NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Washington Capitals host the Chicago Blackhawks at the Verizon Center at 7:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.
The Capitals might want to watch the Blackhawks closely tonight because they represent what they had the potential to be, and could still become.
Both are teams that struck gold with a pair of forwards selected high in drafts in close proximity and both franchises quickly looked dangerous as a result. But while the Blackhawks were able to add key players like Marian Hossa on the free agent market, develop an enviable defense, and build a team that went far beyond Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, the same can’t be said for Washington.
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The result is that Chicago can use tonight’s contest as a tuneup game in preparation for their bid to win the Stanley Cup for the third time in five years. Meanwhile, Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and the Capitals’ streak of disappointing playoff runs will come to an end courtesy of a lackluster season.
Perhaps the most obvious example of the difference between these two teams can be illustrated by the fact that Toews and Kane are both out tonight, and yet Chicago still has a great chance of beating Washington. It helps that Chicago has six players that have scored at least 19 goals while the Capitals have three. Beyond the big two in Washington, no one has reached the 50-point mark. Three players have accomplished that feat in Chicago, not including Kane and Toews.
“Before the Capitals season started, I was quoted as saying I didn’t see any weakness in our lineup,” Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said. “While I knew some aspects of our team were stronger than others, I didn’t see anything that I believed was a specific weakness. Obviously I was wrong.”
No team is devoid of weaknesses, but his original statement in October is in some respects more suited to the Capitals’ opponents tonight than themselves.
While Washington conducts it’s “comprehensive review,” the Blackhawks will fight to earn their fifth straight victory. It won’t change their playoff seeding, but it will help them build momentum ahead of their first round series against St. Louis or Colorado.