Capitals trying to keep up intensity as playoffs near

Caps2.jpgWashington Capitals vs. Boston Bruins
Noon EST – Sunday, April 11, 2010
Live on NBC

It’s a question nearly every dominant team in sports faces as they reach the end of the regular season – how much should they rest their star players? With nothing to play for, and the team just playing out the string on the regular and waiting for the playoffs to begin, teams must decide just how much time they give their most important players.

It’s a reasonable debate. After all, the most important players on the team could get hurt in a completely meaningless game, damaging the team’s chances in the playoffs. It’s also a long, grueling season; the team has earned the chance to be able to rest and get their energy back as the postseason approaches.

The problem with this is that team’s resting don’t always put their best product on the ice. This could change playoff seedings or even playoff implications, as they mail it in against teams fighting for their season.

Imagine if the Capitals decided to rest Mike Green, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alex Semin today against the Bruins, while Boston was facing a do-or-die scenario to get into the playoffs. How would the NY Rangers feel if the Bruins won, knocking them out of the playoff hunt and doing so against a team that could care less about the outcome?

Forget all that. Who cares
about playoff scenarios and postseason implications. If those teams
needed just one win so bad, then their season didn’t exactly go to plan
anyways.

No, the issue at hand over a team resting over the final
half of the season is whether they’ll be able to turn it back on once
the playoff begin. After all, the Capitals have been an incredibly
intense and uptempo team all season long; can they get that going again
in the playoffs?

For a team like the Capitals, it’s proven to be a
non-issue. Washington has won five straight games while resting some
key players, and looks to have gotten over the inconsistency they were
suffering through in March.

The
good news is that at least the Capitals have something to play for.
Their captain, Alex Ovechkin, is three points behind Henrik Sedin for
the Art Ross Trophy and is tied for the lead in goals. A 2 goal, four
point game would do wonders for an already incredible season.

Staying
healthy? That’s priority number one, but the players on the ice won’t
play any less hard than they have all season long. Winning? Not needed,
but this is the Washington Capitals. They believe that any loss fuels
the fire of disrespect. Getting Ovechkin the scoring title and the Art
Ross? That should be motivation enough.

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    Hitch’s recipe for more goals is a pretty simple one

    Ken Hitchcock, David Backes, Dmitrij Jaskin, Paul Stastny, Patrik Berglund
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    Ken Hitchcock wants the Blues to spend more time attacking and less time defending.

    Because hockey isn’t rocket science, that’s why.

    “To score and win games in the National Hockey League…you have to spend as much time in the offensive zone as you can,” Hitchcock told the Post-Dispatch.

    “When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, you’re forechecking more. When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, the goalie has to make saves. They’re having to defend more. And the opposing team takes penalties on you. So they’re all connected. … What I want to see from us is staying on the puck for longer stretches.”

    According to the stats, the Blues have not been spending as much time in the offensive zone as we’re used to seeing from them. In fact, in their last 20 games, they rank in the bottom third of the league in score-adjusted Corsi. That compares to their first 20 games when they were in the top third.

    The result is fewer shots, and more importantly, fewer goals. The Blues have fallen all the way to 25th in offense, averaging just 2.37 goals per game. Last year, they finished fifth (2.91).

    Yes, some of that may be due to the absence of Jaden Schwartz, and he should be back soon. But there’s a reason people are watching GM Doug Armstrong as the Feb. 29 trade deadline approaches. This team could probably use another piece up front.

    The Blues host Minnesota Saturday.

    St. Louis has scored just five goals in its last five games.

    Goalie nods: Lindback ‘really excited’ for first start in almost three weeks

    Anders Lindback
    AP
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    Tonight in Anaheim, Anders Lindback will make his first start for the Arizona Coyotes since Jan. 16.

    The Coyotes have been riding rookie Louis Domingue since just before Christmas, but Domingue has allowed five goals in each of his last three starts, including last night’s 5-4 loss to Chicago.

    Lindback’s last appearance came Tuesday in relief, when he allowed one goal on 10 shots in a 6-2 loss to the Kings.

    Lindback was in goal for one of Arizona’s three victories this season over Anaheim, stopping 33 of 36 shots in a 4-3 overtime win on Nov. 9. However, his .896 save percentage ranks among the lowest in the league.

    Frederik Andersen is expected to start for the Ducks.

    Elsewhere…

    — No word yet on a Penguins starter in Tampa, but Ben Bishop will go for the Bolts.

    Cam Ward will start for the Hurricanes in Winnipeg, where Connor Hellebuyck is expected for the increasingly desperate Jets.

    — Joonas Korpisalo was solid last night in Vancouver, but the Blue Jackets have not announced their starter for tonight’s game in Calgary. Karri Ramo will be in goal for the Flames.

    A ‘pretty solid two-way player,’ Sundqvist to make NHL debut for Penguins

    Pittsburgh Penguins' Oskar Sundqvist (49) collides with Minnesota Wild's Jason Zucker (16) in the first period of a NHL preseason hockey game in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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    The latest Penguins injuries, these ones to Evgeni Malkin and Eric Fehr, have led to an opportunity for Oskar Sundqvist.

    Sundqvist will make his NHL debut for the Penguins tonight in Tampa. The 21-year-old center has five goals and 11 assists in 39 AHL games this season.

    “Sunny’s a pretty solid two-way player,” coach Mike Sullivan said, per the Tribune-Review.

    “I don’t think he’s going to dazzle you with flashy plays, but I think he’s a guy who plays the game the right way. He’s hard to play against because of his size. He’s got a long reach, and he’s got a good stick.”

    Sundqvist was selected 81st overall by the Pens in 2012. He’ll become the fourth player out of that Pittsburgh draft class to make his NHL debut, after Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot, and Matt Murray.

    Veteran Matt Cullen will replace Malkin on the second line, skating with wingers Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel.

    Related: Nick Bonino out ‘at least a month’ with hand injury

    John Scott’s wife gives birth to twin girls

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    As if John Scott wasn’t already having a great week, now he’s the proud father of twin girls.

    The Montreal Canadiens shared the good news via their Twitter account today.

    Scott, the unlikely 2016 All-Star Game MVP, is currently back home in Michigan; however, he’s expected to resume his career at some point with Montreal’s AHL affiliate in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

    When, exactly, he suits up for the IceCaps remains to be seen, but it won’t be tonight or tomorrow.

    Related: Therrien on Canadiens possibly recalling John Scott: ‘You never know’