The Washington Capitals have left for a quick 3 game road trip starting in Montreal, while the DC area deals with yet another massive Winter storm. Getting away from the distractions of a Winter storm in Washington is probably a good thing for the Caps. They should be able to focus on the task of downing the Canadiens for a 15th straight win. Unfortunately, the Caps are heading into a hockey crazy town and working towards the Olympic break. The Les Habitants have no such luxury of relatively distraction free hockey. Their GM, Bob Gainey, stepped down on Monday. It’s gut check time for the historic club as they battle for an Eastern Conference playoff spot.
For this week, we can categorize the Capitals players into two types. Those going to the Olympics and those not. It is going to be very interesting to see how Backstrom, Semin, Fleischmann, and Ovechkin skate in these next 3 games on the road as they look forward to representing their homelands. I am pretty confident that we will not see #8 or #19 let up. They are true competitors no matter what uniforms they put on. I would not be surprised to see Semin fall back into some bad habits or simply just not skate as hard. Especially, in the defensive zone. Flash is my question mark and the guy I will be keeping a close eye on. I am actually expecting him to step it up in anticipation of representing the Czech Republic. For the guys not heading to Vancouver next week, the focus is pretty clear. Work hard these next 3 games, tie a winning streak record, and get a nice 2 week break to heal before the run for the playoffs. I am looking for team leaders and character guys to really step up. I think Matt Bradley is due for a couple goals. That fourth line will probably stand out against Montreal tonight.
The Canadiens, already under the microscope of a rabid fanbase and crushing media, just lost their GM while in midst of a playoff spot battle amongst 7 teams. This Montreal club is at a crossroads. By all accounts and having witnessed the on ice product improving, Bob Gainey’s moves have helped the Canadiens to this point. It was very surprising to see him step down on Monday considering the team seemed to be turning around. With Pierre Gauthier taking over the GM duties and the trade deadline looming, I am looking for the response from the Montreal Canadiens players. I am especially interested in how Carey Price performs. Reports are that he will be the starter tonight. Price consistently comes up in trade rumors involving the Canadiens. He is probably going to be playing for his job with Montreal or another team as the season progresses towards March 3rd.
Just like any other game, the Capitals should win. They will have to weather the surge in the first period as the Canadiens will undoubtedly be fired up playing in front of the home crowd, their new GM, and trying to be the team that beats the Washington Capitals. After the initial surge, it will be up to the Caps to control the game and decide the outcome.