Cheerless forgot to mail the check to the internet provider, so we don't have all of our usual bells and whistles for this one...
So, we have an abbreviated version of our preview.
"Can I post it?"
Five things that will make you the smartest person at the water cooler, Buffalo edition...
1. Buffalo has shown a finishing kick lately in winning four in a row, scoring 14 of their 17 goals in the second and third period. It seems to be the key to turning things around for them, because for the season they are a plus-8 (goals for/against) in the first period of games, but they are still a minus-10 in the second period and a minus-11 in the third period for the entire season.
2. Buffalo isn’t especially adept at scoring at 5-on-3. Only two teams in the league have fewer goals at 5-on-3 than the Sabres’ two goals.
3. The Sabres do have a talent for winning games close. Only five teams have more one-goal wins (20); only three teams have earned points in more decisions (30 in 37 one-goal games).
4. Buffalo does fairly well when outshooting their opponents. Their .552 winning percentage is eighth in the league. They just don’t do it often enough. They have outshot their opponents only 29 times in 76 games. Only six teams have outshot their opponents less frequently.
5. Second periods seem key against the Sabres. They are 35th in winning percentage when leading after one period (.679), while they are 24-0-2 when leading after 40 minutes (.923), seventh in the league. Their problem, again, is frequency – only 28 leads after one period, only 26 after two.
Five things you can use to impress your special someone, if they happen to be a Caps fan...
1. Washington is walking with a limp these days, and it isn’t only Joel Ward’s foot injury. In their last six games, it is loss-loss-win, loss-loss-win. There’s a pattern that needs to be broken.
2. The Caps have had more than two power plays on four occasions this month. They have scored at least one goal in all of them and have a record of 3-1-0. In the other nine games in which they had two or fewer power plays they failed to score a goal in any of them, are 0-for-11, and they have a record of 3-3-3.
3. The penalty killers are a respectable 35-for-41 in their last 16 games (85.4 percent), almost evenly split at home (17-for-20) and on the road (18-for-21).
4. Washington leads the league in goals scored at 4-on-4 (13), and only the Los Angeles Kings have more goals scored at 4-on-3. Did someone say, “rules change?”
5. Only two teams have more wins when trailing after the second period than Washington (Tampa Bay – Tampa Bay?? – and Pittsburgh).
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
Buffalo: Ryan Miller
Who else matters more in the Sabres’ biggest game of the year. Buffalo is 13-2-3 since February 19th, and Ryan Miller has been the brick wall in goal – 13-1-3, 1.78, .941, and three shutouts. But while he has been almost impenetrable in goal over the last month, his career numbers against the Caps are merely mortal – 12-9-3, 2.52, .914, and three shutouts. He is 1-1-0 against the Caps this season, having allowed five goals on 43 shots in his two appearances.
Washington: Alex Ovechkin
If Miller is going to be the immovable object in goal, then Alex Ovechkin has to be the irresistible force for the Caps. And he has been just that recently. Goals in five consecutive games (seven overall), six of his last seven games (nine goals). He must have asked Santa Claus for his goal-scoring touch back, because since Christmas he has 25 goals in 39 games, a 53-goal pace per 82 games. He has 17 goals in 29 career games against the Sabres, including three in three games this season.
1. Win the wall. The Sabres do not have an especially big or physical team. The Caps need to win battles and earn possession of the puck to keep the Sabres from using what could be their advantage in open ice with their quick forwards.
2. Pack ‘em in. Ryan Miller is in a zone right now, which means if he sees it, he stops it. Don’t let him see the puck, put bodies in front of him, bump him, annoy him. Do a puppet show. Anything.
3. Slow and steady…repeat, steady. The Caps have had issues from time to time…ok, a lot… with being able to put teams away. They need to apply steady pressure to grind the Sabres down and not go into their own shell and let the Sabres start running around causing a ruckus on the scoreboard late.
In the end, both teams have to win this game. The Sabres need it because they are on the wrong side of the first tie-breaker if the teams finish the regular season tied in standings points. The Caps need it because they still have rough road games in Boston and New York against eh Rangers, and they cannot afford to keep leaving points on the table at home. This just might boil down to which player will stay hot – the goal scorer or the goal stopper. Guess who wee think stays hot.
Capitals 4 – Sabres 3