Game Time: Way Too Goddamn Early
TV/Radio: NBC - WGN720
There's A Swingin' Town I Know Called: Japers Rink
If the Hawks are looking for a solid victory after two disappointing losses in Florida... well the Washington Capitals probably wouldn't be first on the list of teams they'd like to face. After having gone through a rough start to the year, the Caps have found a way to turn their season around (sound familiar?). Unlike the Hawks, who aren't too far removed from the danger of falling out the playoff picture, the Capitals have marched their way right back to the top of not only the Southeast Division but of the entire Eastern Conference. They're currently only 3 points behind the Flyers for the #1 spot. A quick look at it will show there are few teams as hot as the Capitals right now, who are riding a season-high seven game win streak. A deeper look shows though that it's possibly not quite as impressive as it seems. While they are playing very well, they've only defeated one team that's currently in a playoff position (Tampa) and some of the victories have come against basement dwellers like the Oilers, Islanders and Blues (once again - any chance I can get to disrespect the Blues... I take). A seven game streak is nothing to scoff at in the NHL but this one isn't quite all it's cracked up to be. Only of the of these games have been a definitive victory (Wednesday against the Oliers), all the others have been a single goal victory, including 3 games that needed extra hockey. This does mean that the Capitals are doing well in tight games though... an area the Hawks haven't exactly excelled at.
One reason the Capitals have had such success lately is the unreal play of Braden Holtby. In his last three games, he's allowed only one goal and that came in a game in which the Capitals allowed 41 shots against. Holtby gained the reins to the starting role when Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth both went down with injuries. Neuvirth is ready to come back but it's no shock the Capitals are going with Holtby again. As great as he's been lately though, he's still an incredibly young goalie who hasn't been tested on a major stage... like national TV against the defending Stanley Cup Champions. There's also this other guy named Alexander Ovechkin who has suddenly remembered that he's a pretty damn good hockey player. Ovie has points in 12 of this last 14 games... 17 in total, including 8 goals. So yeah, he'll be someone to keep an eye on.
Not all is rosy in Capital City though. There are a few injuries that are of concern to the Caps. Nicklas Backstrom is out for today's tilt with a thumb injury and noted scooter enthusiast Mike Green is all brown brained and isn't even eligible to return for the Capitals until March 22nd... if he's even ready by then. Those are two fairly large pieces to be missing from a puzzle.
Meanwhile, the Hawks are coming off what should be an uplifting visit with President Obama and an inspirational visit to Walter Reed. They'll be without the services of one David Bolland but we already knew that. Michael Frolik will once again be filling in at center and hopefully be surprising us nicely once again. Brian Campbell will be a game time decision which is almost in time to celebrate the one-year anniversary of being driven into the boards by the aforementioned Ovechkin. Will there be any bad blood between the teams? Probably not. It wasn't an overly dirty hit by Ovechkin as much as it was a stupid and reckless. Not something that really creates a rivalry... especially between teams that play each other once a year.
At this point we could get further into what the Hawks need to do but we all really know the story. Losing three in a row, even if they do manage a point or two, is almost unacceptable. The West is far too crowded and time is running out. The schedule won't be any easier soon either as the Sharks are up next tomorrow and crucial games against the Stars and Coyotes follow. Play a smart simple game and two points should follow.
Lets Go Hawks.