Panthers-Caps preview

As you can probably guess, I haven’t been too thrilled with the way the Capitals have been playing the last three games. The Atlanta and Toronto games, specifically but tonight’s a good chance to turn things around against a rebuilding Florida Panthers team. What’s to know about the Panthers? Well, they have the league’s worst powerplay by a longshot (7.87%) and they feature a poor offense backed by a good defense and arguably one of the best goaltenders in the league, Tomas Vokoun. Their leading point getter is David Booth who has only 7 goals and 16 points. Yikes.

Despite that, the Panthers are on a two-game winning streak after shutting out the Coytoes and beating the Avs in overtime capped off by this beautiful goal from Stephen Weiss. So, the Capitals shouldn’t go into this game expecting a win just because we’re playing Florida at home. Not with the way they choked away a 4-1 lead against the Leafs on Monday. Florida’s offensive struggles and strong goaltending are well known but what is less known is they have a pretty solid defensive corps. Florida’s only given up 69 goals this year, which is the 7th best in the league and their penalty kill is a solid 83% effective. Needless to say, the Caps offense is definitely good enough to do some damage against this team but I still expect it to be a low scoring game.

Who/What To Watch For:

It’s looking like Scott Hannan will be playing on the top pair with Mike Green tonight since Jeff Schultz is on the shelf for about a month. This is exactly what we brought Hannan in for since he played big minutes in Colorado. When we lost a defenseman, it put a burden on our younger players to play more minutes than they’re used to and it put more responsibility in the bottom-pair. Hannan being here prevents that. Let’s hope he can continue to play solid since he was in his first couple of games.

– Caps need a full 60 minute effort in this game and I’m expecting to see one tonight. The game against the Blues was a perfect example of that, the game against the Leafs was not. Hoping for the former.

– Mathieu Perrault needs to be more consistent if he wants to stay on the big club for awhile and it’s the perfect time for him to do it with Tomas Fleischmann gone. He started his call up with a 2-goal game. Sets the bar kind of high but I’m hoping he can have another solid game on the 2nd line.

– Eric Fehr needs a wake-up call badly. He’s been stuck on the 3rd line and with the way he’s been playing and the luck he’s been having, it’s not looking like he’ll move up any time soon. However, we’re playing against a team with not a lot of depth in Florida and it’s a good chance for him to make the most of his ice time like he did last season.

– Mike Santorelli’s been quietly good for Florida’s second line and he is tied for the team lead in goals with 7. He didn’t get a lot of ice time with Nashville but now that he’s playing more, he’s been a nice playmaker for this Florida team. Not spectacular but a nice addition. Also look for Stephen Weiss who recently broke a cold streak of his own with a 2 goal game against Colorado.

– My guess for Florida’s “shut-down” pair is Bryan Allen and Dimitry Kulikov. The latter is more offensive minded but Allen is a great defensive player and I guess he will be on the ice whenever the top-line is. Dennis Wideman was my other guess but daily faceoff has him on the 2nd pair and he usually gets more of his minutes during powerplay time. Florida’s penalty kill was nearly perfect last week and a lot of credit goes to the defensive corps.

– See if Alex Ovechkin can have goals in 3 straight games, proving that 9-game drought he had was only a fluke.

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