The Ovechkin game: Washington Capitals at Tampa Bay Lighting preview

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Can the Lightning stop Alex Ovechkin without star goaltender Ben Bishop?

Where:  Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
When: 7:30 PM ET | Tickets: Check availability
Media:  SunSports, NHLN | (radio)
Opponent Coverage: Japer's Rink

The Lightning welcome an old foe to the Tampa Bay Times forum tonight as the Washington Capitals attempt to regain a playoff position in the Metro Division, where they've dropped out of even the wild card spots. The Caps have 46 points on the season (20-16-6) and have won only three of their last ten games. They're 7-8-4 on the road. A single point tonight puts them back in a playoff spot, however, because the Metro is just that bad.

Right now the Lightning sit in second in the Atlantic with 56 points (26-13-4), only one game behind the division-leading Boston Bruins. the Lightning have won seven of their last ten and are 14-4-2 at home.

The big news today is about Ben Bishop:

So. That means that there are two more games to get through before our Ben comes back. And, trust me, they're going to be games the Lightning will have to get through. As for tonight, neither Anders Lindback or Cedrick Desjardins can be expected to do a whole lot against Alex Ovechkin, who not only leads the league in goals, but leads the league in goals by six over his nearest competition. Team defense will be critical to getting out of this one.

Jon Cooper has defended Lindback from detractors quite a bit this season, and he argues that getting multiple starts is helping him.

Head coach Jon Cooper said that Lindback had been in fact trying too hard between the pipes to make up for his lack of playing time.

Maybe so. Of course as soon as Bishop comes back, he'll go right back to sitting on the bench, so let's hope he makes the most of things now.

As for Desjardins, he's still going to be making do in the equipment area. When he went from Syracuse to Winnipeg for Tuesday's game the airline lost his equipment. They've now turned up--in Winnipeg. This doesn't help much, but at least they're not gone forever. He wore pads borrowed from Al Montoya last time. This time, he'll be wearing pads from when he was traded from Montreal--in February of last year. No word on whether those pads are still legal under the new equipment rules, which shortened pads and the paddles on sticks for a lot of goaltenders.

The Capitals are having goaltending issues of their own. They're currently carrying three goalies on their roster. Braden Holtby was considered by some to be the next great thing after his playoff performance two seasons ago. Michal Neuvirth would then be relegated to back up, although the (slight) possibility that he could steal the job was always simmering under the surface. But now, Holtby has a .910/3.08 in 13 games, Neuvirth (.912/2.83) went down with an ankle injury in November and the guy they called up, Philipp Grubauer has outplayed both of them, putting up a .932/2.20 in 11 games. So now Neuvirth wants a trade and Holtby's trying to figure out what to do about this.

And now, the numbers:

At close, the Capitals have a PDO of 99.6 (18th in the league). That's a tiny bit low, but not very much. The Lightning, however, are at 101.6, based mostly on a gaudy .940 save percentage. That's very high and would be even if Bishop were playing. So bear in mind that regression is a bitch.

At 5v5 Close CorsiFor% FenwickFor% GoalsFor%
Tampa Bay 53.1 (6th) 52.8 (7th) 59.3 (5th)
Washington
48.1 (25th) 47.4 (25th) 45.4 (22nd)

For the sake of all that is good and decent, boys, don't take penalties.

Tampa Bay PP 16.7% (21st) Tampa Bay PK 81.8% (15th)
Washington PK 80.5% (17th) Washington PP 25.3% (2nd)

In the end, the Lightning will have to bear down here and give Lindy a hand. Stopping Ovechkin will be key, and few teams have been able to do it. Coming out of this game with one point wouldn't be the worst result. Good luck and don't get hurt.

Notes:

They're not wrong.

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