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Weekend preview: Caps go back-to-back, ‘Hawks-Blues on NBC

Apr 4, 2014, 12:16 PM EDT

Alex Ovechkin Getty Images

A quick look ahead at some of the narratives at play this weekend…

Big 48 hours for Washington

The Capitals, who head into Friday’s action four points back of Columbus for the East’s final wild card playoff spot, have a huge two-game road set beginning tonight in New Jersey, wrapping tomorrow on Long Island.

Tonight’s game (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN; watch online here) is crucial for both teams. The Devils are also alive in the playoff chase — five points back of the Jackets — and given how tightly Washington and New Jersey have played each other this year, Friday’s affair is up for grabs. The Devils won the first two meetings, 2-1 at Prudential and 5-4 at Verizon, but the Caps won the most recent contest 3-0 on the strength of Braden Holtby‘s 25-save shutout.

There’s also a good subplot at play here, as Caps head coach Adam Oates spent time as an assistant in New Jersey under Peter DeBoer. The pair took the Devils to the Stanley Cup final in 2012.

“They’re a tough team to play against, so I expect it to be a grinding, low-scoring game,” Oates said, per NHL.com. “They’re penalty kill is tops in the league and they’re a very stingy team. You need patience and awareness out there.”

The Caps should expect a grind on Saturday against the Isles as well. The last time the two met, New York scored a 1-0 win in a stifling game that saw the teams go a combined 0-for-11 on the power play.

Related: PHT Extra: On the one-dimensional Alex Ovechkin, and what Oates should do

Chicago and St. Louis renew rivalry… again

One of the league’s fiercest grudge matches will go for the fifth and final time this season when the ‘Hawks host the Blues at the United Center this Sunday (12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; watch online here).

St. Louis holds a 3-1 edge through the first four games, though the edge isn’t as significant as numbers suggest. Two victories came via the shootout and, in a statement game the last time out, Chicago whipped St. Louis 4-0 at the Madhouse on Madison.

The big test for Chicago on Sunday will be how the team plays without Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. The dynamic duo has been shut down for the remainder of the regular season to rest their respective injuries, but the ‘Hawks did pass their first test without Toews and Kane in the lineup on Thursday, scoring a 3-2 shootout win over Minnesota.

That said, the Blues represent a bigger challenge than the Wild. St. Louis heads into this weekend tied atop the NHL with Boston on points (111) and, last night, beat Buffalo 2-1 — with that victory, the Blues set a single-season franchise record for wins, with 52.

  1. joey4id - Apr 4, 2014 at 12:28 PM

    It’s time for Ovi to step up. Sorry Ovi fans. He’s the guy the franchise anointed as “The Franchise Player”.

    What has he done for you lately? Well, let me remind you. “He is riding a career-worst 16 game streak without an even strength goal and he didn’t record a single even strength point during that span, either.”

    • jm31221 - Apr 4, 2014 at 1:06 PM

      Really, you’re going to put the lack of points entirely on him? Do you even follow this team? He has been on a line with Jay Beagle a 4th line player centering him for that entire stretch of hockey you are talking about. You wanna point fingers point them at Adam Oates and GMGM.

      Is OV a two way hockey player absolutely not, but your comment is just stupid and ill informed.

      • joey4id - Apr 4, 2014 at 1:19 PM

        Ah! Excuse me…… Talk about a stupid comment…. did you read what you just wrote? You admitted that he’s not a two way play, and I presume you mean to say that he is strictly an offensive player. Unless you are that stupid. He’s got 48 goals, so offense is all he can do, if he’s not doing that then he has no place on that team. Last year everyone was praising him because his offense led the team to the playoffs. Oh! Wait! That was GMGM and Oates doing all the scoring. BTW, Ovi did nothing in the playoffs vs NYR. It all about him when the team is winning and scoring, but never about him when he’s not scoring and the team is losing. Yep! You know how to write stupid comments. BTW, never throw stones when you live in a glass house. Is that too stupid for you to understand?

    • jrb0286 - Apr 4, 2014 at 1:09 PM

      He’s on pace to become the first in NHL history to lead the league in goals and have the worst +/-. 35 even strength points, with only 9 assists. Those numbers are incredibly disturbing. Something has got to change, whether it be with him personally, or perhaps its the coaching/ surrounding players. It’s a shame really, I’ve always looked forward to the Pens vs. Caps games, now not so much.

      • joey4id - Apr 4, 2014 at 1:38 PM

        Seriously! Do you thinks coaches like Q, Julien, Babcock, & Hitch to name a few would put up his style of play? He’s had 3 coaches in Wsh, and none of them had “team” success.

  2. westof1club - Apr 4, 2014 at 1:29 PM

    Not sure how you’d expect his even strength assists to be higher. His line mates this year have had abysmal shooting percentages for years now, even Backstrom, the team’s 2nd leading scorer. If the Caps are determined to funnel all their success through Ovechkin, they’d better be prepared to have him go through scoring droughts. As dominant a scorer he is, it is foolishness to construct a team this way and expect differing results.

  3. discountdoublecheck - Apr 4, 2014 at 1:35 PM

    Good job joey, you’re getting the attention you were clearly seeking troll.

    Ovechkin has always been an elite offensive player…and not much more (this is the part where I reveal that I am indeed a Caps fan myself), it’s just become more and more clear as the years of playoff failure and highlights showing a lack of defensive effort have piled up. This year just sort of feels like the culmination of all of it. I totally agree something has to eventually give. I love watching and rooting for him, but it can’t ALWAYS be the coaches/teammates fault (pleeeaasse fire GMGM). That said…it can’t ALWAYS be on him either. The people that pile on Ovie nonstop and say he’s a bum and things of that nature are hilarious…you can point out his obvious defensive shortcomings and questionable decision making at times and you’d be exactly right…but to just simple dismiss what will almost certainly go down as one of the best offensive players in the history of the game…well that’s just laughably dumb IMO.

  4. TurnerSchottenheimerSpurrierGibbsZornShanahanGruden - Apr 4, 2014 at 3:07 PM

    You can crap on Ovechkin all you want. Every popular player to play any professional sport has gotten it from somebody, but to blame the Caps woes on the fact that ONE player is an “offensive guy” and not a two-way player is simply ignorant. The Yankees won because Babe Ruth hit a homerun every time he stepped up to the plate, but did they expect him to make plays in the outfield? No. He was a fat slob who beat the crap out of the ball. Nothing more, nothing less. Ovechkin will never be Gretzky or even Crosby(It’s hurts to say, but it’s true), but what he can do is score goals. A good coach would know how to work with that, and don’t say that’s not true. There are 22 other guys on that roster who are just as responsible.

    • govtminion - Apr 4, 2014 at 3:43 PM

      I don’t disagree with a word that you said there. I just wanted to reply because I like the name you have. Thank you for the afternoon laugh. :D

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