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Thursday Roundup/Gamenight: Caps @ Bruins

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[AP Preview - WashingtonCaps.com Preview]

The Caps are in Boston tonight to face the town's worst professional sports team as they look to stay hot against the Northeast Division in a city that has been horribly unhospitable to the boys from D.C. - since the new century dawned, the Caps have won in Boston but twice (once in regulation back in 2000 and once in OT in the Spring of '06).

In fact, it hasn't much mattered where these two teams have matched up lately, the games have been close and the B's have won them. Since the lockout, the Bruins are 7-0-1 against Washington, with five of the wins coming after a deadlocked regulation and each of the seven victories by just one goal (the Caps' win, not surprisingly, was also by a single tally).

Of course, those numbers mean little more than the fact that the Caps have never won in Boston on a Thursday night in January (a 4-1 loss on January 19, 1978 and a 3-2 loss on January 26, 2006) - they're just numbers. Here are some numbers that actually mean something (and a few that don't):
  • 3-6-1: the Bruins record in their last ten games
  • 3.17, .893: Tim Thomas's goals against average and save percentage since returning from an injury on December 20
  • 7-0-1, 2.04, .933: Thomas's career record, GAA and SV% against Washington
  • 1: Number of times Andrew Ference has gotten his ass kicked by Sidney Crosby
  • 1: Number of faces Zdeno Chara has exploded so far this season (nice call by Jack Edwards, btw)
  • 3: Number of Caps defenseman in the lineup courtesy of the Bruins (Shaone Morrisonn and Milan Jurcina directly via trade and Jeff Schultz via a draft pick acquired in the Morrisonn trade)
  • 1: Number of goals Michael Nylander scored for the Bruins in 15 games in 2004 after the Caps sent him north for the pick that turned into Francois Bouchard (who, incidentally, is sixth in the Q in scoring, one point ahead of fellow Caps prospect Mathieu Perreault)
  • 14: Number of career goals for Nyls against the Bruins, the most he has against any team
  • 1: Number of s-bombs Nyls dropped in a post-game interview with Pierre Maguire in Boston after scoring a game-winner
  • 27: The rank of Boston's penalty kill
  • 6: The rank of their power play
  • 1: Number of forwards in the top 50 in the NHL in scoring with fewer goals than Marc Savard (Henrik Sedin, in case you're wondering)
  • 19: Number of points on the season for Phil Kessel, the fifth overall pick in the 2006 Entry Draft
  • 19: Number of points since Thanksgiving for Nicklas Backstrom, the fourth overall pick in the 2006 Entry Draft
Anywho, tonight's a big game against an Eastern Conference bubble team. These points are not only "must-have" for the Caps, but they're also points they must prevent the B's from taking - the proverbial four-point game. It's time for the Caps to start making themselves a bit more at home in The Hub.

Why The Bruins Will Win:
"The Bruins winning against the Capitals will come down to two things - depth and defense. 45% of Washington's offense comes from Alexander Ovechkin, whereas the Bruins have three lines capable of putting the puck in the net. If they are able to shut down Ovechkin, Boston's defense first style would give them the edge in a close game because there is less likely to be a mistake." - DJ, The Bear Cave

"After an embarrassing 6 game losing streak to finish off the year, there's no way the Bruins will allow a less talented Caps team push them further down in the cellar." - The Bear Cave

"The newest Bruin, Shane 'Hnidy Night', will play lights out." - The Hockey (and Donut) Blog
Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:

Yesterday's Roundup generated a bit of discussion on the topic of who "the Capital's second-best offensive weapon" is, so I posted a poll (upper right) to quantify the opinions. Go vote!... Olie Kolzig was the least-clutch goaltender in the League for December. Ouch.... Jonathan Toews is likely out for at least a couple of weeks, so it's time for Nick Backstrom to make some Calder hay while the sun shines (not that he really needs this opportunity - he's outscoring Toews and Pat Kane 19-16-15 since Turkey Day).... Sticking with the Swedes, on this date in 2003, Calle Johansson passed Kelly Miller as the team's all-time leader in games played with 941. Johansson ended his Caps career with 983 games played, still a team record.... The Stars' website has an interesting article on the origins of team names.... Finally, vote Weagle!

Scoreboard Watching:
Daily Awards
  • Hart: Ilya Kovalchuk (G, 3 primary As)
  • Ross: Ilya Kovalchuk, Shane Doan, Steven Reinprecht, Kristian Huselius (4 points each)
  • Norris: Chris Pronger (Game-winning goal, A, 5 SOG)
  • Vezina: J.S. Giguere (W, 26 saves on 27 shots against)
  • Richard: Steven Reinprecht (3G)
  • Calder: Tobias Enstrom (A, +1, 2 blocked shots, team-high 26:51 of ice time)
  • Aiken: Cam Ward (OTL, 5 goals allowed on 14 shots against)