Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Preview: Sabres @ Capitals

Buffalo Sabres @ Washington Capitals

Washington: 13-4-1, 27 points
Leading scorer: Alex Ovechkin, 10-15-25 in 18 GP
Tied Fenwick% last season: 51.1%
Notable injuries/illnesses: C Boyd Gordon, G Semyon Varlamov, D Tom Poti
Starting goalie: Michal Neuvirth (11-3-0, 2.60, .910)
Player to watch: C Marcus Johansson

Buffalo: 7-9-3, 17 points
Leading scorer: Derek Roy, 8-13-21 in 19 GP
Tied Fenwick% last season: 49.4%
Notable injuries/illnesses: F Nathan Gerbe, F Drew Stafford
Starting goalie: Ryan Miller (5-5-2, 2.64, .906)
Player to watch: The Sabres' starting goalie

Don't look now, but the Sabres are playing kind of...well.

1) Play under control. While the Caps should come out playing strong this game (after getting embarrassed in Buffalo over the weekend) coming out firing is the wrong move. The last thing the Capitals want is for Miller to work himself into a groove a la Halak. Come out strong, but exercise shot selection, boys.

2) Use the points. Go back the to the point for shots, and head to the net for screens, deflections, and rebound chances. Miller was a bit shaky with his rebound control on Saturday and gave up two goals from the high slot. Pounce on him early and the Sabres will be forced to open up the game, which works in the Capitals favor most of the time.

3) Stop the Sabres' two scoring lines. I was surprised on Saturday how good of a Corsi team the Sabres were. The Roy line went head-to-head with the Ovechkin line and beat 'em hollow. While the Pominville line didn't do as well in Fenwick and Corsi, it did generate at least 3 good scoring chances from in tight. If they're stopped, the Sabres' offense is stopped.

4) Make them see 90 shining lights. All indications are that Marcus Johansson will center the second line, if not the first. He needs to make the most of his chances playing with a combination of Ovechkin, Semin, or team-Corsi-leader-Laich. The Capitals had trouble generating chances on Saturday and need a better attacking performance.

5) Fourth man in. A Red Wings fan commented on Winging It in Motown that Mike Green is terrible at defense and implied he's only marginally better than Jack Johnson. While the confirmation bias is probably too much for me to go convince them, an easy way for Green to "give them the finger" (so to speak) is by continuing his Corsi-dominating ways. Green causes havoc by jumping into the offense and finding open lanes for passes and shots (this season against other top lines, to boot). He needs to be near the top of his game to help stop Derek Roy and keep the center hemmed in his zone instead of attacking Michal Neuvirth or Braden Holtby.

I can't imagine the Capitals losing to Buffalo twice over such a short span. I get the feeling this game will be a hard-fought, satisfying win for the boys in red. Capitals 4, Sabres 2.

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