The good news for the Pittsburgh Penguins, James Neal is back in the line up, and the original injury of being out “weeks” is no longer applied. The bad news is, they are still without Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, and Jordan Staal to name a few.
Last night the Penguins started Brent Johnson against the Ottawa Senators, then found himself pulled in the second period. They lost 5-2 to the surging Senators, in an ugly fashion. It’s not confirmed yet, but expect Marc-Andre Fleury to start in net tonight against the Capitals, to try and salvage what’s left of their season.
Fleury, who finished with 13 saves, has won only two of his last eight starts (2-3-2) against the Capitals despite a 2.63 goals against average.
It’s no surprise coach Dan Blysma can salvage a team without their star players, but how much longer can Blysma really go without players like Crosby, Letang and Staal? Sitting in 8th place, things don’t look to be getting any better for the Penguins.
The Capitals on the other hand are dealing with a few injuries of their own, Niklas Backstrom and Mike Green. Two essential pieces to this Capitals team if you ask me. And to make matters worse, captain Alex Ovechkin is not producing the points he has in the past. You could consider him injured at this point of the season.
Washington appeared to be back on track with four straight wins, but lost both stops on a two game California road trip, 5-2 decisions to San Jose on Saturday and Los Angeles two nights later.
Marcus Johansson scored both goals against the Kings for the Capitals, who play their next four games at home, where they’ve outscored opponents 14-4 during a four game winning streak.
The goaltenders for the Capitals, Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth are not producing like expected either. Which leads to me asking “Why have they not started Brayden Holtby in net yet”? This kid is going to be an elite NHL goaltender in the future, but in order for him to shine, the Capitals need to get this guy in net.
But that’s the least of the Capitals problems right now. The number problem I believe is the fact they they have no leadership. And when I say leadership, I mean Alex Ovechkin should not be this team’s captain. He is a dangler and not a true NHL leader. But this all leads back to the Capitals trading away Tomas Fleischman, which was a mistake in it’s self.
Alex Ovechkin was held without a point on the two game trip after tallying seven goals and four assists during a seven game point streak. Washington is 2-12-1 this season when the two time MVP fails to record a point.
While Ovechkin’s sub par season by his standards has been the focal point, team defense has also been a problem for the Caps. They have allowed five or more goals in 11 games already this season after doing so just six times in all of 2010-11.
The Capitals improved to 11-0-2 against the Penguins in 13 regular season meetings after a 3-2 victory Oct. 13, but Pittsburgh won 2-1 in Washington on Dec. 1.
Seven of the last 11 games between these teams have been decided by one goal.
Pittsburgh Penguins – Marc-Andre Fleury
Washington Capitals – Tomas Vokoun
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