Saturday, April 05, 2008

Caps vs. Panthers 4-5-2008 Preview

Washington Capitals (42-39; 92 points; 2nd Southeast Division, 9th Eastern Conference, 15th Overall) vs. Florida Panthers (38-43; 85 points; 3rd Southeast Division, 11th Eastern Conference, 22nd Overall):
Caps Game #82, Home Game #41, NHL Game #1,221

Verizon Center, Washington, D.C. 7:08 pm. Washington TV: Comcast Sportsnet Mid Atlantic. Radio: WWWT 1500-AM, 107.7-FM. Florida TV: None. Radio: WJNA 640-AM. National TV: HD NET. NHL Center Ice: Comcast Sportsnet Mid-Atlantic feed.

Tonight the Caps bring down the curtain on the 2007-2008 regular season campaign when they host the Florida Panthers. The Caps are looking to forge a split in the eight game season series with Florida after pulling off last Saturday's 3-0 win in Florida to cut Florida's lead in the series to 4-3. The Panthers are another team playing out the string but have won both of their games so far on their season ending 3 game road trip. The Carolina Hurricanes were last night's victim falling 4-3 in Raleigh.

What The Natives Are Saying:

(Com)Post: coached up, the loneliest number. Times: gotta have Hart again, golden chance, last chance. Caps.com.

Neutral Views:

NHL.com AP Wire.

Open Source Intelligence:

Miami Herald: Southeast Division deciders, disappointment, no ice time.

What Do I Expect Tonight?:

And then there was one... One NHL Playoff Spot left to be claimed. One Division Title left to win. It just so happens that the playoff spot left is in the Eastern Conference and the Division Title is the Southeast. Tonight all the Caps need is a Bettman point for making it through sixty minutes without losing. It sounds like a simple enough of a task but it has been a problem for the Caps before this season. It was a problem for Carolina last night when they played Florida at home. I don't think I need to recount the situations where the Caps had at least a Bettman point in their hands and let it slip away this season. If the Caps were to lose in regulation tonight, you'll be hearing about those situations and reliving them over and over and over again until October. Our good friend JP was invoking Herb Brooks earlier this week and while we understand the sentiment, we respectfully disagree that the Caps will "take this to [their] {expletive deleted} graves" should they gack one up tonight. Win or lose, the Caps are a lock to be the favorites in the Southeast Division next year. As a matter of fact, they were favorites in some corners at the start of this season. Sure the Caps came have back from a deep hole and long odds just to be in this position tonight. But should they come up short, most of the players on this team will have a chance at redemption next season. This isn't the Olympics where a vast majority of players are different from one team to the next and you only get one shot at the glory.

And should the Caps win tonight? Well, the D.C. and College Park Police Departments better have their riot gear on standby if the celebrations after wins over Carolina and Tampa earlier this week are any indication. For the folks who have been bemoaning the lack of coverage and interest in the Caps, you've seen what this town is capable of if the Caps would only give them something to cheer about. I don't think there will be any problems selling out the first two home playoff games this year.

As for the game tonight? Well there is sufficient cause to worry. No word on who will man the goal for the Panthers. It would be fitting for the Caps to face some rookie minor league goaltender making his NHL start and come up short. Khornball would not be able to control himself should that happen. The biggest key for the Caps tonight is to not get wound up too tight, not to get caught up in the moment, and not to take Florida for granted because they're playing on back to back nights on the road and have nothing to play for. Let's be honest here, there's much more than a playoff spot and division title on the line tonight. Various post-season awards will be decided by the outcome of tonight's game and my only hope is that should the Caps come up short that the fans will still give the Caps the respect they deserve for coming this far. The fans at the Phone Booth on Thanksgiving eve were downright surly and there were a smattering of boos on Tuesday night when the Caps had a 3-1 lead and were struggling on the Power Play. So we've gotten what we've wanted, our fate in our hands. Now it is time for this team to show that the maturation process has completed and take what is in front of them.

Caps Nut Official Prediction:

Caps 4
Panthers 1
Winner by Gordon

(44-36 on the season)

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