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Thursday Roundup/Gamenight: Caps @ Sens

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[AP Preview - WashingtonCaps.com Preview]

Kudos to EMac for posting a perfect-for-the-blogosphere quote from Alex Ovechkin following Tuesday night's disappointing overtime loss to the Thrashers. When asked whether or not he'd be in Washington next year, AO replied (translated from Russian to English):
"I don't know yet where I will be next season. I am not negotiating my new contract. I want to stay in Washington. But who knows what is going to happen?"
Well, we all know exactly where #8 will be playing next year, don't we? A few years down the road may be another story entirely, but he'll be in D.C. next year - you can call Rick Tocchet and bet the house on it. Alex isn't going back to Russia to be the big fish in a small pond, and the Caps would, in a heartbeat, match any offer sheet another team would sign him to (if it somehow got to that point), even if Mike Milbury and Kevin Lowe got together and dreamt up the offer over a bottle of tequila and a handful of roofies.

Sure, the lack of news regarding an Ovechkin extension is no doubt frustrating to all parties involved - the player, the team and the fans - especially given the benchmark deals already in place for players like Sidney Crosby, Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza, Jarome Iginla and others. But go ahead and order that Ovechkin jersey for Christmas - he's here for a while yet.

The more interesting question is whether or not the off-ice business is impacting AO's on-ice play. After all, Ovechkin has but one point in his last four games. Want to know the last time he suffered through such a stretch? March 15-21, 2007. And before that? Two weeks earlier. In other words, it happens. During the current stretch, he has fired 18 shots on goal (which is more shots than he registered during his last four-game goal-scoring streak), and has had countless other misfires (which are somewhat troubling and a whole other topic for discussion), but he's still playing hit-everything-that-moves-and-shoot-from-anywhere hockey, and until he has a few games in a row where that's not the case, chalk it up to an individual and, perhaps more accurately, team slump.

The bottom line here is that AO is frustrated on the ice and he's frustrated off the ice. But he "wants to stay in Washington," and he will stay in Washington... at least for the foreseeable future. Period.

With that out of the way, let's dare to turn our focus to tonight's game.

At 13-1-0, the Sens are off to the best start in NHL history after 14 games. At 5-9-1, the Caps have the fewest points in the League. Ottawa is scoring 3.50 goals per game - more than a goal per outing better than the Caps - and are giving up a miserly 1.93 tallies per affair. They're great five-on-five and down a man or two, shoot a ton, win faceoffs and don't relinquish leads (they've yet to lose a game when scoring first or leading after the first or second period).

As for individual players, Martin Gerber has been positively ridiculous thus far this season, going 10-1-0 with a 1.80 goals against average and a .941 save percentage, and Daniel Alfredsson is already in double-digits in both goals and assists.

I could go on, but won't. The point is that this is as lopsided a game, on paper, as you'll see in the NHL. But games aren't played on paper, and the matchup looks little different than it did on December 6 of last year. Or on November 6 of last year. The Caps will certainly miss the home ice they had in those two games, as well as the Chris Clark and Alex Semin they had in those two games. But the Sens aren't unbeatable. After all, they've already lost this season... once.

Why The Senators Will Win:
"The Sens will beat the Caps because the only team that had any success against Ottawa in the past 12 months had Pronger and Neidermayer on the blueline. Poti, Pothier, Green, Morrison, and Jurcina? The Cap trainers better get the ice packs ready for Olaf." - Battle of Ontario

"At their current pace, it would take the Washington Capitals another 24 games (so 39 total) to get as many wins as Ottawa has in our first 14 games. Our forwards have more goals, assists, and points. Our defencemen have more blocked shots and better plus/minus ratings. Our goaltender has more wins and a better save percentage and goal-against average. Sorry, Caps fans." - Sens Army

"Because Washington has too much Poti and Semin." - Hockey Will Tear Us Apart

"Ottawa will trounce the Caps Thursday as a special favour to me as I picked Semin and Backstrom in my pool and THEY ARE KILLING ME!!!!" - Sens Underground

"'Cause this train is on a roll! The Senators are the kids the popular gang made fun of and picked on in school only to come back rich, hot and popular. Or some other similar-type of metaphor. - Scarlett Ice
Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:

Michael Nylander was more clutch than Alex Ovechkin (among others) in October. So sayeth USAToday.... With six goals and five assists in seven games, Caps prospect Travis Morin was named the ECHL Player of the Month. He has since been recalled to Hershey.... More power rankings, with the Caps at 27 and 27.... Bobby Clarke says Eric Lindros is a Hall of Famer. Just over two years ago, I said the same thing, but now I'm not so sure - a couple of years of average play make it harder to remember the greatness that once was.... Hey, James - what about the Caps?... Mike Modano is now the highest scoring American-born player of all-time. Is he the greatest? He's certainly closer than I had him back in January of '06.

Daily Awards
  • Hart: Ian Laperriere (2G, A, +3, 4 SOG)
  • Ross: Peter Mueller, Chris Pronger, Mathieu Schneider, Steven Reinprecht, Ian Laperriere (3 points each)
  • Norris: Chris Pronger (3A)
  • Vezina: Marty Turco (W, 38 saves on 39 shots against)
  • Richard: Peter Mueller (3G)
  • Calder: Peter Mueller (3G, +1, 5 SOG)
  • Aiken: Ilya Bryzgalov (4 goals allowed on 18 shots against in 37:10 of work)