Islanders Gameday: Caps eye season sweep*

Like all of the ordained Cup hopefuls, the Capitals have had their shaky spell.  These things happen. But context, please: The Caps haven't even lost consecutive regulation games since their first three in March, which was a month ago. (Why yes, happy April Fool's to you, too.)

Islanders (down there)
@
Capitals (
46-23-7, 1st/E)

[some ubiquitous telco] Center
7 p.m. EDT | MSG+

District blog: Japers' Rink

I confess: With team MVP and leading scorer Mark Streit out tonight and a lot of great playoff bubble action around the league, this irrelevant game is not high on my to-do list. But reasons-for-interest arguments can be made for keeping tabs on Joey MacDonald's contract push, as well as checking how the New and Improved Bruno Gervais looks without #2 as his partner. (Seriously, everybody should look good playing with Streit.)

You could also watch tonight and pull for avoiding the season (*OT-aided) sweep at the hands of the Caps, but whatever: These teams are at opposite ends of the boom-bust cycle, and the tyranny of three-point games creates more W-L record asterisks than I can stomach.

Ah, but there's a thought. I am keenly interested in how the Penguins and Capitals fare in the coming seasons, including this one, for obvious Isles-centric reasons. No sense counting on the Islanders having the same remarkable fortune as the Pens or (to a lesser extent) the Caps in their respective rebuilds. But consecutive superstar picks or not, both teams are the first to rise from the ashes in the cap era. Which means both are our first cap-era test cases of how to manage a young nucleus who matures into their payday years at the same time.

In the cap era, with the wrong moves a team's window can appear perilously short.

Despite their respective rises since 2007, both the Pens and Caps have their flaws -- hell, the Penguins looked downright like playoff misses not too long ago. But every good team in the cap era has to make its asset allocation gambles. The Red Wings did it with goaltending -- to good effect last season, but this season not so much. You could say the pre-Bylsma/Guerin Pens did it with secondary scoring, as they had to let Ryan Malone chase Uncle Faust's millions in Tampa Bay.

The Caps? Well, when healthy and focused, they look pretty well-rounded right now. But Jose Theodore was and will remain a candidate to falter, even when he's looking right, as he has for much of the second half. To every team its fans' lingering fears of disaster.

Crosby v. Ovechkin: A nauseating ESPN talking-head-ish debate

What I am not interested in, however, when John Tavares joins whatever NHL team is lucky enough to draft him: His name entering the ridiculous whiny debate (summarized nicely at BoC) about who's classier or who the league loves more or who ... blah blah yawn yawn. Spare me the videos and the songs. I don't care who the league features on commercials that I Tivo over anyway, and I don't care who Don Cherry hates more. I don't care to hear single-game incidents exaggerated for months into urban legend character flaws that obscure the generational skills of either. Those incidents are funny (or foul) to toss around for a few days afterward. But if fans are still rehashing it weeks and months later, they're missing a pretty sweet game out there.

Show me where the puck is, and tell me what time they're dropping it. Then and only then, darling, will I give a damn.

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