Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Back-to-Back from Heck; the Toughest Two Days of the Year

Today and tomorrow, the Washington Capitals play two of the best teams in the league, in the San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins.

If you watched the San Jose game, you saw a very good effort from Washington, playing against a much better all-round team. The Caps received good goaltending and defensive efforts, forechecked a storm against 2013 Vezina finalist Anti Niemi, and played a game that, had they played against the Sabres on Sunday, they probably would have won.

Tomorrow, they will be playing a well-rested and uber-talented Penguins squad that has many more weapons than the Capitals or even the Sharks do. What will the Capitals have to do to win this one in Pittsburgh tomorrow?

1. Start Michal Neuvirth. Nothing against Braden Holtby, but look at his career numbers against the Penguins, and you know why I'm saying this. Neuvirth had a fantastic effort against the Maple Leafs after a 2-month layoff, and is right now the second-best goalie on the team behind Phillip Grubauer. Unless you want to start Grubauer again (which would be a terrible decision), the Caps have to start Neuvirth.

2. Forecheck like they did today. Niemi is one of the best goalies in the league, and had some fantastic saves on the Caps. If the Capitals play like they did in the offensive zone today against the Penguins, they will definitely score more than one goal on Marc-Andre Fleury, who although OK, is not on Niemi's level.

3. Better puck handling/possession. The Caps as a team were not very good against the Sharks, the third best puck possession team in the league (extraskater.com). The Penguins are not too shabby either, sitting at 10th in the league, while the Caps are 24th. The Caps will really need to dominate the puck tomorrow, and just overall limit Penguins chances as much as possible, or it could be a pretty bad night no matter how well the goaltending and offense is.

4. Come out strong. It's tough playing against the best team in the conference the day after a grueling game against one of the best teams in the league, especially having to travel overnight. To top it off, this is against a huge rival in a hostile environment, and televised nationally so we have to listen to Mike Milbury and Pierre McGuire all game (oh, lord). The Caps will need to come out with their legs and believe they are the better team (which they truthfully are not) and play the best darn game of the year against Pittsburgh.

This is probably the craziest possible two day stretch the NHL could have assigned the Caps. Still after the effort they showed against the Sharks, we may have some reason to hope the Caps can pull the upset tomorrow.

No comments:

Post a Comment