The Washington Capitals have hit the quarter mark in their 2015-16 NHL campaign and they are in a great spot in the Metropolitan Division and in the Eastern Conference. While they have had some big wins and close wins in November, the Capitals still have not shown their best hockey yet.
The Capitals are now closing a five game home stand with the defending Eastern Conference Champion Tampa Bay Lightning (11-9-3). After this game, the Capitals will hit the road to Canada for a 3 game road trip that makes stops in Toronto, Montreal, and Winnipeg.
The Capitals went 2-1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2014-15. Who could ever forget Nicklas Backstrom’s natural hat trick against the Lightning last season?
This is the first of three meetings between the Capitals and Lightning this season. The Capitals and Lightning will get together again on December 12 in Tampa, and then will face each other a few days later on December 18 back in Washington.
SIZING UP THE OPPONENT: TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
The Lightning are a young, speedy, and skilled team. While they are off to a slow start this year, there is still a lot of firepower on this Lightning team.
The Lightning have had some key injuries in recent games to players like Tyler Johnson, Jonathan Drouin, and Ondrej Palat. With injuries to players of that caliber, it is no surprise they are off to a sluggish opening quarter of their season.
Steven Stamkos is still leading the way for the Lightning in goals and points. The Bolts are also getting improved goaltending from starter Ben Bishop.
Steve Yzerman and Jon Cooper are probably one of the best GM/Coach tandems in the entire NHL. Yzerman has done a wonderful job at drafting and trading over the past few years. Cooper is an accomplished hockey coach at every level he has been at, so the Lightning are in good hands for a while.
WAVE TO THE GOOD GUYS: WASHINGTON CAPITALS
The Capitals have been winning some games, yet Barry Trotz has repeatedly stated in recent press conferences that they have not played their best hockey. This home stand has been a prime example of the Capitals looking good, and looking bad. They played a decent game against Dallas and lost, they played a great game against Colorado and won big, and they played a horrible game against Edmonton and barely squeaked by with a victory.
The good news for the Capitals is that they have been getting some extra contributions from a couple of young blueliners in Brooks Orpik’s absence. Nate Schmidt has been skating really well and has really pushed the play up the ice. Dmitry Orlov was the game-winning hero against Edmonton and had the strangest goal of the season against Colorado.
Capitals fans are seeing a team that is not playing their best hockey, but they are finding ways to win in some games. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done, but the Capitals are in pretty good shape despite not having the best looking wins.
Friday, November 27, 2015 – CSN-DC; SUN; 5 PM ET
Tampa Bay Lightning
Alex Killorn – Steven Stamkos – Ryan Callahan
Vladislav Namestnikov – Tyler Johnson – Nikita Kucherov
J.T. Brown – Valtteri Filppula – Jonathan Marchessault
Erik Condra – Brian Boyle – Joel Vermin
Victor Hedman – Anton Stralman
Braydon Coburn – Jason Garrison
Matt Carle – Andrej Sustr
Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – T.J. Oshie
Marcus Johansson – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Justin Williams
Jason Chimera – Jay Beagle – Andre Burakovsky
Brooks Laich – Michael Latta – Tom Wilson
Nate Schmidt – John Carlson
Karl Alzner – Matt Niskanen
Dmitry Orlov – Taylor Chorney
Lightning – Victor Hedman: The 24-year old Swede was the 2nd overall pick by the Lightning in the 2009 NHL Draft. He has turned into a spectacular defenseman for the Lightning. He is a big man standing at 6’6” and he can skate with the best in the NHL. He leads all Lightning blueliners in points and he plays in all situations for their team. While everyone mentions PK Subban in Montreal or Erik Karlsson in Ottawa as the Eastern Conference’s best defenseman, Hedman has every right to be in the same conversation with them.
Capitals – Dmitry Orlov: Like fellow countrymen Evgeny Kuznetsov last season into this season, Orlov is continuously improving as the season moves along. Orlov, 24, is contributing well at both ends of the rink. Orlov was the Capitals 2nd round pick back in 2009. While he sat out all of last season with injury, Orlov has shown no signs of any lingering ailments. If Orlov continues this upward trend, that will give Barry Trotz added flexibility to give more rest to his top defensive pairings.
By George Foussekis