October 29 vs. Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena
Time: 10:00 pm TV: Comcast SportsNet Radio: 1500AM, XM and Caps Radio Network Pre-Game: Two-Man Advantage pre-game video at 5 p.m., John Walton’s one-on-one with Bruce Boudreau at 7 p.m., all on washingtoncaps.com
Washington Capitals (7-1)
Vancouver Canucks (4-5-1)
The Caps conclude a two-game Western Canada road trip and the October portion of their 2011-12 schedule on Saturday night when they face the Canucks in Vancouver.
Two nights after their season starting seven-game winning streak was snapped at the hands of the Oilers in Edmonton, the Caps will try to get back into the win column here in British Columbia, a place that has been on the unkind side in recent Capitals history.
Washington will be seeking its first win in more than a decade here, though they’ve only visited this fair city three times in the past eight seasons. The Caps’ last win in Vancouver came on Feb. 14, 2001 in a 4-3 overtime triumph over the Canucks. The Capitals are 1-4-1 in their last six visits to Vancouver, and they’ve been outscored by a combined 25-12 in those half dozen trips.
Thursday’s loss in Edmonton came by a 2-1 score, and both Oilers goals were scored on the power play. Edmonton had eight power play chances on the night, all of them in the game’s first 40 minutes. The Capitals have been excellent at even strength this season, and Thursday’s game was no exception.
“I know we gave up seven scoring chances,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau, “including the two goals that they got. And that’s including eight power plays. I don’t know if you can shut down a team much better than that and not come out a winner. If we have that kind of success and play that kind of solid defense, I think we’ll win our share.”
Washington surrendered just two even-strength shots on goal in the first period and only a dozen on the night. The Caps outshot the Oilers 28-12 at even strength. Despite the disparity in power play time in Thursday’s game, the Capitals fired twice as many shots (76-38) toward the net as did the Oilers.
Even though their power play has been successful this season, the Caps are content to play at even strength, and they’ve been effective playing even thus far this season. Washington has outscored the opposition by a combined 21-10 at even strength in its eight games, and the Caps have spent a good deal of time at even strength thus far. Going into Thursday’s game with the Oilers, the Capitals were the league’s least penalized team. Washington has spent 44:54 on the power play this season, the seventh lowest figure in the league.
Washington’s lone goal in the Edmonton game was a first-period strike from defenseman Karl Alzner, who ended a 55-game drought with that tally. His previous goal came on Dec. 18, 2010 in Boston.
Alzner and his blueline mates have been consistent contributors to the Caps’ attack this season as Washington defensemen have put up 22 points in the team’s first eight games. Alzner has a goal and four points to date in 2011-12.
“I think that’s good,” says Alzner. “Anytime you can get points from the d-men it helps. We’re not usually expected to get a whole lot. Greenie had that four-point night, Wides had that [seven-game] streak and me even getting points, that’s something that’s going to help the team. We need a more balanced attack and we’ve talked bout over training camp having good, solid efforts from everybody and so far, it’s good.”
Months after narrowly missing out on the first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history, the Canucks are off to a bit of a sluggish start in 2011-12. After consecutive home ice wins over Nashville and Minnesota ran their record to 4-3-1, the Canucks dropped games on back-to-back nights in Edmonton and at home to St. Louis earlier in the week.
Goaltender Roberto Luongo has been mediocre, turning in a 2-3-1 mark to go along with a 3.46 GAA and an .868 save pct. in his half a dozen starts.
The Canucks practiced on Friday after Wednesday’s 3-0 loss to the Blues, and they’re ready to embrace the challenge of taking on one of the league’s hottest teams in Washington.
“Their record speaks for itself,” says Canucks center Manny Malhotra. “They’ve been playing some really good hockey and they’ve not only been getting the wins, they’ve been playing some really hard hockey. I think it’s a great test for us to have the top team in the league come in here playing well. It’s going to be a good test for us to see how we’re able to sort ourselves out and how we’re able to get our game going.”
Although the Caps and Canucks don’t see much of each other, one Vancouver player has seen his fair share of the Caps over the years, including an encounter in the District just under two weeks ago.
Canucks winger David Booth was recently obtained in a deal with the Florida Panthers, who suffered a 3-0 setback to the Caps at Verizon Center on Oct. 18. Prior to the deal, Booth had spent the entirety of his NHL career in South Florida.
“It was weird at first,” says Booth of the deal that brought him to the Pacific Northwest. “It didn’t really set in for about 10 seconds. I was kind of in shock there. Everything that I’ve known about hockey is coming to a change, I guess. I picked up from Florida and left the next day and now I’m here and just adjusting. It was definitely a shock.”
One of his final games as a member of the Panthers was the Cats’ Oct. 18 loss to the Caps in D.C.
“They’re a good team.” says Booth of the Capitals. “They’re playing really well from their goalie all the way out. They’ve got one of the best goalies in the league and some of the best forwards and [defensemen]. They’re [defensemen] can really move the puck. It’s going to be a good test for our club.”