October 25th, 2008 was the last time the Capitals visited the American Airlines Center to take on the Dallas Stars. It was a spirited affair that ended in a 6-5 Washington overtime victory. The Stars, winners of four straight, are hoping to hold them to quite a few goals less this time.
The Capitals are 2-1-1 on the second night of back to backs this year and have averaged 4.5 goals per game in those contests. Tired legs don't hinder their tremendous ability to put the puck in the net. They have won by three goals or more seven times already this season.
They did not face a Western Conference team in November. In October they beat the Flames 7-2 (which everyone is doing these days), needed a shootout to beat the Predators 3-2, lost to the Wild in Minnesota by a score of 2-1, and beat up on the Blues 4-1 last night despite allowing 38 shots on goal.
All this tells us that the back to backs don't bother them. The Western Conference does not bother them. They are quite simply one of the best teams in the league, if not the best. Their record says they are. This is a tremendous test for the Stars and it comes at home after two days of rest. They (Dallas) should be ready and plenty motivated for this one tonight. It's the very definition of a "measuring stick" game, and can serve as a tremendous exclamation point if they prove the victors.
More on each team and why we already dislike tonight's (probable) starting goaltender for the Caps after the jump...
Marc Crawford was coy on Wednesday when asked about his starting netminder for tonight, which was a little surprising given what a big game this is that they've had two days rest. We'll know soon after morning skate what he's decided, but one would assume Lehtonen.
[Update] Wrong. Crawford says that Andrew Raycroft will start in net tonight. Is this a hunch, or just giving Kari a rest? What do you think? I am pretty surprised.
Krys Barch is supposedly good to go and could be re-inserted into the lineup tonight in favor of either Sutherby or Segal.
The Capitals are the antithesis of the Stars on the road power play. They're 4th best in the league at 21% (8 of 38) and the Stars penalty kill could be busy. This is the kind of hard skating, skilled team (a la Colorado) against whom the Stars sometimes find themselves in penalty trouble. Staying out of the box is key. No one wants to see Alex Ovechkin and friends out there on the PP much.
Then again, the Blues took only two minor penalties last night and lost to them 4-1.
Dallas has allowed only 5 total goals in their 4 game win streak. Stingy. The Stars won their only meeting with the Caps last year 4-3 in Washington thanks to a heroic Marty Turco effort. Will Andrew Raycroft need to be just as heroic tonight?
Also, because we love our DBD community members, check out Tyler Bouldin's game preview at KNTU.com
Washington's AHL affiliate being the Hershey Bears, we have some familiarity with a couple of these names and, quite frankly, instant dislike stemming from begrudging respect. 20 year old Capital John Carlson played for Hershey in the Calder Cup Final last year against our little Texas Stars (after the Caps crashed and burned in the first round). He scored the Calder Cup winning goal in game six and is a tremendous talent. I hate that guy.
Better still is likely starter tonight Michal Neuvirth, who also played for the Bears and completely stymied the Texas Stars in June. I can still hear that
annoying Hershey play by play man loudly vociferating his name through my computer speakers. I don't like him either.
Again, begrudging respect.
Neuvirth has made the jump to the NHL quite successfully with a tremendous record of 12-3-1 and a .912 save percentage.
Something no one wants to hear: Alex Ovechkin has not scored a goal in eight games. Pray he does not erupt tonight and "get healthy" in that respect.