Thursday, December 2, 2010

Preview: Capitals @ Stars

Washington Capitals @ Dallas Stars

Washington: 18-6-2, 38 points
Leading scorer: Alex Ovechkin, 10-23-33 in 26 GP
Shot differential/game: +2.5
Notable injuries/illnesses: D Tom Poti, D Mike Green, D John Erskine
Goalies: Michal Neuvirth (12-3-1, 2.63, .912), Semyon Varlamov (4-1-0, 1.72, .939)
Player to watch: D Scott Hannan

Dallas: 14-8-1, 29 points
Leading scorer: Brad Richards, 11-17-28 in 23 GP
Shot differential/game: -2.9
Notable injuries/illnesses: none
Goalies: Kari Lehtonen (12-7-1, 2.61, .914), Andrew Raycroft (2-1-0, 1.85, .943)
Player to watch: C Brad Richards

Both teams enter the matchup on four game winning streaks, with the Capitals having won yesterday in St. Louis.

1) Power versus power. The Stars don't look like they play this style, but instead rely on a checking line (featuring former Cap Brian Sutherby). However, both teams have three 10 goal scorers (Semin, Backstrom, Ovechkin; Richards, Eriksson, Neal). This will be power versus power in the sense of one outdoing the other.

2) Changeup. Look at the Stars' Corsi chart. Not too flattering, is it? That being said, luck or not, they're finding ways to win games. I have a feeling a small strategy change will cause their luck to implode. Whether Bruce Boudreau can cause this reversion to the mean is a different issue.

3) Tough matchups for Marcus. Marcus Johansson is on a hot streak. If memory serves, his Cori Rel has now increased by about 7 in the past couple of weeks, from -14 to -7. He plays tough minutes, so that means he must be feeling it. Along with Caps Corsi leaders Semin and Laich, they could mitigate the damage somewhat. I guess I'm asking Boudreau to play his 2nd line power versus power. I think they can handle Richards.

4) Score early. The Stars' GA going backwards in time has gone 1, 1, 2, 1. Yeah, their goaltending is hot. Just rattle them and I think the Capitals can jump on Lehtonen and/or Raycroft with the transition game.

5) Clear the front. Loui Eriksson and James Neal are "power forwards." They like to crash the front of the net and work the corners. Maybe newly-acquired Scott Hannan can help "clear the crease," or at least prevent the puck from getting there. In that case, well, all three pairings need to do a better job than against St. Louis (though the lack of STL ZPs was promising).

Sorry, back-to-back and seems time for a letdown. Great effort, but stellar goaltending in the Stars' end, with rust in the Caps'. Stars 5, Capitals 4 (SO).

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