) Play conservatively...with the puck. Carolina won't be drawing penalties without the puck. The Capitals should take fewer risks offensively and control the puck instead (like a certain team from Michigan) to try and not play to Carolina's strengths. Stay at even strength and the Capitals should be all set.

Three losses in a row, two of the blowout variety. Three straight games of giving up five goals. I don't think there will be another. Capitals 3, Hurricanes 1.

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