Thursday, November 9, 2017

Game night: Washington Capitals

Published by, 11-7-2017

Just the facts, ma'am.

From Buffalo Sabres PR:

Washington Capitals--8-6-1 overall;  5-3-1 on the road
Buffalo Sabres--4-8-2 overall;  1-3-1 at home

The Capitals are 4-1-0 in their last five games and are undefeated in their last three. Buffalo is 2-3-0 in their last five.

Washington is on the second game of a back-to-back having defeated the Arizona Coyotes at home in overtime. The Caps are 0-3-0 so far this season in the second game of a back-to-back. They went 3-0-0 against the Sabres last season and are 7-2-0 over the last three seasons.

Alexander Ovechkin leads a Washington powerplay that is 16th-overall in the NHL (18.4%) but 4th-overall on the road (7/24, 29.2%.) However, the Caps penalty kill is vulnerable as they're 27th overall (75.8%) and 20th on the road (78.4%.)

After an 0-4-1 start, the Sabres have evened things out by going 4-4-1. They've been blown out four times in 14 games but are 3-2-2 in one-goal games. They come into this game with a sagging powerplay (6/48, 12.5%) overall although they're slightly better at home (14.3%.)

However, the Sabres penalty kill has been good overall with an 81.4% kill-rate and they're perfect at home stopping all 17 powerplays against.

Buffalo injuries and projected linuep

According to reports from the rink, Buffalo's defensemen continue to drop like flies. The Sabres welcomed the return of defenseman Justin Falk last week but lost top-pairing defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. With Nathan Beaulieu and Josh Gorges skating against, Matt Tennyson was felled in practice yesterday by a Jack Eichel shot that hit him in the ankle. Head coach Phil Housley listed Tennyson as day-to-day and the team called up Zach Redmond today.

The lineup on defense looks should look like this:


Most of the forward lineup we saw on their two-game road trip last week remains intact save for the insertion of Nicolas Baptiste into the lineup. The odd man out looks to be Matt Moulson who has zero points and is a minus-7 while averaging 10:27 of ice-time through 10 games this season. According to the media at the rink this morning, these will probably be the lines:


Robin Lehner looks to get his 11 start in net for the Sabres.

Brendan Guhle

With all the injuries the Sabres have had on defense and with no goals yet from the Buffalo bleuliners, why would an offensive-minded defenseman like 20 yr. old Brendan Guhle not get the call. Guhle's been playing well lately with two goals and four assists in his last five starts.

When asked by  the gathered media after practice today whey Guhle didn't get the call, Housley said that the decision is up to GM Jason Botterill and furthered what Botterill had been saying all alnong about player development. "I think [Guhle's] doing a great job developing where he is right now, " Housley said of the 20 yr. old Rochester rookie. "It's fair to say we don't want to rush him. He's in a good spot, he's playing well, he's getting the minutes right now that I think are going to help carry his game and develop him.

"We want to have him develop in the right area and continue to make strides in his development."

That's a fair assessment and a rather noble gesture to the future of the franchise although it really doesn't sit well with a lot of Buffalo fans who are looking for some relief right now. A slow start and four blowout losses, the most recent one on Saturday at Dallas, has left many queasy and uneasy about where this season is headed. Sabres fans have seen what the defense-corps has to offer and it hasn't been pretty.

Regardless of who's stepping in on defense, the Sabres need their best players to step up, most notably Jack Eichel and Ryan O'Reilly. We've heard the talk but have yet to see the walk. Buffalo could really use a win tonight and they're playing a Caps team tonight that should be vulnerable. The Sabres have been playing relatively better as of late, when compared to the train wreck we witnessed the first couple of weeks, but they need to show it on the scoreboard.

Both Eichel and O'Reilly are at or near the top of the Sabres leaderboard in scoring at 13 and 12 points, respectively, but they have one of those letter's sewn on their sweater. The team is begging for leadership right now and wearing an 'A' on a team without a designated captain means they're the ones that need to lead.

This would be a good game to show it.

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