Pre-game notes: Capitals vs Bruins 2/5/12

Oh, there’s a hockey game today? Could have sworn there was some other sporting event going on too… Can’t remember what it is… It’s gotta be pretty important though, right? Though they are 5-3-2 in their last 10 games, the Capitals have struggled to find consistency this season and are hovering just outside of playoff contention, 2 points out of 8th place with 58 points, and 8 points between themselves and the division leading Florida Panthers.

Like the Bruins, the Washington Capitals are on the back half of back-to-back games, coming off a 3-0 win in Montreal against the floundering Canadiens, their second straight shut out against the Habs this season. Washington has to be feeling pretty good about it considering the way things panned out during the 2010 playoffs. They also have to be feeling pretty good about getting Ovechkin back from a 3 game suspension yesterday.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Alex Ovechkin – As I said, Ovi played his first game yesterday in over a week after missing 3 games to suspension. Though he didn’t manage to produce any numbers on the score sheet, Ovechkin’s gotta have a major bee under his bonnet, especially against a team like the Bruins, whom the Capitals could very well face in the first round of the playoffs if things pan out right. Ovechkin is an absurd 12-14–26 in 24 career games against the Bruins, though it’s fair to note that he’s been pretty well managed by the Bruins’ defense (read: Chara) in the last couple of years (1 goal in his last 4 games vs Boston).

Alexander Semin – Coming off a 2 point night in Montreal. Like Ovechkin, Semin has tremendous numbers against Boston (4-11–15 in 19 career games), but has just 1 assist in his 5 last games against the Bruins. Semin has struggled with consistency and tends to take dumb penalties out of frustration, but he is still very dangerous.

Michael Neuvirth – Since Tomas Vokoun got the nod in Montreal last night, I’d have to imagine Neuvirth gets the start today. Neuvirth is 0-2-0 against the Bruins, with a .810 SV% and a 3.90 GAA. Not very impressive. If the Bruins offense can pull themselves together it could be a rough day for Neuvirth. OOPS! Vokoun’s in net. I’m surprised as hell.

After stumbling out of the gate in September, going 3-7-0, the Bruins went on an impressive tear that reestablished them as a force to be reckoned with in Eastern Conference. With four scoring lines, a stingy defense, rock solid goaltending and consistent effort, the Bruins dominated their opponents night in and night out, and it became clear once again that they were defending Stanley Cup champs for good reason. However, due perhaps to injuries, suspensions, and alleged internal turmoil, the Bruins have plummeted back to Earth and now appear to be what Claude Julien has referred to as “a very ordinary hockey club”. With the 2-1 loss to the Penguins in Boston yesterday, the Bruins are now 4-5-1 in their last 10 games, including their first consecutive losses since December.

The Bruins need to score and they need to play for 60 minutes. The Bruins have lately been prone to brutal lapses in focus during key moments in games that led directly to goals for the opposing team, and what’s worse is they are unable to get those goals back the way they did earlier in the season. When the Bruins score 3 or more goals, they win games. They have 1 goal in their last 2 games. Though the defense has still been shakey, you cannot win games if you can’t score goals. 7 Bruins forwards were without shots on goal last night, including the entire first line. Unacceptable.

Towards the end of yesterday’s game Claude Julien started to juggle the lines to try to spark some offense so the actual lines in-game are anybody’s guess. Something’s gotta give, here.

PROJECTED LINES:

Lucic – Krejci – Peverley
Marchand – Bergeron – Seguin
Pouliot – Kelly – Caron
Paille – Campbell – Thornton

Chara – Boychuk
Seidenberg – Corvo
McQuaid – Ference

Thomas
Rask

FINAL THOUGHT:
Though the trade deadline is at the end of the month, with the team slumping like this, Peter Chiarelli could make some trades early to shake things up. Could we be seeing some new blood in here in the next week or so?

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