CAPS GAME NIGHT--GAME 45: On To Pittsburgh

Posted by Dave Nichols | Wednesday, January 14, 2009 | , , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals (27-14-3-57, first in Southeast, third in East), smarting from a season-high tying three game losing streak, travel to Pittsburgh to face the struggling Penguins (21-19-4-46, fourth in Atlantic, 10th in East) at 7:30 p.m. from Mellon Arena.

The Caps have cooled off from their torrid December streak, which saw them win 12 of 13 and seven in a row. Perhaps not coincidentally, Alex Ovechkin has failed to score a goal in his last four games.

Coach Bruce Boudreau is becoming increasingly frustrated by his team's lack of execution of the "little" things, as evidenced by his post-game comments after last night's 5-2 loss to Edmonton.

"It gets to the point where everybody wants to be the scorer but nobody wants to be the mucker and you're not going to do anything," Boudreau said. "Everybody's waiting for somebody else to do the work. They want to finish."

Maybe the sight of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will ignite the teams' engine.

The stories of dissent between Ovechkin and Malkin, former Olympic teammates, by now are well documented, and were magnified by the teams' first meeting, when the Penguins took exception to Ovie's physical play, accusing the star of targeting Malkin with big hits.

"Ovechkin is a great player, but every time he hits me - I don't know why," Malkin said.

And of course, there is the famous Alexander Semin interview concerning the Pittsburgh captain.
"What's so special about [Crosby]? I don't see anything special there. Yes, he does skate well, has a good head, good pass. But there's nothing else.

I think that if you take any player, even if he is "dead wood," and start promoting him, you'll get a star."
Pittsburgh has really struggled this year after reaching the Stanley Cup finals last season. Their two superstars, Crosby and Malkin, are both getting their points, as the duo top the NHL scoring chart. And the Penguins have six double-digit goal scorers, as do the Capitals.

Yet Pittsburgh is 13th in the conference in goals against and, despite being third in goals scored in the East, is minus-three in goal differential for the season. Additionally, the Pens rank only 20th in the league on the power play.

The Pens have lost seven of their last nine games, including a five-game streak over the holidays. They did manage to win in Philadelphia last night though, 4-2. Marc-Andre Fleury made 27 saves in the effort, and Malkin notched his 17 goal of the season.

Washington won the previous contest this season in Pittsburgh, rallying from three goals down to win 4-3 back on Oct. 16. This is the second of four games between the two teams this season.

WAS: PP-6th (22.4%, 41/183); PK-24th (79.6%, 42/206)

PIT: PP-2oth (16.9%, 33/195); PK-23rd (79.8%, 38/188)

WAS: D Brian Pothier (Concussion-OUT); D Tom Poti (Groin-IR); RW Boyd Gordon (Back-OUT)

PIT: LW Ruslan Fedotenko (Hand-IR); LW Pascal Dupuis (Undisclosed-Questionable); D Sergei Gonchar (Shoulder-IR); C Mike Zigomanis (Shoulder-IR)