The Washington Capitals’ next challenge comes in the form of a sizzling Anaheim Ducks team led by none other than former Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau. The Ducks are leading the NHL with 57 points, bolstered by an impressive eight-game win streak. They’ll aim to extend the streak to nine games with a win over the home team, while the Caps will look to rebound from a disappointing overtime loss to the New Jersey Devils–a game in which Washington surrendered a two-goal lead not once but twice.
I thought the Caps had reached a turning point, but their play Saturday night (and the ensuing loss) proved me wrong. The contest was the epitome of a typical Capitals game, with the team playing an iffy first period, rallying to dominate in the second, and settling for mediocre play to close out regulation.
A soft goal, courtesy of Dainius Zubrus, forced overtime. It took 43 seconds for Devils defenseman Andy Greene to light the lamp and thus hand the Caps a deserved loss.
Friendly reminder: Braden Holtby is far from infallible, and being peppered with 37 shots will accentuate his weaknesses. Throughout the season, the Capitals have struggled with allowing far too many shots, and it’s proven to be costly. Allowing the Ducks to take ridiculous amounts of shots would practically be handing them a victory.
With players like Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, Anaheim has a deadly offense. Washington managed to resurrect its own against the Devils, with goals coming from a variety of players. Amazingly, Jason Chimera, Mikhail Grabovski, Joel Ward, and Alex Ovechkin all scored at even strength–the Caps were 0 for 1 on the power play.
The Devils are the most disciplined team in the league. The Ducks aren’t far behind, as they’ve claimed sixth place in that category. The Caps will once again be trying to draw penalties and put their impressive power play to work. On the other hand, the Ducks’ special teams rank in the bottom half of the league. It’s unlikely that penalties will play a huge role in the game.
However, emotions might be running high, as the Capitals are welcoming back former coach Boudreau. With that being said, his return won’t be the only bittersweet reunion of the evening. Former Capitals center Mathieu Perreault will visit the Verizon Center for the first time this season after being traded in September. Perreault has been flourishing under Boudreau and currently is a plus-12 with 19 points in 32 games.
“Matty P” was traded for a fourth-round pick and minor leaguer John Mitchell, neither of which has yet to seriously impact the Capitals organization. But his absence as one of the Caps’ most underrated players has definitely been felt–and the impressive numbers he’s put up are doing nothing to ease the blow.
The Caps may be missing Perreault, but the fact remains: they’ve got to ignore sentimentality and focus on beating one of the NHL’s best teams. If their effort against the Devils is indicative of how they’ll play Monday night, then don’t count on earning even one point–but then again, the Caps are notorious for surprises, both good and bad. Let’s hope they’ll shock us with the former.
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