The Jekyll and Hyde ways of the Washington Capitals continued over the weekend, which began perfectly with a great Capitals performance in a 2-1 win over the division leading Florida Panthers. However the Capitals could not build on that momentum as they suffered a loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning the following night. This team continues to lack consistency, and continues to give away games at a time when they can least afford it. The only true positives to come from the weekend are all but one of the teams around the Caps in the standings seemed to be taking losses as well, with the lone exception being the Winnipeg Jets, who with a win over Colorado yesterday jumped the Capitals in the standings. The Capitals now sit in 10th place in the east 1 point behind Winnipeg and Toronto for the 8th and final playoff spot, and 2 points behind Florida for the Southeast Division lead.
The Caps have four games left before the trade deadline on the 27th, all four against Eastern Conference foes(@Carolina, @Ottawa, Montreal, @Toronto). These 4 games will play a huge role in deciding if the Capitals are buyers or sellers at the deadline. Go 3-1 and McPhee will be looking to add a piece to put us over the top, go 1-3 or 0-4 and its time for GMGM to sell off some UFAs and trim the fat for this team. The Capitals should be able to win all 4 and go to the deadline looking for upgrades instead of a flea market type sell off. Saying "should"about this Capitals team is risky business as you never really know what to expect from them.
As the saying goes "1 game at a time" so let us key in on tonight's game in Raleigh and we'll worry about the huge game in Toronto on Saturday at a later date. The Canes stand in the way of the Caps on this day and despite it being a division game, and despite the fact that they beat us last time we played, the Caps must beat the last place Canes. We have a 3-1 record against the Canes this year but just a .500 record of 1-1 in Carolina. Young players for the Caps have enjoyed playing the Canes this year as 2 Caps rookies Dmitry Orlov and Cody Eakin both scored their first career NHL goals on goalie Cam Ward. If I'm the Caps I'm giving a call to Hershey and saying send me somebody, somebody who hasn't scored in the big league yet. The Caps have to worry about the Canes fire power up front and in the back, in fact when you look at their roster it's hard to believe they're in last place in the East. With forwards like Eric Staal, Tuomo Ruutu, Jussi Jokinen, Chad LaRose, Jeff Skinner, and Brandon Sutter and defensemen like Tim Gleason, Joni Pitkanen, and youngster Justin Faulk this team should have been on the rise this year instead of moving backwards. Due to their place in the standings expect Carolina to be big time sellers at the trade deadline. Ruutu seems like a definite piece that will be dealt and there have been rumors that Staal could be moved......wouldn't mind seeing them in Caps gear....As for the net minding match-up tonight looks like it will be Tomas Vokoun for Washington vs Justin Peters for Carolina. Vokoun has been very solid lately for Washington and I'd look for another good effort from him tonight. Peters a 6'1 200 lb 25 year old Canadian goalie prospect of the Canes is 1-1 against the Caps all-time with a 2.94 GAA and a .909 Save percentage. I look for the Caps to come out tonight and cause havoc in front of Peters net and try to rattle the young netminder. Coach Hunter hinted to putting the line of Jeff Halpern, Jay Beagle, and Joel Ward back together so expect them to work the cycle game, wear down Carolina's defenders and get some scoring chances. Long story short the Capitals must win against a last place team regardless of where the game is played. Tonight is a perfect opportunity for the Caps to grab 2 very important points headed down the stretch.
PLAYERS TO WATCH TONIGHT:
Alexander Semin (He always playswell against the Canes including 2 goals already this year)
Brooks Laich (Laich scored againstTampa, hopefully he'll break through and start earning that $4.5 million)