Saturday, January 23, 2010

Caps vs. Coyotes 1-23-2010 Preview

Washington Capitals (32-18; 70 points; 1st Southeast Division, 1st Eastern Conference, 3rd Overall) vs. Phoenix Coyotes (29-22; 63 points; 2nd Pacific Division, 4th Western Conference, 7th Overall):
Caps Game #51, Home Game #24, NHL Game #764

Caps "Magic Numbers" (Caps Points Earned+Lost by team named) to clinch:
Playoff Spot: 45 Atlanta
Southeast Division Championship: 45 Atlanta
Eastern Conference #1 Seed: 63 New Jersey and Buffaslugs
President's Trophy: 66 Chicago and San Jose


Verizon Center, Washington, D.C., 7:07 pm. Washington TV: Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic. Radio: WFED 1500-AM. Phoenix TV: None. Radio: KGME 910-AM.  NHL Center Ice: Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic feed.

Tonight, the Caps are back at home and look to extend their winning streak to six games when they face the Phoenix Coyotes for the first and only time this season.  Last season, the Coyotes won 2-1 in the desert in the only contest between the two teams.  After their former owner tried to move them to Hamilton in the off-season, there were many questions surrounding the Phoenix franchise a training camp started this season which is why the Coyotes can easily be classified as the NHL's biggest surprise.  New Head Coach Dave Tippet has the Coyotes well placed within the Western Conference Playoff picture looking to get Phoenix into the Playoffs for the first time since 2002.  Phoenix tonight starts a quick two game road trip after finishing up a six game homestand.  Phoenix went 3-3 on that homestand but finished up strong with a 4-2 win over the Nashville Predators on Thursday night.

What The Natives Are Saying:

(Com)Post: on the comeback trail, getting a swagger.  Caps.com.

Neutral Views:

NHL.com, AP Wire.

Open Source Intelligence:

Arizona Republic: energy guy, big challenge.  Coyotes.com.

What Do We Expect Tonight?:

So the gauntlet that was this week's schedule ends tonight, the Caps have already ripped off three wins in a week of games that were described as a measuring stick.  So in comes now the Coyotes who have nine toes out the door in Phoenix and weren't expected to put up much of a fight this season with all the turmoil surrounding the franchise.  The problem tonight for the Caps is, all three wins so far this week have been big wins and Thursday night's over the Penguin Scum was probably the most emotional of the bunch; so can we say "letdown"?  Upon a closer examination of the Coyotes in recent games, it would seem that the rest of the NHL is finally catching up to Phoenix.  Early on in the season there was no reason to take them seriously and most teams and fans didn't.  Now as the Coyotes have hung around the top half of the Western Conference Playoff standings all season, teams are catching on that they have to come prepared to play.  This however is a one shot deal for the Caps.  This is the only meeting of the season so the Caps get only one chance to get it right.  Furthermore, not since St. Calle Johansson scored his famous buzzer beater goal in overtime on January 28th, 2000 have the Caps beaten the Coyotes in the Phone Booth.  In his total repudiation of the coaching job that Wayne Gretzky did in Phoenix, Dave Tippet has tightened up the Coyotes' defensive zone play which is the biggest reason for the Coyotes success this season.  Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov has already matched his career high for wins in a season.  So like Tuesday night against the Red Wings, this should be another grind-it-out game but will the Caps be up for it?  We've been letdown too many times to think otherwise.

Caps Nut Official Prediction:

Caps 2
Coyotes 3
Winner by Upshall
(24-26 on the season with one perfect game)

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