Today’s Spare Change: Caps Playoff Preview

April 15, 2010 |

The 2009-2010 regular season for the Washington Capitals was clearly their revenge on the NHL for losing in the playoffs the prior year earlier than they had hoped.  After blowing away their division and the rest of the Eastern Conference the Capitals set a franchise record for wins and points this year on their way to winning the Presidents Trophy (best record in the regular season).  Now all of that success must be forgotten as the Capitals enter the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs on a mission to to hoist the cup and declare their dominance on the NHL.

Tonight their journey begins at home against the Montreal Canadiens, the same team that ended their 14 game winning streak this past winter.  During the regular season the Caps split the season series with the Habs with two of those games needing extra time to be decided and all but one of their games being decided by only one goal.  While the Caps are the heavy favorite, the pressure is on to win, but in addition to just advancing past the Canadiens, the Caps must find a way to get past Montreal in less than 7 games.  Keeping this team fresh and fast will be the key to the Caps success this off season and adding extra games to their chase won’t help this team achieve their goal.

Once again Jose Theodore will start for the Capitals in goal during the playoffs, but hopefully he’ll play better this year than he did last year when he got yanked in favor of the young Semyon Varlamov.  The style of hockey in the playoffs changes from the regular season and the Caps will need their defense and goaltending to step up if they want to advance far this year.  In addition to improving the teams defense the Caps will also need to limit committing dumb penalties and protect the puck better.  Both of these areas have been weaknesses for the Capitals recently and while they were issues during the regular season, bad mistakes and dumb plays get magnified in the playoffs.

Here’s tonight’s lines:

Line #1 Ovechkin-Backstrom-Knuble

Line #2 Laich-Fleischmann-Semin

Line #3 Chimera-Belanger-Fehr

Line #4 Bradley-Steckel-Gordon

D-Line#1 Schultz-Green

D-Line #2 Morrisonn-Corvo

D-Line #3 Poti-Carlson

Goal-Jose Theordore

Don’t forget to join me tonight in the Rock the Red Chat Room.  Doors open at 7pm.

The Caps get us started, but with the O’s on the west coast it will be a great night of sports watching for a Thursday in April.  Tonight the O’s try and end their six game losing streak with David Hernandez matching up against a player that many O’s fans wanted to see in Baltimore, that being the A’s Ben Sheets.

Does anybody still think they’ll be 81-81? 

It took less than two weeks of the regular season to be under way before the lack of talent on this team was exposed.  With a 1-8 record there’s plenty of blame to go around and the fingers are getting pointed.  Here’s the bottom line, the O’s have been out scored 27-49 in their 9 games this season, meaning they’re only averaging 3 runs scored per game compared to giving up 7 to their opponents.  See the problem?

The 27 total runs scored by the O’s ranks them second to last in MLB in front of only the Houston Astros (14).  Clutch hitting has been a major issue for the team to start the season and that big hole in the middle of their lineup that was so heavily discussed in the off season is become a glaring weakness for a team with a small margin or error to win games regardless. 

Remember some guy named Mark Teixeira?  Yeah that guy from Severna Park who burned the O’s for Yankee pinstripes.  You know who I’m talking about, right?  He could/should have been that big bat in the middle of the O’s batting order right?  Well that guy is off to an awful start this season going 3-31, batting .097, with 0 homeruns.  I can’t imagine what would be going on in Baltimore if the O’s had signed him to a 8 year $160 million contract and he was batting half of his body weight.  I know Tex is a second half hitter, but .097?  That’s awful!

This off season there will be another premier 1st baseman that’s looking to get paid and I hope he’s on the O’s radar, but after his recent contract demands made headlines Prince Fielder as an Oriole is about as far of a stretch as Fielder’s clothing.  8 years for around $200 million?  That’s a lot of broccoli for the “Big Vegetarian”.  Is Prince worth that kind of money?  Probably not, but how much money is the team losing with less than 10,000 fans at the stadium?  I’d love to see Prince crushing balls off of the warehouse 81+ games a year, but for $200 million?  I doubt that dream of mine will come true, well at least not until he turns 35 and the O’s sign another player past his prime like they love to do.

Some good news is that the NBA playoffs are about to begin and while I know most of you could care less about the NBA during the 82 game regular season, the playoffs is another story.  Here’s the 1st round matchups you can look forward to.

Eastern Conference:

#1 Cleveland vs. #8 Chicago

#2 Orlando vs. Charlotte

#3 Atlanta vs. Milwaukee

#4 Boston vs. Miami

Western Conference:

#1 Los Angeles vs. #8 Oklahoma City

#2 Dallas vs. #7 San Antonio

#3 Phoenix vs. #6 Portland

#4 Denver vs. #5 Utah