It seems strange to be excited about playing a powerhouse like the Washington Capitals as the first part of back to back games - particularly when the Jackets have only recently broken out of a long skid. Despite that, I am. Not only is it a game where the Jackets will get some nice national exposure with the game televised on Versus (even if I fully expect we're going to hear 1 mention of Rick Nash vs. 9 mentions of almost any other Capitals player on the ice...and perhaps a footnote for former Capitals captain Chris Clark), but the Jackets have stacked up well against the Caps in recent years.
Besides, Mr. Paine once said that lost causes were the only ones worth fighting for.
Despite Alexander Ovechkin recently returning from injury, this is a Capitals team that has changed the way they play greatly from the last time the Jackets met up with them. Though they certainly still bring a great deal of skill and scoring ability, they've worked to improve their defensive posture radically, turning them into a club with the third best Goals Allowed stat in the East, and 5th overall in the NHL, but an unexpectedly low 207 goals for...only four more goals than the Jackets have scored this season.
The Caps certainly feel the absence of Mike Green on their blue line, but John Carlson has stepped up in his absence, providing 6 goals and 27 assists in 77 games - not a bad sophomore season for the 2008 first round pick.
The Jackets, however, do have a few things to be hopeful about - the team is 3-1-1 against the Capitals since 2008, including last year's dramatic OT winner, and it's another case where the Jackets tend to elevate their game when playing a "top level" opponent, particularly one from the East.
Keys To The Game:
- You All Think I'm Licked? - The Capitals are looking to clinch the SE division. They're not likely to expect terribly much resistance from a team that's all but mathematically out of the playoffs. Standing up and delivering a hard effort could make all the difference.
- Let The Ballyhoo Boys Loose - The Jackets are one of the best hitting teams on the road in the NHL. Taking a hard physical tone to disrupt guys like Semin, Oveckin, and Backstrom is going to be a necessity, as well as using the boy to help break up Washington's newfound commitment to defense.
- Stopped Colder Than A Mackerel - Steve Mason is 3-1 lifetime against the Capitals with two shutouts, a 1.32 GAA and a .962 save percentage. We're going to need that, given that Washington has the 3rd best PK in the NHL, and they have a .594% winning percentage this season when outshooting an opponent. On the other hand, the Capitals are likely to start Semyon Varlamov in goal, who has never actually faced the Jackets, and is 5-3-2 against Western Conference teams in his career. I'll take those odds.
It's been reported by the Dispatch that John P. McConnell is traveling to Washington with the team, and that he's not pleased with the current state of the organization. He's looking for answers on what needs to be done to make this team a winner, and though Scott Howson and Scott Arniel are, by his repeated votes of confidence, safe, I suspect we're going to see a lot of changes. Tonight, however, is a chance to see what the kids can do...and hopefully we'll be pleased by just how hard they're willing to fight in support of a lost cause.
Blue Jackets Information:
|Rick Nash||Jakub Voracek|
|R.J. Umberger||Antoine Vermette||Matt Calvert|
|Derek Dorsett||Samuel Pahlsson||Scottie Upshall|
|Maksim Mayorov||Jared Boll|
|Jan Hejda||Sami Lepisto|
|Fedor Tyutin||Marc Methot|
|Anton Stralman (?)||Kris Russell|
|Alexander Ovechkin||Nicklas Backstrom||Mike Knuble|
|Brooks Laich||Jason Arnott||Alexander Semin|
|Marco Sturm||Marcus Johansson||Jason Chimera|
|Matt Hendricks||Boyd Gordon||Matt Bradley|
|Scott Hannan||John Erskine|
|John Carlson||Karl Alzner|
Tidbit: Mr. Smith Goes To Washington was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, but lost out on all but Best Original Story to Gone With The Wind, Stagecoach, and The Wizard of Oz. After directing it, Frank Capra would go on to create and direct the Why We Fight films for the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.