Capitals-Penguins Preview: Will Washington's Offense Wake Up Versus Sid the Kid?

Jennifer JohnsonAnalyst IMarch 8, 2009

It has been two weeks since the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins last played each other.

The Capitals (40-21-5, 85 points) were triumphant in a 5-2 home victory, but now find themselves trapped in an offensive rut.

In their last three games, Washington has been outscored 11-5. Washington’s latest loss tied their longest losing streak of the season at three games.

Coach Bruce Boudreau has never lost more than three games in a row as the Caps’ head honcho.

Today, they face their arch non-conference rival on their home turf.

The Capitals must have more spring in their step, and protect their zone against Pittsburgh’s key enforcers. Forwards Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby are the leaders of the scrappy Pittsburgh (34-26-6, 74 points) team.

Malkin is tops on the team with 94 points scored. (29 goals, 65 assists)

Sidney Crosby is the NHL’s premiere media darling. His play is often overshadowed by his marketability. The girls just love to swoon over Sidney.

Washington will counter the terrible twosome with plenty of firepower of their own.

Alexander Ovechkin likes to hit people in the mouth, and he can shoot with pinpoint accuracy. He is the current NHL goals-scoring leader with 46 goals. He has 83 total points on the 2008-2009 NHL season. In the last two seasons, he has netted 101 goals for the upstart Capitals.

Without a doubt, “the Great Eight” has enormous talent.

For all the accolades Ovechkin has amassed in is four-year career, it is Crosby who continues to get the most national media coverage.

Do not misunderstand me here folks. I admit my bias towards the home team.

However, it is not be overlooked that Crosby has not let his hockey skills do the talking. In fact, Crosby has not played much hockey in the last week and a half. He returned to the ice for Thursday's game versus the Florida Panthers after missing four games with a groin injury.

Crosby was injured in the Feb.22 game versus the Capitals.

Pittsburgh’s godsend has missed five games due to injury.

Pittsburgh’s record without him is 5-0.

They are riding a five-game winning streak heading into the rematch versus the Capitals today.

The Penguins gained two critical points in the Eastern Conference standings, as they push to get into the playoffs.

They do not want to miss the postseason after making it to the Stanley Cup Finals in the previous year.

Marc-Andre Fleury made 31 stops to give the Penguins their fourth victory on this five-game road trip.

The Penguins would love to make it five-for-five against Ovechkin and Co. Ovechkin missed his team’s 2-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday.

Assistant Coach Dean Evason nailed “Ovie” on his right heel with a wicked slapshot in the team’s morning practice. He was given the night off to rest the sore foot, but left the team without its go-to-guy.

By no means is Washington a one-man show. Puck-handling defenseman Mike Green is a fan-favorite in Washington DC. He is deadly on the power play. Green leads the NHL with 16 PPGs on the season.

Joining Ovechkin on the Caps’ first line is second-year Swede Nicklas Backstrom. Backstrom is the team’s best puck handler. He leads the Capitals with 52 assists. For his career, he has registered an impressive 107 assists.

When he and “Ovie” are in sync, there is no better tag team on the ice than them. Backstrom feeds the puck based on feel.

Ovechkin is skating away from the action, and Backstrom is circling the net like a hungry shark.

Patiently he waits for the scoring opportunity to emerge.

Patiently he waits for the scoring opportunity to emerge.

Out of nowhere comes Ovechkin to take the puck to the goalmouth.

What the Capitals have to remember is that one mistake can change the course of the game. Keep attacking the net, and maybe a bouncing biscuit will slide its way onto Ovechkin’s stick for a quick score. Standing around with your stick up means you are not ready to play hard-nosed hockey.

If the Capitals intend to stop this losing streak at three games, they need to play with passion. Force Pittsburgh into a quicker pace than they would like.

Do not let Malkin drive to the net without a poke check. Give your netminder some help, and consistently clear the puck.

Wake up the demon in you and get down with the sickness.