The Capitals take to the ice tonight following their most exciting finish of the year back on Tuesday. With 4 minutes left in the game it looked like the Caps were about to fade out of the playoffs. In what was 56 boring minutes of hockey I was about to fade off to sleep, when all of a sudden Matthieu Perrault threw a beautiful pass from the corner to a wide open Troy Brouwer in front for the Caps first marker. With 3:29 left suddenly the Capitals looked like they might have something going. Jeff Halpern came up huge with an offensive zone face-off win and a Brooks Laich shot from the point was tipped in by Troy Brouwer with just :25 seconds left. In OT it was all about Ovie, Alex Ovechkin picked up the puck in his own zone came down the left side and fired a bullet through Nabokov's five hole for the win. I personally believe that game was a turning point for this Capitals team, they seemed to be having fun again, they broke out their smiles for once this year. That win keeps them within 3 points of the Panthers for the Southeast Division lead, and they're currently 1 point behind Winnipeg for the 8th and final playoff spot.
Tonight in game game 2 of the 5 game homestand the Capitals welcome a team from the south......the deep south the New Jersey Devils to the Phone Booth in DC. (Hopefully you get that Little Nicky reference, if not watch it and you'll chuckle) This year the Caps are 1-0-2 against the Devils in what has been 3 very close tightly checked games. New Jersey currently sits in 7th in the Eastern Conference with 75 standings points, so for the Caps it's a chance to gain some ground on them tonight. Last night New Jersey played what looked like a playoff game against the Boston Bruins. They came up short in OT but showed the defending Stanley Cup champs that they were on their level, and up to the challenge. It's great news for Caps fans as that game seemed to really take a toll on the Devils. Look for the Capitals to come out and push the pace tonight, and try to wear down the Devils whose feet will feel like cinder blocks come the 3rd period.
Tonight's goal-tending match-up will feature Michal Neuvirth in his 4th straight start for the Capitals. Neuvirth has won his previous three starts and has provided a much needed spark for this Caps team. Neuvirth has a 4-0-2 record with a 1.46 goals against average, and .950 save percentage in his career vs the Devils. For the Devils they'll send veteran Johan Hedberg to the crease. Hedberg has a 12-6-2 record with a 2.42 GAA, and a .913 SV% career vs the Capitals. I will always remember Hedberg as "Moose" the goalie who came from the AHL to shutdown the Caps and out-duel Olie Kolzig in the 2001 playoffs for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Wow remembering Caps playoff performances of the past can sure turn a day ugly in a hurry.....
PLAYERS TO WATCH TONIGHT:
Jason Chimera LW, Washington = Chimera has 4 goals in 3 games vs the Devils this year, so I went out on a limb and chose him.
Michal Neuvirth G, Washington = If the Caps are to pull off the upset tonight they'll need another strong outing from Meuvy in net.