GAME OF THE NIGHT: Sabres @ Capitals
The Capitals came through with a huge 3-0 win over the Wild on Sunday. Alexander Ovechkin remained hot with a goal and a great defensive play on the power play thwarting a short handed 2-1 for the Wild. Caps goalie of the future Braden Holtby was unbelievable stopping everything Minnesota threw at him including going to the reverse snow angel to make 3 quick saves. It was also big because the Caps had left 1 point in Philly and and 1 point to Winnipeg in the previous couple of games. Those 2 points would currently have the Caps in 7th instead of being tied for 8th, and would have them just 1 point behind Florida for the Southeast Division.Tonight is by far the biggest game of the season for the Capitals to this date. The teams currently tied for the 8th and final playoff spot will meet when the Buffalo Sabres come to town for the 4th and final meeting of the season series. The Caps are thanking their lucky stars that this game is at home as Buffalo's HSBC Arena has been nothing but a house of horrors for the Capitals year in and year out. This season the Caps have a 1-2 record against Buffalo with the lone shining moment coming in DC back at the end of December in a 3-1 win. The 2 games in Buffalo this year were as usual for the Caps in Buffalo terrible. A 4-2 loss December 26th and the end of Bruce Boudreau's coaching career with the Caps came after a 5-1 loss to a Buffalo team filled with AHLers November 26th. While tonight is a massive game its not the end all be all, a win or loss for either team doesn't put them in or out of the playoffs just yet, that said it's a huge indicator in my opinion of who is hungrier for post-season play.The Sabres provide an interesting challenge as they have many talented forwards, and a solid defensive unit, but the most worrisome part of their game for the Caps and their fans is goaltender Ryan Miller. Miller has lately returned to his usual MVP-caliber type of play, and is the main reason this Buffalo team has resurrected this season from one that looked like it was over early. For the Caps they've got to get traffic in front of Miller early and often, and if you get a power play you've got to make Buffalo pay! The Capitals have also got to work, Lindy Ruff run teams usually are hard working gritty teams, and for the Caps the main key to this game is match and exceed the compete level of the Buffalo Sabres.As usual lets take a look at the goal-tending match-up to close this thing out. Now I have to let you guys know that because of my work schedule I have to sleep during the day so I'm writing this extremely early, the goal-tending match-ups are not confirmed but this is what I project they will be. For the Sabres they will go with Ryan Miller, you've got to go with your #1 in the biggest game of the year. Miller has had an up and down year, early on his play was downright terrible but he has come on strong lately to post a 29-18-7 record with a 2.48 goals against average, and a .917 save percentage. Against the Capitals in his career Miller has a 12-9 record with a 2.52 GAA, and a .914 SV%. The Capitals absolutely have to go with Braden Holtby, if they don't then Dale Hunter should be fired mid-game......Okay maybe not that far but you get my point. Holtby has been fantastic for the Capitals every time he gets the nod he performs above and beyond and he had a shutout his last outing so you gotta ride the hot goalie. Holtby has a 2-1-1 record this year with a 2.22 GAA, and a .927 SV%. Holtby has started 1 game against Buffalo during his run with the Caps last season, it was a 3-2 overtime loss giving him a 0-0-1 records with a 2.81 GAA and a .889SV%. Players To Watch Tonight:Alexander Ovechkin LW, Washington = Ovie has 3 goals against Miller this year and I look for him to stay hot tonight, he'll hopefully pat his belly 2 times or more this evening.Braden Holtby G, Washington = The kid is alright, in fact he's damn good! Tonight Braden will hopefully remain flawless and keep his shutout streak going. The Caps need him to continue to step up if they really want to make the playoffs.