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Capitals vs. Lightning: Division Champs and Push for 100 Points!
LIGHTNING-CAPITALS THIS SEASON:
Canadiens on the road: 9-19-12
Capitals at home: 26-3-9
Ladies and Gentlemen, presenting your 2010 Southeast Division Champion Washington Capitals. Used to be they’d hang a banner from the rafters for something like that! Actually, they probably still will. And it will hang proudly along side those grand Washington Mystic Attendance champ banners. But the feeling is that no one cares about winning the division. And that’s how it should be. As coach Bruce Boudreau stated, it would be a bigger story if the Caps didn’t win the division. He also went on to state, “Everybody is not going to have a bottle of champagne. It’s not baseball. …We want to have champagne [when] we win the whole thing. We’ll wait.” Consider the champagne corked. For now.
Sure, a Stanley Cup would be nice. Very nice. Of course, I would not mind celebrating the President’s or Prince of Wales Trophy either. Or a Conn Smythe. Is that too picky? The opponent Friday night is Tampa Bay. The Lightning aren’t exactly ripping up the league, as you may be aware. Between complaints about goaltending or Alex Tanguay, they have seen a lot go wrong. However, they have also managed to find some joy in sophomore Steve Stamkos, who comes in riding an 18-game point streak (17 goals, 15 assists). That’s the longest point streak in Lightning team history. Not a long franchise history mind you, but they have one more Cup than Washington. Meanwhile, the Capitals haven’t lost at home in regulation since 2009. On to the game…
Fleischmann opens up the scoring with his twentieth. That gives Washington six 20-goal scorers. Edmonton, Boston, the New York Rangers, Phoenix, Florida and Buffalo also have six 20-goal scorers. Combined. So that’s one thing the Caps have going for them. The fast start isn’t enough, as some questionable goaltending by Varlamov lets in a trio of Tampa goals. Some classic Erskine is mixed in, such as playing hockey sans a stick or out-slowing the slow. Is it too late to send Erskine or Sloan to anywhere? Third period starts with the home team down 3-1. A classic Brooks Laich goal makes the last 8 minutes a pretty interesting watch. But alas, no other goal. In fact, the Caps couldn’t really gain the zone at the very end.
Verdict: Well, I jinxed the team. They have now lost in regulation for the first time in 2010. Varlamov still isn’t where you want him to be. The Caps looked good at points, but were later outworked. It was the second period where the energy seemed to disappear. Power play looked fine. And they did stop Stamkos. Call it playing down to their competition or whatever. It’s a loss and time to move on for the coming road trip. Blackhawks on Sunday on NBC.