Saturday, December 4, 2010

Preview: Thrashers @ Capitals

Atlanta Thrashers @ Washington Capitals

Washington: 18-7-2, 38 points
Leading scorer: Alex Ovechkin, 10-23-33 in 27 GP
Shot differential/game: +3.1
Notable injuries/illnesses: D Tom Poti, D Mike Green, D John Erskine
Goalies: Michal Neuvirth (12-4-1, 2.59, .911), Semyon Varlamov (4-1-0, 1.72, .939)
Player to watch: LW Alex Ovechkin

Atlanta: 13-10-3, 29 points
Leading scorer: Dustin Byfuglien, 10-17-27 in 26 GP
Shot differential/game: -3.9
Notable injuries/illnesses: F Evander Kane
Goalies: Ondrej Pavelec (7-5-2, 1.75, .945), Chris Mason (6-5-1, 3.90, .897)
Player to watch: F Andrew Ladd

Season series:
October 8 Thrashers 4 vs Capitals 2
October 23 Capitals 4 vs Thrashers 3
November 14 Capitals 6 vs Thrashers 4
November 23 Thrashers 5 vs Capitals 0

The Thrashers had won six in a row before the Pittsburgh Crosbys Penguins beat them 3-2 a couple of nights ago. The Capitals had won four in a row before the Dallas Zebras Stars beat them 2-1.

A note, by the way, on injuries/illnesses: these are players that I gather are banged up, but not necessarily to the point where they will not be able to play.

1) Check Enfuglien. Okay, maybe the Tobias Enstrom-Dustin Byfuglien pairing doesn't have as snappy a nickname as Carlzner, but they've played extremely well, getting tough minutes and outplaying the competition in those minutes. Enstrom is close to a point per game, while Byfuglien is slightly over a point per game. They're dangerous both at even strength and on the power play.

2) Get power plays. Atlanta's PK is at 80%. Washington's power play is at 24.7%. Atlanta's power play is a hair under Washington's, at 24.3%. A couple of early power plays and this game could be blown wide open quickly. Like last time.

3) Dominance from Ovechkin. Ovechkin is more productive against the Atlanta Thrashers than against any other team. Alexander Semin loves to play Atlanta as well. However, Andrew Ladd, who frequently plays a checking role, out-Corsis his competition. Ovechkin can't let Ladd get the better of him. Ovechkin needs to be his physical, dominant self of his first five-and-a-half years in the NHL.

4) Green-Schultz and Carlson-Alzner need outlets. Both teams have strong top-fours, with Byfuglien-Enstrom-Bogosian-Oduya and Green-Schultz-Carlson-Alzner. Both quartets move the puck out of the zone quickly. Atlanta, while lacking any top-end or even mid-tier stars on offense, has a good, deep set of hard-forechecking forwards. When I see Detroit play, I love how they always have one or two forwards dropping back on a dump-in, open for a short pass from the retrieving defenseman. The puck then safely gets out of the zone. The Capitals should implement something like that to prevent turnovers deep in their zone.

5) Balanced TOI. All three defensive pairings are capable of at least 18 or so minutes a night (if Poti is playing) and all four forward lines are capable of 15 minutes a night. Short shifts, less TOI for each player, but faster and more tenacious play in each shift will work well. Like on the road.

The Capitals probably played a bit better than Dallas the other day, but it wasn't enough. Now, back at home, I don't think Atlanta can handle what the Capitals will bring, especially with that blowout loss not so long ago. Then again, Atlanta games so far this season have been tighter than they look on paper. Craig Ramsay is doing a great job. Capitals 4, Thrashers 2.

1 comment:

  1. ATL's shot differential is eye-opening. Don't know if it's related to score effects or just an aberration but I suspect they will fade a bit. I like the Caps' chances in this one.