Really Caps?? Really?? After the worst loss in recent Capital history in Carolina Monday night, the Caps came back Wednesday and decided to play 1 period of hockey against an Ottawa team that showed up for all 3. Before the Caps decided to start playing, Erik Karlsson and Milan Michalek of the Senators had put the Caps chances of winning on ice. After the game the team began the media circus of coach Dale Hunter calling out and blaming Tomas Vokoun for the loss, and healthy scratch Roman Hamrlik calling out Hunter for benching him. For Dale Hunter it's not a good idea to blame players in the media for a loss as that is the quickest way to lose a locker room. For Hamrlik I believe the writing is on the wall for the veteran and his words have probably made it even more certain that he'll be dealt by Monday's trade deadline. All in all another ugly night for the Caps and their fans to endure.
After 2 straight lackluster losses the Capitals return home to host the last place Montreal Canadiens, in a game they must win......stop me if you've heard that before about this Caps team. I know I've said "must win" before but these next 2 games for the Caps truly are must wins. While not officially eliminated from the playoffs if we drop these 2 against Montreal and Toronto the Caps will be emotionally eliminated. 1 game at a time however so let us focus on tonight and the struggling Caps and Habs. Tonight marks the 3rd meeting of the season between these 2 clubs and first at the Phone Booth in downtown DC. The Caps have a 2-0 record against the Habs this year with goalies Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth posting shutouts. In fact the Caps have shutout the Habs in 3 straight when you include the final meeting last year when Caps goalie prospect Braden Holtby posted a shutout. Even with all that great news, how can you be confident as a Caps fan in this current team? They've been outscored 12-3 in 3 straight losses suffered at the hands of the Lightning, Hurricanes, and Senators. They are without 2 world class superstars in Nicklas Backstrom who remains out for the forseeable future and Alex Ovechkin who missed Wednesday's game with the Sens and is questionable for tonight's game. The Capitals also continue to plummet further out of the playoffs as they now sit in 10th in the East, 2 points back of Toronto for 9th, 3 points back of Florida for the 8th and final playoff spot, and 4 points back of Winnipeg for the Southeast Division lead. Fair to say Caps fans have lost all confidence in this team, and it looks like the team lost all confidence in themselves.
The opponent tonight is the Montreal Candiens, and luckily for the Caps the Habs are a ball of trouble themselves. Like the Caps the Habs are a very big disappointment this season and look like they'll be on the outside looking in come playoff time. Currently tied for last place in the Eastern Conference the Habs are one of the few teams you could argue are an even bigger disappointment than the Caps, not in my eyes but maybe in somebody else's. The Habs continue to have altercations in practice mostly centering around young defenseman P.K. Subban who has now had run ins with Tomas Plekanec, Mathieu Darche, Louis Leblanc, and David Desharnais so clearly frustration is boiling over in Montreal from the players, front office, and the fan base. Montreal may also be missing one of their top players tonight as Tomas Plekanec is questionable.
On a side note I mentioned Nicklas Backstrom earlier and his injury. The man responsible for that injury is Rene Bourque who as luck would have it is a Montreal Canadien. The Capitals still haven't paid Mr. Bourque back for ending Nicklas Backstrom's season, regardless of Matt Hendrick's attempt to do so. Tonight it's time for someone, not naming any names John Erskine to get Bourque back, not cheaply but drop the gloves and drop Bourque tonight!
As for the goal-tending match-up the Caps will send Michal Neuvirth to the net. Neuvirth had a 31 save shutout against Montreal earlier this year and in 4 career games against the Habs has a 2-1 record with a 2.06 GAA, and a .925 SV%. For the Habs Carey Price minds the crease for the 10th consecutive game. Price suffered a loss to the Caps in that same game that Neuvy had the shutout, and Price has started 11 games against the Caps with a 3-5-3 record posting a 3.11 GAA and a .900 SV%.
PLAYERS TO WATCH TONIGHT:
Michal Neuvirth G, Washington - Neuvirth has struggled this year and the caps could use him snapping out of it as soon as possible and I believe tonight could be the night.
Marcus Johansson C, Washington - It's time for Johansson to step up and have a big game, he's a fun player to watch who can absolutely fly up and down the ice.