Nashville Predators @ Washington Capitals Preview: "Hard to Play Against"
The Capitals and Predators finish their narrative filled season series with an early date in our nation's capital.
There's a real possibility that many of you won't even be awake at the time the players hit the ice for warm ups. Put your coffee on a timer, have your hangover remedy on hand and try to eat something to keep up your strength. The Predators invade Washington Capitals territory, and both teams are not only looking to solidify their playoff berths, but vie for the best possible match up as well.
It's also Filip Forsberg's first return to DC since he was but a wee prospect, but that's probably not very important.
The Washington Capitals
To say that the Capitals are fighting for their playoff lives would be unfair. Even though the Senators have been making up a ton of ground, Washington still has a 5 point lead on Ottawa. They're also on 1 and 3 points behind Pittsburgh and the Islanders (respectively) for the final two spots in the Metro, so it's within the realm of possibility to have a better seed and avoid playing the Rangers... again.
Still, they have the hardest remaining schedule in the East, and probably made their fans shift in their seats a little by allowing the Devils to tie Thursday night's game with 30 seconds left. Matt Niskanen Evgeny Kuznetzov eventually won the game in overtime, but the game shouldn't have gone that far. In their last 8 games, they play the Predators, the Rangers, the Hurricanes, the Canadiens, the Senators, the Red Wings, the Bruins and the Rangers. Woof.
On one hand, two points is two points. On the other, flatlining like they did against New Jersey won't yield positive results going forward. Barry Trotz even said as much. Maybe it was all the time off they had between games, maybe it was how the Capitals have had a problem playing with a lead all season.
Washington may not be quite up to the standard of "best in the east," but it'd be foolish to think this is a gimme match up. Alex Ovechkin is three goals away from breaking 50 for the sixth time in his career, and the way he's playing he could reach that in this game. (Hopefully whoever's in net stands up when he shoots.) Braden Holtby is having a remarkable season by anyone's account, yet is still characterized as "not very good" since "goaltending is an issue with Washington." It isn't. If anything, Holtby is making up for a backup that management doesn't trust. Justin Peter's has only played four games since the beginning of the year, and likely isn't going to see any action until the Caps clinch a playoff spot.
The Preds may also want to be careful. We all know how Trotz likes his teams to be "hard to play against," and that's become the norm for the suddenly physical Capitals. They have a penchant for injuring players of the opposing team. I believe Alex Prewitt counted close to 20 players that got injured and missed time after playing Washington.
The Nashville Predators
Preds could clinch a playoff spot as early as Sat. if Calgary loses in regulation Fri. and a Preds win of any kind Sat.— Jim Diamond (@diamondhockey) March 27, 2015
If you all can stomach rooting for Minnesota and Devan Dubnyk for a night, they can expedite the delivery of the "X" or "*" by the Preds' name. If that's just too much to bear, we understand, it'll happen soon anyway and it doesn't have to come from help by the Wild.
On a more serious note, though the Predators have stacked up wins against two of the East's top teams, they weren't overall the most convincing of wins. Getting lucky bounces isn't necessarily the worst of things, especially given how many of those went against Nashville in the past month. However, they don't want to roll into the playoffs being outplayed by every team.
They currently have a 42% chance of playing the Blackhawks in the first round, and about a 25% chance of playing Minnesota. Neither of those teams are going to be very forgiving if the Preds let them have the puck. So they should get used to throwing rubber at the net now. Their remaining schedule is in no way easier, but it's not as daunting as other team's. Get to it.
Reasons to Watch
- I'm genuinely curious to see how (if?) the DC faithful respond to Forsberg on the ice. Does he get booed? Should he get booed? Would the ire be less directed at him personally, and more at George McPhee, wherever he is? Does staying silent show everyone they don't care and are over it, when in fact we all know they totally care and totally aren't over it? I really need to know all of this.
- It's been almost three years since he was drafted and, though fans have to be tormented every time he scores, most of them probably never saw him play before the trade. That's not meant to be a dig at all. He made an appearance at development camp shortly after being drafted and... that's it. Any other photo of him in a Capitals uniform is from his draft day. That's how raw of a prospect he was when he was traded.
- Rinne vs. Holbty. Workhorse vs. workhorse. (Unless Hutton starts, in that case... meh.)
- Hockey before noon is kind of the best thing ever.
- Fiala time! Maybe./
Drink of Choice
In a state of mind of throwing a few beers back before noon, I wish DC Brau distributed their "The Public" down this-a way. Hell, for that matter I'd love it if someone could deliver me a case of Vienna Lager from Devil's Backbone. Please throw in some Flying Dog and Dogfish Head while you're at it. I won't be picky when it comes to which type.
Sights and Sounds
Set your alarms or just don't go to bed. Puck drop is at 11:30 Central time, coming to you live on 102.5 The Game and FS-TN.