Sabres Projected Lines:
Victor Olofsson – Jack Eichel – Sam Reinhart
Jeff Skinner – Marcus Johansson – Vladimir Sobotka
Evan Rodrigues – Casey Mittelstadt – Conor Sheary
Zemgus Girgensons – Johan Larsson – Kyle Okposo
Jake McCabe – Rasmus Ristolainen
Brandon Montour – Colin Miller
Rasmus Dahlin – Henri Jokiharju
*We won’t know the Sabres lineup until Coach Krueger addresses the media around 5:00-5:30 tonight. Montour is likely to be a gametime decision. Look for John Gilmour to take his place if Montour can’t go tonight.
Capitals Projected Lines:
Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – T.J. Oshie
Jakub Vrana – Evegeny Kuznetsov – Tom Wilson
Carl Hagelin – Lars Eller – Garnat Hathaway
Brenden Leipsic – Chandler Stephenson– Travis Boyd
Michael Kempny – John Carlson
Dimitri Orlov – Radko Gudas
Jonas Siegenthaler – Nick Jensen
3 Keys to the Game
High powered powerplays and a top 10 penalty kill
Special teams should be the focus for both teams. Buffalo is 2nd in the NHL on the man advantage with a 29.8% conversion rate. Washington is right up there with Buffalo, tied for 5th at 25.5%.
While the powerplay battle between the two teams is very close, it’s the Capitals penalty kill compared to the Sabres’ that could dictate the special teams battle. Washington is 6th in the NHL at 85.3% of penalties killed off. Buffalo falters in this category, killing off 79.5% of penalties. That’s only good enough for 20th in the NHL.
Capitals put pucks in nets
Washington is tied for league lead in goals for with 53. In relation to Buffalo, they have scored ten more goals than the Sabres in only one more game.
Ovechkin, Oshie and Carlson have combined for 25 goals. Carlson already has 7! There is no way he’s not in the Norris conversation unless his game takes a nose dive, but I don’t see that happening.
Washington’s high powered offense is going against a Buffalo team that ranks 7th in the NHL in goals against with 32. I expect tonight’s game to an absolute battle both in special teams and 5v5.
Speaking of offense, in 48 games vs Buffalo, Ovechkin has 32 goals and 16 assists. Watch out for Ovi as usual, especially on the left circle. Godspeed, Jake.
Washington not lights out at home
Of Washington’s 14 games, they’ve only played five at home and they haven’t been stellar. They’ve posted a 2-1-2 record, but the biggest thing I noticed was their goal differentials when at home vs away.
At home, Washington has been outscored 17-18. Here’s how each period breaks down:
In the 1st period: 5-7 opponents
In the 2nd period: 8-2 Washington
In the 3rd: 4-7 opponents
While Washington is likely well aware of this and will put up an admirable fight, it looks like Buffalo can take advantage of the Caps in the first and third periods.
Moral of all three points: Play a disciplined game, stay out of the box and if the Caps score, make sure it’s not in bunches. No two goals in a 2-3 minute span. Stifling the Caps at home is achievable, Buffalo just needs to produce and play their defensive system effectively.
This is a very good test for the Sabres. Buffalo can takeover 1st place in the NHL with a regulation win against Washington. A win in overtime or in a shootout ties Washington and Buffalo atop the NHL.