Monday, February 4, 2008

Blue Jackets/Capitals Preview

Washington Capitals at Columbus Blue Jackets
Tuesday, February 5th, 2008, 7:00 PM
Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio

About the Opponent
Columbus Blue Jackets: 25-23-6, 3rd in the Central Division, 11th in the Western Conference

Team Leaders
Goals: Rick Nash (26)
Assists: Nikolai Zherdev (24)
Points: Nikolai Zherdev (45)
Plus/Minus: Jan Hejda (+7)
Penalty Minutes: Jared Boll (164)
Fights: Jared Boll (19)

Random Blue Jackets Fact
The Blue Jackets name was chosen with the goal of "celebrating patriotism, pride and the rich Civil War history in the state of Ohio and, city of Columbus" which (1) makes you wonder what was going on with this logo and (2) may or may not be a response to Don Cherry's statement "That's stupid! How can you name a thing after a fly?!" when the insect logo was pointed out to him.

Random Blue Jackets Statistic
In his second season in the league (2003-04) Rick Nash had 57 points, 41 of which were goals.

Keys to the Game

Secondary scoring. The Caps have five goals in their last three games; four were scored by Alex Ovechkin, on the other he had the primary assist. Ovechkin is a good enough player that he'll get his chances against any defense but he isn't going to outscore the opposition every night.

Secondary scoring. Rick Nash and Nikolai Zherdev 47 goals between them; the next seven highest goal scorers for the Blue Jackets have combined for 48.

Players to Watch

Alexander Semin - how Semin responds in this game will be important for two reasons. One is the aforementioned lack of secondary scoring the Capitals are getting right now. The other is Bruce Boudreau has finally called out Semin on his lack of discipline, saying of Semin's hooking penalties with his team one the man advantage: "I think they are lazy penalties. The hook - that's the fourth or fifth time that we've had a power play that it's happened. That can't happen. We'll have to address it." The Capitals have been generally willing accept Semin as a stereotypical Russian enigma thus far in his NHL career and have handled him with kid gloves to this point. It will be interesting to see how Semin responds to being challenged in this manner.

Eric Fehr - not only is Fehr back in the NHL after missing almost 10 months with a herniated disc, he's been practicing on the top line alongside Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom as well. Although Fehr's numbers at Hershey haven't been great this year (two goals and four assists in 10 games), he had 21 goals, 19 assists, an 18.33 shooting percentage and was +20 in 40 games with the Bears last season. As a natural goal-scorer, Fehr will hopefully be at target for Nicklas Backstrom and be able to provide a diversion for defenses looking to cover Ovechkin.

Pascal Leclaire - Nash and Zherdev may be the flashiest members of the Columbus team but Leclaire, the eight overall pick in 2001, is having the best season with a 2.11 GAA, .925 save percentage and an NHL-leading eight shutouts in 37 games. Neither Nash nor Zherdev is going to beat the Capitals on his own. Leclaire could.

Around the (Inter)net
Mike Vogel has the best writeup on Fehr's return to Washington...James Mirtle has part three of his "How the Game Has Changed" up and it's about what scouts are looking for...Very straightforward: What it feels like to take a puck off the face...Alex Ovechkin: worth the price of admission...An interview with Nicklas Backstrom...Mark makes a convincing case as to why the Capitals goaltending is better than you might think...Peerless has a 2008 draft overview.

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