[AP Preview - WashingtonCaps.com Preview]
The lengthy NHL season is full of big games and not-so-big games, some that you circle when the schedule is released in July and some that the team has to offer a little extra incentive to fans to attend. Today's game in Philly is one of those big games. Real big.
It's big because it's a rematch of last spring's disappointing first round, seven game playoff loss (and Tom Poti and his teammates still
think know that tripping call was garbage).
It's big because it offers the current incarnations of these relatively ancient rivals a chance to measure themselves against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
It's big because while the Caps have rattled off seven wins in their last eight games, they've "only" gone 2-1 against teams which are currently above .500.
And it's big because the Caps' resolve will be tested by a physical team (which leads the Eastern Conference in penalty minutes and fighting majors), with many (us included) questioning their ability to deliver the carnage and mayhem of yore.
So yeah, we circled this one back in July, and it's good to see that Bruce Boudreau isn't even trying to pretend "it's just another game" - it's a biggie.
The Flyers come into the game with an impressive 10-4-3 home record (and an even more impressive 8-0-2 mark in their last ten at the Bank du Jour Center), and are scoring bushels of goals, thanks to the League's third-best power play (which has been 35.7% successful at home) and a League-leading twelve shorthanded goals (making going up against their seventh-rated penalty kill all the more daunting).
But this is a beatable Philadelphia team (the Habs did it just the other night), and the Caps have won three of their last seven games against these Flyers. Ahem.
One thing is for sure: Brent Johnson (5-0-0/1.77/.942 in his last five games) had better be ready to see plenty of pucks - and bodies - headed his way... and his teammates had best be ready as well.
Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
According to Forbes, Donald Brashear is in a three-way tie for hockey's most oft-suspended player. All in favor of him breaking the tie (and Scottie Upshall) today, say "aye."... The most recent Alex Ovechkin bobbleheads have hit eBay and will cost you just a little more than a ticket to the game at which they were handed out for free would have.... Hope you weren't blindly ordering Caps Christmas ornaments from Amazon.com (h/t j77).... Caps + Flyers + fighting = Today's Cap of the Day.... Speaking of former Caps and Flyers, Bill Clement turns 58 today.... Two years ago today, Scott Burnside wanted to move the Caps to Waterloo, Ontario and we asked whether Steve Eminger was a stud or a stiff, and one year ago today, everyone was lamenting the Caps' crappy home record.... Daren Machesney answers some Spengler Cup questions.