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January 17, 2019
Caps v. Devils
by Michael Menser Dell, Editor-in-Chief
We’ll also witness a clash of two wicked hot goal-scorers. Alexander Ovechkin is doing what Ovechkin does. He leads the league with 36 goals, has five red lights in his last two outings, and is fresh off a hat trick against the Ottawa Senators. And while Zach Parise is third in the NHL with 29 goals and has seven in his last 10, Jamie Langenbrunner has been going loopy, notching three straight two-goal games. Ovechkin vs Langenbrunner. Be there!
Plus, we may also get Alexander "Knuckles" Semin fighting David Clarkson. That would be glorious.
But I have to hand it to the Capitals. I truly thought they were going to take a step back this season. Ovechkin hasn’t faltered. He’s been as dynamite as ever, making another run at 60 goals while averaging an ungodly 6.59 shots per game. Ovechkin’s on pace for 541 shots, which would shatter his previous career-high of 446. He could even threaten Phil Esposito’s NHL record of 550 shots.
To put Ovechkin’s 323 shots in perspective, Marian Hossa, Jeff Carter, and Eric Staal are tied for second with 215 shots. That’s dominance right there.
Ovechkin coming through hasn’t been surprising. I figured the Caps would be scoring goals, what with Knuckles, Nicklas Backstrom, and Mike Green around to support Ovie. I reckoned the team’s Achilles’ heel, or I suppose heels, would be defense and goaltending.
Washington’s top six blueliners aren’t exactly household names. Well, Tom Poti is a household name, but it’s typically used in reference to toilets. Yet Poti, who returned January 31 after missing 15 games with a groin injury, averages 21:26 a night, second to only Green’s Herculean 25:34 per game. Poti is playing 21 minutes on a winning team? How is that even possible?
Poti’s return meant impressive rookie Karl Alzner was sent down to Hershey, leaving Jeff Schultz, Milan Jurcina, Shaone Morrisonn, and John Erskine to round out the defense. Hmm ha. Yeah, I don’t get it either.
The goaltending situation is even more confounding. Jose Theodore has a 2.78 goals-against average and a paltry .899 save percentage, but he’s somehow 18-9-2. Career backup Brent Johnson boasts a 12-6-2 record and a better, albeit average, .908 save percentage. Theodore did have a swell January, though, posting a 2.18 goals-against and a .919 save percentage. So maybe there’s hope yet. But considering he’s Jose Theodore, I doubt it.
Tonight is a big game for the Caps. For all their success, they’ve yet to establish themselves on the road. Washington is 21-3-1 at home, but a mere 11-12-3 away from the Verizon Center. The Caps are the only legit playoff team with a sub-500 record on the road. Combine that with their defense and goaltending, and I still have a hard time seeing this club making it beyond the second round.
Best. Name. Ever.