Friday, October 26, 2007

Caps/Canucks Preview

The Capitals will be looking to build off the momentum of Wednesday's 5-3 win over Tampa Bay and get back to .500 tonight as they take on the Canucks (who bring with them a formidable entry in the NHL's worst uniform contest) at Verizon Center.

The Canucks are sitting at 4-6 thus far on the year, which has to considered a slow start given that they won the Northwest Division last season. The early season struggles can be attributed in large part to the fact the Canucks have given up 32 goals in their 10 games, not something Vancouver could have been expecting given their top goaltender is Roberto Luongo. Make no mistake about it - although Luongo's numbers have been unspectacular so far this season (3.01 GAA; .900 save %) he is arguably the best netminder in the NHL, with Marty Brodeur
and Miika Kiprusoff his only real competition for the title. Couple that with the fact the Capitals have not beaten Luongo since the lockout and clearly the forwards are going to have their work cut out for them. Luongo is beatable but it's rare to see him give one up on an initial shot. The Caps will have to crash the net and move the puck around down low to get him out of position, both of which they were able to do well in their win against Tampa Bay.

The Canucks have a solid defensive unit, lead by Mattias Ohlund. Not only are guys like Kevin Bieksa, Willie Mitchell and Aaron Miller
good defensively, they're big and strong and like the play the body. The Caps first line possesses both size (Ovechkin is 6'2'', 216; Kozlov is 6'4'', 232) and grit (what other NHL team's captain will break his face and finish his shift), but the second line is small and not particularly physical, particularly Backstrom and Semin, who both weigh in under 185 (Note: the Caps are the biggest team in the NHL). The second unit may have to rely on passing and puckhandling to create chances and while it's not the most effective means against Luongo, Backstrom and Nylander are good enough playmakers that they should be able to get the Canucks goalie moving and out of position.

Between the Sedin twins and Markus Naslund the Canucks have decent enough scoring depth. But while these players are legitimate first-liners they're not the kind of players that can take over games. I expect the Caps checking line and defensive pairing of Morrisson and Jurcina to be able to take care of the Sedin's line and generally keep the Canucks in check.

The Caps have the edge in this game both offensively and defensively and should be able to pull out a win. It's no sure thing though - Luongo is as capable as any goalie in the league at stealing one for his team.

Update: Tarik El-Bashir is reporting on Caps Insider that Tom Poti skipped today's morning skate with an injury, making it unlikely he'll be able to go tonight. It might be best for the Caps to dress seven defensemen tonight. That way if Poti is questionable they can have him start the game but not have to go to five d-men if he can't finish the game; if Poti can't play they could dress both Erskine and Shultz and limit the ice time of ice as the situations warrant (presumably Erskine would pretty much only play the penalty kill).


Don't be surprised to see a lots of Swedish fans as the game tonight with Backstrom, Nylander, Ohlund, the Sedins and Naslund all expected to play...The Canucks are apparently practicing with a chair these days...Canucks rookie center Rick Rypien is a cousin of former Redskins Super Bowl winning QB Mark

Other Previews:,, Japers' Rink, Washington Post, Washington Times


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