Atlanta and Washington have both opened their seasons facing one another. Atlanta surprised the Caps with a 7-4 beat down that humbled the Caps and had us scratching our heads about Jose Theodore's standard of play. In the second game, it took an Alex Ovechkin four point night to secure the win, he had a hat trick and an assist.
It would be nearly three months before either team saw each other again. But when they did it was a rough and tumble affair and the Capitals' potent power play went 3 for 7 giving Michal Neuvirth his second straight win. The game was a bit closer than the Capitals might have liked, but it seemed the Caps had finally figured out their Georgia rivals.
Then Atlanta broke out the ugly jerseys and Kari Lehtenon broke out a picture perfect game, except maybe for one goal. They handed the struggling Caps a 5-1 loss and had us scratching our heads once more. Eric Fehr was the lone goal scorer, breaking the shut-out bid with only 1:15 left in the game.
On Sunday afternoon It looked as if Thrashers had the answer at the Verizon Center. The Caps looked sluggish and uninterested through the first two periods. Atlanta was beating them to the puck, winning battles, and just out working them. But the Caps made sure they won their final home game with a 4 goal third period. Again putting another twist in this divisional rivalry. I know, weird.
The season series has been anything but boring. Their games have been high scoring affairs, in fact the season series has shelled out 42 goals in all. It begs the question, which Capital team will show up tonight at Philips Arena? The determined talented one or the just-going-through-the-motions one?
Tonight should also be a night of answers for the Eastern Conference. New Jersey plays Toronto, a probable win for the Devils and the Caps have to keep pace to retain second place. Florida faces Philly, will the Panthers get to go to the dance? The Flyers haven't clinched yet because they have fewer wins than Florida (and if Florida wins their remaining 3 games and if Philly loses theirs they would be tied with the tiebreaker going the Panthers way). Montreal has an opportunity to give the Rangers a hard time tonight and Carolina is hoping to hold on to that number 4 spot and keep home ice advantage away from Pittsburgh and Philly. All in all, should be a great night for hockey.
- Only eleven players and two goaltenders took the ice at Kettler for the Capitals optional practice. Brent Johnson and Simeon Varlamov got the most work in this light work out. The players were pretty loose and jawing at one another as Johnny rehabs and Varly got a workout. Brooks Laich joined the fun early, but only in his shorts and t-shirt. He would stand on the ice and take pot shots at the net with his cross trainers on and gloves.
- Chris Clark and Boyd Gordon also were on the ice early trying to keep their legs conditioned. They didn't join the rest of the crew when practice did start yesterday, but they did share a few passes as their rehab ended just as the practice began. Donald Brashear also took the ice late in practice and his knee looked just fine. Although he was not really skating at full force and it looked as if he just wanted to get a few shots in without having to really do any drills.
- WJFK, 106.7 FM will be broadcasting every one of the playoff games. The Caps did this last season too. The FM signal will be a better and stronger signal than the 1500 AM signal on Federal radio.