Thursday, February 15, 2007

Tampa sucks, and other observations

Actually, the problem right now is that Tampa isn't sucking right now at all. Vinnie Lecavalier has lifted his game to another plane entirely, and the Lightning are 8-2 in their last 10 games as a result. Vinne's recent scoring outburst is not good news for a Caps team that's still struggling to find itself in the defensive end.

To the Caps credit, they have been playing better defensively as of late, and the addition of Milan "Jerky" Jurcina has added far more physical backline presence than anticipated. The defense should also benefit from the return of Brian Pothier and John Erskine, both of whom look ready to go for tonight's contest. Will the reinforced blueline be able to keep Tampa's offensive juggernaut contained? Possibly. Will they keep them off the scoreboard entirely? Extremely unlikely.

To win this game, the Capitals need Alex Ovechkin to find his scoring touch in a big way. The Russian Machine always seems to raise his level of play to meet the competition, so hopefully staring across the ice at two of the players (Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis) who are fighting him for the Rocket Richard trophy (given to the league's top goal scorer) will get the competitive juices flowing. If Ovechkin can gear up his game, it should allow other players more space and time, and the Caps will be competitive in the game. If not, they're in serious trouble.

Also, the Caps have a chance to make a statement tonight in front of their new number one, Brent Johnson. Will they stand strong and rally behind Johnson, or will they fold if he gives up a softie or two, which he is more likely to do early in this three week plus stretch before he finds a rhythm?

We'll find out a lot about this team tonight. Game time is 7:30.

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