The Flames are back at it tonight against the Capitals (8PM MT, CBC) after losing a 6-5 stinker against the Avs on Thursday, and most of us are expecting an improved effort following the verbal lashing handed to them by a frustrated Brent Sutter, accusing his players of not buying into the system after squandering leads in what should have been two easily win-able games.
Tonight's opponent is difficult to get a read on. Like the Flames, the Caps are 6-4, and a well-known offensive juggernaut with a variety of dangerous weapons in their scoring arsenal. Their most recent setback, however, a 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Minnesota Wild, showed little evidence of that. The Flames, a defensively sound team known for their conservative offensive attack, traded chances for nearly sixty minutes in a game of fire-wagon hockey with Colorado, and came out on the losing end of it.
Early on, it appears the Caps have made improvements on what ailed them last season; they're fifth in the league in goals against after ten games and fifth on the penalty kill after finishing 16th and 25th in those categories last season. Calgary's PK isn't looking to shabby at the moment either, operating at 87.8% after ten games, but they haven't faced a unit boasting the likes of Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin, and Green yet. The Caps haven't had much success with the man advantage this season, however, operating at just 10.5% efficiency so far this season. I don't think we can expect that to last too much longer, though, and hopefully the Flames can limit their opportunities to break out by staying out of the box tonight, something they failed to do on Thursday. Washington is still outshooting their opponents by a decent margin thus far (+2.9/game), so the Flames will have to do a much better job of keeping those shots to the perimeters and limiting quality scoring chances than they did two nights ago.
Captain Alex Oveckin leads Washington with five goals and ten points in ten games (although he'd be the first to tell you he needs to be better), while former Capital Brendan Morrison is tied with Rene Bourque as the Flames' leading scorer, each with nine points. Despite rumblings that David Moss might be ready to re-join the Flames tonight, the lineup remains unchanged since Thursday.
Lines and Pairings:
The Capitals will counter with Michal Neuvirth in net, who has one shutout and a .926 SV% in ten appearances this season, while Tom Poti and Marcus Johansson will be missing from the lineup tonight for Washington. Defenceman Tyler Sloan is a game-time decision.
Enjoy the game everyone, and happy early Halloween! Holidays involving lots of candy, booze, and costumes falling on a Sunday are such a buzzkill.