Caps Take on Cats, MarkstromPosted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel
Tonight the Caps take aim on a franchise mark, seeking to become the first Capitals team to start the season with a 5-0 record. The Florida Panthers stand in their way; the Cats’ own 3-1 start is their best since they opened the 2005-06 season with a 3-1 log. For the third time in five games, the Caps will catch a team that will be working on shorter rest than they are. For the second time in five games, the Caps are catching a team on the second night of back-to-backs. Getting a consistent forecheck and making the Panthers’ defensemen feel the body is likely going to be high on Washington’s list of priorities tonight. “We just want to make sure that nothing comes easy for them,” says Caps forward Jeff Halpern. “that we play a solid game through the defensive zone, the neutral zone and on the forecheck and make sure that any success they have they’re going to have to work for. When you play back-to-back games, it’s the NHL so it’s easy to get up for games. But at the same time, it helps when you get a break here or there. I think just being hard in those zones and limiting those freebies [is what we need to do].” Florida comes to town on the heels of a 7-4 trouncing of the Tampa Bay Lightning last night. The Panthers spoiled the Lightning’s home opener, scoring six special teams goals and matching a club mark (set in 1996 and matched in 1998) of five power play goals in a single game. The Lightning was undisciplined, giving the newly cobbled Cats nine power play chances. Besides establishing a forecheck, the Caps will need to show better discipline than the Bolts did last night. “We obviously play them a lot,” says Caps defenseman Mike Green. We’ve been successful here winning games but I don’t think we’ve put together a complete game yet. If by any means can we come out tonight slow or anything, they’ll take it to us. It should be a good game.” Ex-Caps goalie Jose Theodore has started and gone the distance in each of Florida’s first four games. Back-up Scott Clemmensen is still on the mend from a knee injury, and Theodore faced 35 shots last night. I figured Theodore would get the call here in the District tonight against his former mates, but The Washington Times’ Stephen Whyno informed me that rookie Jacob Markstrom is getting the nod instead. For Markstrom, tonight will be his first NHL start. He has 40 minutes worth of NHL relief duty that he accrued in one appearance last season. The 21-year-old Markstrom hails from Gavle, Sweden, the same town that produced the Caps’ Nicklas Backstrom. The two know each other well and both played for Brynas in the Swedish Elite League. Markstrom was the third goaltender chosen in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, going to the Panthers with the first pick (31st overall) of the second round. Considered Florida’s likely netminder of the future, Markstrom made his North American pro debut with AHL Rochester last season, going 16-20-1 with a 2.98 GAA.
As we walked down the hall to the Caps’ locker room following Tuesday’s 3-0 win over the Florida Panthers, Brian McNally of The Washington Examiner asked me if I was surprised that the Caps had never won their first five games of the season before. I thought about it for a little bit. It’s not that