Well, we’re here. For so long, the Caps have been hunting the Hurricanes like the great whale of yore (or Hartford). We found a fan who knows something about hunting whales, too, for some insight on the matter. Sir, your name?
"Call me Ishmael."
OK...Ishmael. The Caps have been chasing the Hurricanes for most of the last few months. I take it you have some experience of your own in chasing down the beast. Any advice?
"Aye, aye! It was that accursed white whale that razeed me; made a poor pegging lubber of me for ever and a day!... an' what you have to say is, 'I'll chase him round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway Maelstrom, and round perdition's flames before I give him up.'"
"It smells like the left wing of the day of judgment."
But now that we're finally here, it seems the boys have not yet reached their goal. They have to finish the job, isn't that right? After so long on the hunt, what do you say to your enemy?
"Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale...uh, Hurricane; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee."
You seem to have some anger issues, there, Ish...
"Yeah, well...I used to be a Whaler fan."
Like two fighters that have been eyeing one another for months before the inevitable match, so these two teams have been circling about one another for the past two months. Since February 1st, they’ve been inching toward this, the first of two games that will settle the Southeast Division matter and go a long way to determining whether one or two Southeast teams (at least the second club being the Capitals) make the playoffs. The tale of the tape since February 1st:
Each are surprising in their own right. The Capitals have done it without their captain (Chris Clark), top center (Michael Nylander), and a top-four defenseman (Brian Pothier). The Hurricanes have done it without their captain and Mr. Everything – Rod Brind’Amour (out since February 14th), Mr. Underrated – Ray Whitney (out since February 28th), and Justin Williams (30 points in 36 games when he went out on December 20th.
Sergei Samsonov was left for the NHL equivalent of dead. After a 29-41-70 season with
He was. On January 8th, Samsonov found himself in
There was the trade of forward Andrew Ladd to
As for consequential, there was the trade of Cory Stillman and Mike Commodore to
But losing a player of Brind’Amour’s skill and leadership, and Whitney’s steady contributions isn’t necessarily the kind of thing one can address completely via trade. Someone had to step up. Eric Staal has done that, going 8-19-27, +5 in 22 games since the beginning of February. More to the point, he is 7-18-25, +9 in 16 games since Brind’Amour went down.
In goal, the Hurricanes have put their season on the back of Cam Ward. Ward has not been spectacular as much as he has been steady – 14-5-1, 2.56, .911 since the beginning of February. Only four times in 21 appearances has Ward allowed more than three goals. The word that comes to mind in looking at Ward’s performance since February 1st is “dependable.” For a team that is averaging a little better than three goals-per-game over this stretch, that kind of performance is completely in line with
Thus far this year, the Caps have not been especially successful against
Goals for/against: 14/19
Power play: 8/30 (26.7%)
Penalty killing: 24/31 (77.4%)
The Caps have had an especially hard time in
For the Caps, there is also key information to be mined in Ward’s statistics. He has those four games in which he’s allowed four or more goals. He lost all of them in regulation, and in three of them gave up at least two goals in the first period (twice he gave up four).This is a game the Caps have been pointing to for weeks. There is the possibility that after so long anticipating such a match, an egg will be laid. Well, eggs go nicely with pork products, and there is that mascot for the Hurricanes. Rather than laying an egg, we're seeing "pulled pork"...
Caps 5 - Hurricanes 3