The Penguins take to the road tonight, heading out to DC to faceoff against the Capitals. And you know what comes to mind when you hear that team name - Ovechkin.
Yet, perhaps Ovechkin isn't the biggest concern for the struggling Pens D. I mean, sure, he's no doubt a threat, but this is a game where they can really get their self-esteem. Shutting down Ovi isn't the biggest concern, because as you've seen in the past, double-teaming Crosby only opens up the lanes for other guys. The Caps HAVE those other guys.
Take a look at these names, you'll be seeing them tonight.
Nicklas Backstrom - he has four assists in six games. I wouldn't be surprised if he started shooting more, but I'd prefer it not be tonight.
Chris Clark - Hey, the guy's scoreless in six games, but that doesn't mean he's not a threat. Last season he put up 30 goals and 24 assists in 74 games. He'll click soon.
Donald Brashear - You won't really hear this guy scoring many goals or dishing out assists, but from where the Pens stand this might be their proverbial diamond in the rough. The guy can't stay out of the penalty box, although so far this year he has been on good behavior. Last year alone he tallied 156 minutes in 77 games. As long as he doesn't draw the penalties himself, he's bound to work to the Penguins' advantage.
And of course, Michael Nylander - the former Ranger who warranted boos from the Garden crowd when the Caps came to town. He was a solid player last year with the Rangers, and is proving to do the same with the Caps so far this year with a pair of goals and assists in 6 games.
So, the keys to success? Time and time again I'll say, stay out of the box. I think I'll just get to a point, I at least hope, where this is simply understood. But maybe I'll digress when the team actually starts heeding that advice.
I think the real key to a win on the night is to eye Ovechkin and Nylander. I know with the constant line pairings and changes Therrien has been throwing out there, it's probably going to be a different defender on Ovi through the course of the night. But if I had to choose one guy to do it, I'd go with Orpik. He's a royal pain to attackers and may even manage to draw a penalty from the highly irritable Ovechkin. I know staying out of the box is a big deal for the Pens, but eliminating their scorers while they sit in the bin works just as good.
As for Nylander, he's going to crash the center. He has a really accurate shot and won't have a problem finding the open net on Fleury if left untouched. With that in mind, the D is going to have to jam the center and eliminate lanes from him, all the while eyeing the puck and avoiding quick drops to a speedy Ovechkin flying down the wing. And man, can he fly.
It's not going to be an easy game, but it's by far one of the better teams the Penguins will face this year (next to the Senators and perhaps even the Rangers...PERHAPS). The Pens overcome this one, and that'll give them the push they need heading back to Pittsburgh to meet with the Rangers Tuesday night.
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