Power Struggle?Posted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel
When the Caps and Carolina Hurricanes last met on Oct. 8 at Verizon Center, Washington prevailed by a 4-3 count in overtime. Two of the Canes’ goals that night were scored on the power play, and the third came while Carolina had goaltender Brian Boucher pulled in favor of an extra attacker late in the third period. The Caps have surrendered multiple power play goals to their opponent three times in 10 games this season, with that Oct. 8 game against the Hurricanes being the only contest of the three in which Washington has come out on top. One of the many things that went underreported and virtually unnoticed in the wake of Tuesday’s 5-4 win over the Anaheim Ducks was the fact that Washington took just one minor penalty in that game. That level of discipline was a refreshing change from the previous two contests in which Washington was faced with a combined total of 13 shorthanded situations and surrendered a pair of power play strikes in each contest. In 2010-11, the Capitals went 5-0-1 in the season’s series with Carolina, with five of the games being decided by a single goal and two of them requiring more than 60 minutes to determine which team got two points and which team got the door prize point. (Altogether, six of the last 10 meetings between the Caps and Canes have gone to overtime.) Although the Hurricanes had 26 power play chances to the Capitals’ 15 in those six contests last season, both clubs were effective at killing penalties. The Caps killed 24 of 26 (92.3%) while Carolina killed 14 of 15 (93.3%) Washington power plays. Each team scored twice with the extra man in that Oct. 8 game this season. Carolina’s power play is in the midst of a lull, with just two goals in its last 23 tries (8.7%) over the last half dozen games. With Cap-killer Jussi Jokinen on the sidelines for this one, Jiri Tlusty is poised to get more power play time tonight. For the Caps, discipline will be needed again. They don’t want to give the Canes enough extra-man opportunities with which to wake their dormant power play. Washington also doesn’t want to wake up another noted Cap killer, Eric Staal. Staal had two goals – both on the power play – and an assist in that Oct. 8 meeting between the Caps and Canes. Staal has been struggling mightily since, with just one goal and one assist to go along with a minus-9 in his last 10 games. During his NHL career, Staal has 22 goals and 50 points in 49 games against the Caps. Seven of those goals and 17 of those points have come on the power play. Carolina has also been nicked for multiple power-play goals in the same game on three occasions this season. The Canes are 0-2-1 in those contests. Michael Neuvirth gets the start in goal for the Caps tonight. He recorded his first NHL shutout against the Canes here on Oct. 27, 2010 and was in net for the Caps’ Oct. 8 win over Carolina, but tonight marks his first start since that season opener. Neuvirth has made three career starts against Carolina, posting a 2-1 mark with a 2.64 GAA and a .911 save pct. Tomas Vokoun’s streak of nine straight starts comes to a halt here tonight in a building that hasn’t been friendly to him over the years. Vokoun has won only three of his 13 career starts (3-6-3) here at RBC Center and he has a 3.19 GAA and a .907 save pct. lifetime in the Raleigh barn. Caps Troy Brouwer and defenseman Mike Green have both missed multiple practices this week – and Green has been sidelined since the Caps’ 7-1 win over Detroit on Oct. 22. But both remained on ice for the length of today’s morning skate in Raleigh. After the skate, Brouwer pronounced himself fit to go but acknowledged that his possible presence in tonight’s lineup would be a Bruce Boudreau decision. Green won’t play tonight, and tomorrow’s game against the Islanders in New York seems unlikely as well, since Washington is not likely to have a morning skate before Saturday’s tilt with the Isles. If Brouwer does play tonight, Mathieu Perreault seems to be the likely candidate for healthy scratch status. Boudreau said on Wednesday that Jeff Halpern would be in the lineup for Friday’s game after he was scratched on Tuesday against the Ducks.
Last season, the Capitals played 15 sets of back-to-back games. They were 8-6-1 in the second half of back-to-backs in 2010-11, but swept both games just three times and didn’t do so for the first time until Feb. 20-21 at Buffalo and Pittsburgh, respectively. With a convincing 5-1 win over the