SHADES OF RED: Capitals v. Penguins – Getting Ready for the Game

| January 15, 2014 | 0 Comments | Sports

By Zach Hart
Shades of Red D.C

For this week’s “NHL’s Wednesday night rivalry,” hockey fans around the nation will tune in to see the Capitals and Penguins battle it out at Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center. The opening faceoff is scheduled for 8:00pm.

The Caps face a daunting task in trying to beat the Eastern Conference leading Penguins in the 2nd game of a back to back set. The Caps have struggled to get wins as of late, and have lost 8 of their last 11 games (including 5 OT losses.) They’re in dire need of points, and how they perform between now and the Olympic break, could very well define their season.

Adam Oates recently shuffled the lines around a bit and what he came up with was quite brilliant. The change should pay off as the players build chemistry with their new mates. Oates moved Ovechkin down to line 2, to play with the “North/South” game of Grabovski and Fehr who has been heating up. Brouwer and Laich have had struggles scoring this season, so he puts one of the best set up guys in the league in Backstrom, right between them on line 1. Lastly, he adds even more speed to line 3, sending speedy Johansson down to play with Ward and lightning quick Chimera. Pittsburgh’s defensemen could have their hands full if all 4 lines are rolling.

The last time the Caps played the Pens, they allowed them to get 40 shots on goal compared to the Caps 18. With that being said, I feel confident in predicting that the performance and effort the Caps defensemen show up with could very well determine the outcome of this game. Crosby and Kunitz’s line has been stellar and they will require full attention. The Caps should look to stuff the Penguins at their blue line and take away the outlet passing lanes. When they do get the puck into our zone, they should try to keep the game to the outside and challenge the Penguins on the boards. If they sit back and let the Penguins pass it around and create scoring chances, this game could get out of control quick. The Caps have had problems with turnovers all season. They need to make smarter decisions with the puck, and the defenders cannot continue getting caught in the offensive zone. Shotblocking and crisp passes out of our zone will be key!

This is a huge rivalry and Console Energy Center will be loud! If the Caps can get a good amount of zone-time and score early, they may be able to quiet that crowd down a bit. Look for Ovechkin, Brouwer, Wilson and Volpatti to lay down some hits early and often. The Penguins may have the energy advantage after coming off of a three day break but the Caps will have to find a way to match that. The forwards should look to create screens in front of Andre Fleury who shutout the Caps the last time these teams met. After every shot, we should see someone charging the net looking for a rebound to stuff in. The Penguins are an excellent team and we will need to capitalize on what opportunities are dished our way.

Both teams feature some of the leagues top scorers:

The Penguins’ Crosby, leads the league in points with 67 and is tied for 2nd in goal scoring with 25. Chris Kunitz has the leagues best +/- with a +24 and is 5th in goal scoring with 24 goals. James Neal is tied for 5th in the league with 8 power play goals. Although Kris Letang has missed quite a few games to injury, his 5 power play goals and 8 total goals are both good enough for the leagues top 10 in both categories (by defensemen.)

The Caps’ Ovechkin is the leagues #1 goal scorer with 33 goals and has scored the most power play goals in the league with 12. Nicklas Backstrom leads the league with**** 23 powerplay assists and his 48 total points is good for 9th in the league.

Both teams would be wise to stay out of the penalty box as they are tied for the leagues best powerplay %. They each score on the man advantage an average of 25.2% of opportunities. The Penguins have the advantage here as their penalty kill is the leagues 2nd best and the Caps is ranked 19th.

The Capitals need all of the division wins they can get right now. Besting the Pens in this Metropolitan Division matchup would go a long way towards showing they’re better then their record suggests. The Caps need a confidence booster and getting the win against their Eastern Conference leading rival would do just that. 

Zach Hart, Brian Smith and William Facciolo are Shades of Red D.C., a group of local fans who have fun analyzing their favorite pro sports teams in the DC area. Catch them on Facebook and on their blog.

© 2014, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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