Saturday, November 13, 2010

Preview: Thrashers @ Capitals

Atlanta Thrashers @ Washington Capitals

Washington: 12-4-1, 25 points
Leading scorer: Alex Ovechkin, 9-14-23 in 17 GP
Tied Fenwick% last season: 51.1%
Notable injuries/illnesses: C Boyd Gordon, G Semyon Varlamov, D Tom Poti
Starting goalie: Michal Neuvirth (10-3-0, 2.50, .914)
Player to watch: LW Alex Ovechkin

Atlanta: 5-9-3, 13 points
Leading scorer: Andrew Ladd (6-10-16 in 17) and Dustin Byfuglien (5-11-15 in 17)
Tied Fenwick% last season: 49.2%
Notable injuries/illnesses: Brian Little is just returning from concussion
Starting goalie: Chris Mason (6-5-1, 3.66, .903)
Player to watch: Evander Kane

Season series:
Atlanta 4, Washington 2 (10/8)
Washington 4, Atlanta 3 (OT) (10/23)

Both teams are playing the second leg of a back-to-back. The Thrashers lost 4-2 to Pittsburgh, and the Capitals lost 3-2 in overtime to Buffalo.

1) Attack Evander. The Caps got the better of Tyler Myers last night, but didn't get enough time on ice from their big guns to really do much with it (Alzner's goal, at least, came off a Myers turnover). While Evander Kane has 11 points, he's also already a minus eleven. Yikes. Semin-Laich will destroy him, and now the Caps have the last change too. It's best to stop him now before he becomes a full-time Caps killer.

2) Take away the point. Same as last night, except here it's to attack Dustin Byfuglien, who while decent offensively actually should be playing wing, not defense, from what I've seen. He's not as adept defensively as some of his fellow Atlanta blueliners and could be a weak point.

3) No panic. Control your shots and exercise shot selection. No need for the Caps to pepper Mason or Pavelec, not score, and see the other goalie suddenly stopping everything. Atlanta is not a great team, and the Capitals just need to hang onto the puck, Philly vs MTL style.

4) Alex&Alex, a family company. Messrs. Ovechkin and Semin make my family very happy with highlight-reel goals and terrific production. They should be able to feast on the Sabres' Thrashers' D. Both Alexes are over a point-a-game against Atlanta. This might be the wake-up call for Ovechkin we've been waiting for--he's more productive against Atlanta than against any other team.

5) Bounce-back rookies. John Carlson is extremely competitive and thus far in his career he's always followed up embarrassing performances with strong ones. While last night wasn't terrible, it was embarrassing in how it ended, and I'm expecting him to really play terrific hockey tonight. Ditto for Karl Alzner and Marcus Johansson was on the ice for Vanek's OT goal too.

I have a bad feeling the Caps will come out flat. But they have too much talent here, and the blueline is producing. Capitals 4, Thrashers 2.

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