The Blues can't celebrate the win against Carolina at all: they immediately take off for the airport and a trip to the nation's capital to take on the Capitals. Both teams are looking for these two points. With a win, the Capitals can pass the idle Penguins for first place in the much-maligned Metropolitan division. If the Blues win (and get a little help from San Jose against Chicago later tonight), the Blues can rise above the Hawks for the Central Division lead. Obviously, all points are important in the standings ... but these two are particularly desirable. Two good teams battling in a game that matters should make for an entertaining game. Pull up a six-pack and enjoy.
The Caps are second in the Metropolitan division with a record of 11-8-1. Their home record thus far is 7-3-0, including six straight leading into tonight. They are on a two-game winning streak with Friday night's shootout win in Detroit. They came from being down two goals to tie it up, and to eventually win in the skills competition. The Capitals are predictably well-armed offensively. The goals and points leader is, of course, Alex Ovechkin. His 15 goals account for about 25% of his team's offense, and he has 22 points overall. Nicklas Backstrom is right behind with 5 goals and 16 assists for 21 points. Behind them, you have Mikhail Grabovski (6G /11A) and Marcus Johansson (5G /12A) with 17 points each.
While the Blues currently lead the league (26.2%) in overall power play effectiveness, the Caps are in 2nd place at 24.4%. Looking at it even closer, you'll see that the Washington power play is even better at home, scoring in 30.6% of their opportunities. The Blues, so far, are 100% in killing penalties on the road, which leads the league of course. Obviously, something has to give there. If you had told me before the season started that the Blues would be perfect on the PK on the road this far into the year, I'd have called you a liar. Yet, here we are.
The starting goaltender for the Caps is usually Braden Holtby. When he's not serving as Ray Emery's punching bag, he's putting up pretty good stats: 2.73 GAA and .920 save percentage. Washington has a 9-6-0 record with Holtby in goal. Since he played against the Wings last night, coach Adam Oates could turn to the backup for today's game. Michal Neuvirth has a 2-2-1 record with a 2.79 GAA and .913 save percentage. So, there's not much of a drop-off there.
Essentially, the Blues will want to stay out of the box. If they can avoid the Washington power play and neutralize Ovechkin as well as they did Crosby, they'll be doing fine.
Final Verse: An early game today, as the puck drops at 5:00 PM St Louis time. I expect that'll be a plus for our European friends. The TV broadcast is on Fox Sports MW, and the radio call will be on KMOX 1120 AM. The game day thread will drop shortly ahead of the puck. Until then, drop in and check up on things here. Here's a man who knows what he's talking about:
Ron Swanson - Cats are pointless (via ryancoke26)