Data is from Objective NHL, NHL.com, behindthenet.ca, and Left Wing Lock.
Washington Capitals @ Florida Panthers
Washington: 24-12-6, 54 points
Leading scorers: Alex Ovechkin (15-29-44 in 42 GP), Nicklas Backstrom (11-27-38 in 42), Alexander Semin (18-27-35 in 39)
Goalies: Michal Neuvirth (14-6-3, 2.56, .911 with .912 at ES), Semyon Varlamov (8-4-2, 2.08, .928 w/ ES .936)
Shot differential/game: +3.9
5-on-5 shot differential/game: +3.7
Adjusted Fenwick%: 59.9% (13th)
Notable injuries/illnesses: RW Alexander Semin, W Matt Bradley, C Boyd Gordon, W DJ King
Player to watch: G Semyon Varlamov or Michal Neuvirth
Florida: 18-20-2, 38 points
Leading scorers: Stephen Weiss (13-13-26 in 39 GP), Michael Frolik (8-18-26 in 39), David Booth (11-12-23 in 40)
Goalies: Tomas Vokoun (15-15-1, 2.55, .922 with .922 at ES), Scott Clemmensen (3-5-1, 2.48, .921 w/ ES .932)
Shot differential/game: -0.9
5-on-5 shot differential/game: 0.0
Adjusted Fenwick%: 51.6% (10th)
Notable injuries/illnesses: none
Player to watch: C Stephen Weiss
The Caps won the last meeting a few days ago, 3-2.
1) Ovi...f'real? I hope that beauty, streaking down the left wing, is a sign of better things to come from Ovechkin. Maybe some empty netters would help.
2) Seminal defense. If Semin decides not to do much offensively again, I hope he decides at least to contribute defensively. That goes for the entire team, actually. I'm a broken record in praising the Panthers, who have all season had good scoring chance, Fenwick, and Corsi ratios. Shutting them down will be key, as their 5-on-5 offense is decent enough around 2.7 goals per 60.
3) Careful with bottom-6 matchups. Marcus Johansson and Jason Chimera aren't great Corsi players, and Bruce Boudreau if he accidentally leaves them out against Weiss...that could be a disaster. It's not as bad to leave out the 4th line, but losing Matt Bradley, an excellent 4th liner, certainly hurts. I think power versus power would be best, and honestly that's likely what DeBoer would do too with the last change, I figure.
4) Backstrom. Shots. Goals. Wins. #needsmoreLars
5) Cycle. Cycling is the best way to stop a team from playing offense while still generating good chances of your own, I would think, especially against a team like Florida which knows how to get decent scoring chances and limit them at the other end. Exchanging chances in transition moreover just makes this game Florida's goalies versus Washington's goalies, which are more-or-less a push and could go either way.
I'm convinced the Caps are better than the Panthers, even if the Panthers have a better adjusted Fenwick. While the Panthers' PK is solid, their PP is terrible, or at least has been, and I think that'll be the difference. I just hope the team doesn't look ahead to an important matchup with Tampa Bay tomorrow night. Capitals 4, Panthers 2.