Two wins in a row is always a good thing, especially after eight losses in a row. That said, the Jackets have beaten two pretty bad teams, and in one of those games they were horribly outplayed for most of the game. That simply will not fly tonight against the Caps. For some reason, this iteration of the Jackets has always played this iteration of the Capitals very well, but very evenly. They seem to have the magic to stop that juggernaut Power Play (or, at least they did in the last two seasons). The Jackets are 4-3-2 against the Caps in their two seasons as division mates, in fact.
That said, the Caps this season are early Cup favorites (in that they're on the short list of viable Cup winners from the East). They loaded up, bringing in T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams to go with the defensive upgrades made last season.
These clubs are oddly similar at even strength in terms of possession, but the Caps have obviously been finishing their chances much, much better and have been getting better goaltending. And, in terms of their big advantage, special teams have again been great. Their PK is decent if not good, and their Power Play remains stellar. The Jackets, as noted above, always seem to be decent against the Caps' PP. That said, if you give them enough chances... The Jackets HAVE to be disciplined.
Whether or not he was just protecting his team, John Tortorella indicated that he overskated them on Monday prior to Tuesday's game, and the Jackets looked like they had no legs for the first two periods. Timely goaltending (remember that stuff?) kept them in it until they finally broke through and then quickly buried the Devils. They simply cannot afford to come out that flat again and spend copious amounts of time hemmed in their own zone in the first period tonight, as the Caps will not whiff on so many chances like New Jersey did.
Hopefully Columbus is now far enough removed from the Denver trip to get any and all ill effects of the altitude change out of their systems. They've also had two days off between games, which given the start to the season of six in nine nights was welcomed.
Ryan Johansen is back. However, Brandon Saad did not make the trip, as he now battles the flu. In terms of Johansen's situation, we still really have no idea what is or was going on. All we know is he said he feels 100%:
"I feel good. I just had some things I’m not used to and I wanted to do some digging and figure out what’s going on. I’m happy that I can come back out here and get back on the ice today and know that I’m 100 percent now. I’m ready to go, for whatever the team needs me for now."
"I don’t even know how to explain it, really. Basically I just haven’t been the same, and that’s all I’m going to touch on. I just wasn’t playing to the level I should be playing at and now I’m back to 100 percent. That’s all that matters. It’s in the past. I’m good to go now."
Let the parsing and speculating begin! Err, continue!! Wooooo!!
I'm writing this early and scheduling it for later (work), so these lineups are projections based on yesterday's practice lines. We'll keep you posted.
Columbus Blue Jackets
(2-8-0, 4 Points; 8th division, 16th conference)
|Brandon Dubinsky||Ryan Johansen||Cam Atkinson|
|Scott Hartnell||Alexander Wennberg||Nick Foligno|
|Boone Jenner||William Karlsson||Matt Calvert|
|Rene Bourque||Gregory Campbell||David Clarkson|
|Jack Johnson||David Savard|
|Ryan Murray||Cody Goloubef|
|Fedor Tyutin||Dalton Prout|
(6-2-0, 12 Points; 3rd Division, 4th Conference)
|Alex Ovechkin||Evgeny Kuznetsov||T.J. Oshie|
|Marcus Johansson||Nicklas Backstrom||Justin Williams|
|Jason Chimera||Jay Beagle||Tom Wilson|
|Brooks Laich||Chandler Stephenson||Andre Burakovsky|
|Brooks Orpik||John Carlson|
|Karl Alzner||Matt Niskanen|
|Dmitri Orlov||Taylor Chorney|