Yesterday, the United States gave thanks for prosperity and getting through the trials and tribulations of a year. Thanksgiving is a day to savor the fruits of that year of labor and celebrate survival.
Today, on the other hand:
Ah, Black Friday and what happens but the schedule makers of the NHL put the Tampa Bay Lightning in the American capital, the political junction for capitalism, to take on the Washington Capitals in an early-evening contest.
Washington versus Tampa Bay is one of those fledgling rivalries the NHL dismissed with the realignment that shuttered the Southeast Division. The Caps are just as formidable as they were in the past with a few tweaks to the roster here and there. The Caps are 15-5-1 in 21 games played this season, ranked second in the Metro Division behind the New York Rangers and third overall in the Eastern Conference. They're 6-4-0 in their past 10 games and are on a 3 game winning streak like the Bolts have been on, the difference being the opponents they've won games against (the Avalanche, Oilers and Jets) and the combined score by which they did the deed (13-6 compared to Tampa Bay's 9-2, with those wins coming against the Rangers, Ducks and Kings). That and both clubs do this hockey thing again tomorrow with Tampa Bay back at the Amalie to face the New York Islanders while the Capitals will be north of the border to play the Toronto Maple Leafs.
That's a nice difference in opponents though, isn't it? While the Ducks aren't high-and-mighty (and a 5-0 shutout win underlines the fact), the Lightning have contended with and defeated two conference leaders in the Rangers and Kings and had to take down great opposing goalies to do it in Henrik Lundqvist and Jonathan Quick. In Washington's case, the club has battled the dregs of the NHL in Edmonton and Colorado while the Winnipeg Jets 6th place position in the competitive Central Division shouldn't be grouped with Colorado and Edmonton... but they did get their rear-ends handed to them by way of the Caps on Wednesday.
Unless coaching for both clubs chooses otherwise, we should see Ben Bishop square off against Braden Holtby this evening - the primary netminders who are doing the deed for the Bolts and Caps. Holtby's been pretty solid for Washington this season (to say the least): He's played in 17 games and has a 13-4-0 record, a 1.95 GAA and a .924 save percentage. His backup, Philipp Grubauer, hasn't been bad but his 2-1-1 record, 2.70 GAA and .900 save percentage makes him more fitting to start tomorrow against Toronto than tonight against the Lightning.
On the Tampa Bay end in net, .929 is the number of note in the crease. As of this game (which will be #24 on the season for Tampa Bay) Ben Bishop as well as Andrei Vasilevskiy have it as their save percentage. Vasy only has 4 starts to the season, a 2-2-0 record and a 2.03 save percentage in his time in the crease. For Capitals fans or casual fans of the Lightning, Vasilevskiy's few starts despite solid numbers in his few showings has to do more with him being out for the start of the season and missing training camp due to a blood clot in his shoulder. He'll start one of the next two games as rest sharpens Ben Bishop's game... and the dude can use more rest. Ben's started 18 this season and his numbers have improved as time's gone by: a 1.99 GAA and the aforementioned save percentage look starkly better than his 9-7-2 record. It also tells you how the team in front of him has improved as the season's progressed.
It should be another tight game, but both teams have the potential to light the lamp. We'll find out if either team overdid it yesterday at Thanksgiving dinner or during sales late last night/today.