Saturday, November 27, 2010

Preview: Hurricanes @ Capitals

Carolina Hurricanes @ Washington Capitals

Washington: 16-6-2, 34 points
Leading scorer: Alex Ovechkin, 10-21-31 in 24 GP
Shot differential/game: +2.7
Notable injuries/illnesses: D Mike Green, F Mike Knuble, D Tyler Sloan
Starting goalie: Michal Neuvirth (12-3-1, 2.63, .912), though Semyon Varlamov (2-1-0, 1.88, .928) has been hot
Player to watch: W Alex Ovechkin

Carolina: 10-10-2, 22 points
Leading scorer: Eric Staal, 10-15-25 in 22 GP
Shot differential/game: -2.4
Notable injuries/illnesses: none
Starting goalie: Cam Ward (10-7-1, 2.68, .920)
Player to watch: D Joe Corvo

Season series:
Capitals 3 @ Hurricanes 0 (10/27)
Capitals 3 @ Hurricanes 2 (11/24)

Both teams are coming off shutout wins--the Hurricanes in Boston and the Capitals against Tampa Bay.

1) Even strength. The Hurricanes scored all three of their goals against Boston on the power play. At even strength, they got killed in Corsi. The Capitals are comparable to the Bruins in Corsi, and if they keep the game at even strength they should win this game.

2) Discipline. Wow, this comes up a lot, doesn't it? Well, Carolina draws a lot of penalties. Against a decently disciplined Bruins team on Friday, they only drew three, but made all three power plays count. That was all new father Cam Ward needed in terms of goal support.

3) Don't make it exciting. I can't help but think Carolina's young players like McBain, Sutter, Dwyer, Skinner, Tlusty, and others would love to play in a back-and-forth, close affair, as has been the case in the recent history between these two teams. Their young energy might give them an edge in that case. The Capitals really locked down Tampa Bay on Friday. Hopefully they can play that low-scoring chance game again against Carolina.
Moreover, the Hurricanes are pretty short as a team. The Capitals? The tallest. Take time and space away and make this game one of positioning and strength, not speed. Take away any potential advantages Carolina may have.

4) Play your game. Joe Corvo seems to like it, since it makes you predictable. Umm, how's that working out for you, Joe? Anyways, Alex Ovechkin has been getting better and better since the shootout loss to Philadelphia, and was getting his legs and physicality back on the forecheck against Tampa Bay. He will victimize the Canes over and over again playing like that.

5) Drive the middle with MarJo. Johansson has great speed, but not the strength to control the middle like some of his Carolina counterparts. Let Johansson attack down the wing and leave it to Mike Knuble and Alexander Semin to control the middle of the ice on that line. It's critical not to let Eric Staal start feeling it, because between his size and skill he's close to unstoppable when hot. There's no need to give him any chances to get hot, and Semin and Knuble should do a good job getting annoying sticks in to strip pucks and tie up sticks.

And for good luck, let's invoke Corsi powers by checking out the new version of Capitals 4, Hurricanes 2.

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