Panthers-Caps Preview

The Capitals are back to winning again but they still find themselves in an interesting position; 2nd place in the Southeast Division. Not by much, though. They trail the Lightning by one point in the standings after falling to them in overtime 1-0 on Tuesday but they should be able to reclaim first place if they can take care of business from here on out. Which is why games against divisional opponents like the Florida Panthers are important. During the Caps losing streak, they were shutout by Florida at Verizon Center. There we saw the Capitals go 0/8 on the powerplay and not able to get anything by Florida goaltender Tomas Vokoun. I think Florida is destined to be a bottom-five team this year but they do play us well at times and the Caps have constantly ran into trouble this year when they face a team that blocks shots well and rides a hot goaltender. Florida s pretty good at doing both and that’s what they did the last time we played them.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit worried about this game for the reasons I just mentioned. Also because the Caps offense was shut down by Dwayne Roloson the last time they played and their powerplay has only converted once in the last 3 games.  You can blame the powerplay struggles on the new “trap” system that Boudreau has implemented (which has actually been executed very well) but this is a problem that has plagued this team all year. After watching countless videos of ineffective powerplays compared to ones we scored on, the problem stems from the forwards not getting to the net to score goals. Other teams are wiser to Ovechkin’s curl and drag move and have found ways to shut down our top players, especially with the man advantage. I have to think that they will find their way around this sooner or later but for the time being, the lower-card guys are stepping up and scoring instead. It also helps that we’re playing a more defensive system now but it seems that we’re still failing to capitlize on all of our scoring chances. A game against Florida could be just what we need to get back on track just like our last game against New Jersey was.

Goalies:

Washington will against start Semyon Varlamov. Boudreau’s continuing to ride the hot goaltender and Varlamov been exactly that for the past few weeks. It makes sense to keep starting him as long as he’s playing well.

Florida is starting Scott Clemmensen after Tomas Vokoun was chased after allowing 3 bad goals to the Hurricanes yesterday. Clemmensen is capable of stealing a game for Florida (recently had a few 40+ save performances) with how much better their defense is so the Caps should be aware of that.

Who/What to Watch For:

Bryan Allen/Dennis Wideman. The former is the team’s best shot blocker and the latter is a good offensive threat. We will definitely see a lot of both tonight.

– Michael Frolik-Stephen Weiss-Chris Higgins. These three have been Florida’s best line lately (yes, Higgins not booth) and are the main threats to score as far as I’m concerned. Weiss is also someone who I would love to see in Capitals red a few months from now. Cough.

– Capitals powerplay. It can’t get any worse. I’m going to be keeping an eye out to see what they’ll be doing differently in this game with the man advantage. Boudreau made the adjustment to playing a more defensive game to help prevent chances and goals, which has worked. Now let’s see what he can do to help the powerplay. We can’t all be perfect, though. It would also be helpful to get some shots from someone other than the two Alex’s in the first two periods. That’s what’s been happening a lot most in recent games.

Enjoy the game, folks.

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