Chicago Blackhawks (46-19-15) at Washington Capitals (36-30-13)
|Date & Time||Friday April 11, 2014, 7:00 PM (EDT)|
The Line: Washington Capitals / Chicago Blackhawks --- Over/Under:
The Washington Capitals have won three straight games heading into their match up with the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night, but it was the five game losing streak that preceded it that ultimately put an end to their season. For the first time in a long time the Capitals found out what it's like to have to go through a real division in order to clinch a playoff berth. With the Southeast Division no longer in existence Washington was unable to spend the majority of their time beating up on some of the weaker teams in the league. Now the bigger question for Washington is what are they going to do with captain Alexander Ovechkin? There's no denying that Ovechkin is one of the greatest talents in the world, but watching him this season showed why he might be more trouble than he's worth. Ovechkin leads all scorers with 50 goals this season, but the more miraculous stat is that he's somehow managed to be a -36 on the year. Anyone who follows the game of hockey knows that plus/minus isn't always the greatest statistic, but watch Ovechkin for any period of time this year and it's obvious that it has some merit. Never has a player looked so disinterested in the defensive zone and when your head coach is calling you out as a 50 goal scorer then you know things have gotten bad. Adam Oates started his tenure as Capitals coach talking about how he needed to earn Ovechkin's trust. Now the pair are at a point where it looks like one of them might have to leave. Oates isn't getting through to Ovechkin at this point but one woners if any coach out there could. Add in the fall off of Mike Green's game and there are obvious reasons why this club has fallen from grace over the past few seasons. There are going to be plenty of changes in the capital city this offseason and it'll be interesting to see if general manager George McPhee is at the top of the list. Thursday night the Capitals got some goal scoring from players other than Ovechkin in ther 5-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. Joel Ward's first period goal got Washington on the board, Troy Brouwer scored twice, and Jason Chimera and Eric Fehr also scored for the Capitals. Washington will want to end this season on a high note but it's going to be a long offseason for the Capitals.
In Chicago the Blackhawks are having no such problems even without two of their best players in Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Chicago has won four straight games and are still headed for that first round match up with the Colorado Avalanche. While the Avalanche have won four of the five match ups between the clubs this season the edge still has to lie with the veteran Blackhawks and their Stanley Cup resume. Wednesday night it took overtime but the Blackhawks managed to take down the playoff bound Montreal Canadiens at the United Center. Jeremy Morin's fourth goal of the season tied the game at 1-1 in the second period and after falling behind again it was Marian Hossa with his 29th of the year to make it 2-2 heading into the third. The teams would remain tied into overtime when Patrick Sharp lifted the Blackhawks to the win with his 34th goal of the season just 43 seconds in. Corey Crawford made 28 saves to record his 32nd victory of the season. This first round match up with the Avalanche is going to be one of the best to get things started in the playoffs. Colorado causes a lot of problems for any club and they'll be playing with a lot of confidence knowing they've had Chicago's number this season. The pedigree is there for the Blackhawks but it's not uncommon for a team to stumble early in the post season after winning the Cup. It's an exhausting process to win four rounds in the post season and having to do it again is always an even greater challenge. Look for the Blackhawks to really try and get themselves mentally prepared for the wars that lie ahead next week.