In October, the Caps arrived riding a three-game win streak and won in OT at the Coliseum. Six days later, that win streak had grown to six when the Islanders returned the favor with an OT win at the [telco of some sort] Center. Twelve days after that, the Caps extended a two-game streak with a shootout "win" over the Isles, again in D.C.
Now 2.5 months later, the Capitals (23-9-2 since then) have won six in a row (one by shootout) and nine of their last 10. Who's betting on another OT game for these two tonight?
The frequency of OT games hints that the Islanders play the Caps well. But Washington is also a team that has played down to lesser competition in recent years. In this current 9-1 run, they've averaged just under five goals per game. Are they turning the corner from skilled enigmas to cold, professional assassins? Is the chaos of young overflowing talent evolving into methodical dominance -- or is this streak another blip hinting at what could be, but isn't yet?
And what of the Islanders? As expected, their success in 2010 (7-3) has unleashed a flood of young little engine that could stories -- the best of which might be the latest at nhl.com, where 21-year-old Kyle "Thunder Storm" Okposo discusses the progress of 20-year-old Josh Bailey and 19-year-old John Tavares as if Okposo is the sage old captain many expect him to one day be. I like it.
Of course the Islanders' 10-game run has not been as impressive as D.C.'s. The seven wins include two dominant shutouts of good teams, but it also includes four shootout "wins." This game could come as a crushing reality blow -- or as one more reason for them to believe what captain Doug Weight is preaching.
This will be the second conference series the Islanders wrap up for the year. The first one, with Sabres, was a 2-2 draw from our side, though it looks like a 2-1-1 draw from Buffalo's. Isn't OTL math fun?
So for the Islanders, evening the ledger would mean a shootout win tonight, yielding a harmonious 2-0-2 record for all.
[UPDATE: Per Chris Botta, Josh Bailey is under the weather and a "game-time decision," and Howie Rose is more than under the weather, to be replaced by Kenny Albert. I know it doesn't work like this, but for my money it would have been fun to pull Joe Micheletti out from Smurfs land and have the last two Isles color men have an Astute Observation Battle all night long.]
The hero of the Capitals' 11-round shootout win, Semyon Varlamov, is still on the shelf. Critically, shootout maestros Frans Nielsen and Rob Schremp did not convert in that standings-point-deciding breakaway drill. Fellow maestro Jeff Tambellini did, but ... you know, he's in cold storage right now. [Update ... unless he fills in for Bailey]
Andy Sutton returns from his two-game suspension for the hit from behind, issuing the expected pledges not to change his style [$5 please], though obviously hoping to avoid those kinds of hits. In truth, I realize Pascal Dupuis is Sutton's friend, but it was still refreshing to hear Sutton both express sincere remorse and admit it was a dirty hit. I wouldn't even call it "dirty," actually -- to me that vocab implies intent -- it was more physical carelessness, a bit of a Lennie moment by the 6'6", 245-lb. Sutton.
Oh, and in accordance with the prophecies, Colin White was not suspended for a similarly bloody hit from behind on Sean Bergenheim, again reaffirming my long-held belief that Colin Campbell hit every branch on the Stupid Tree while interning with the Rangers. Feel free to rant about that here or in this FanPost. At this point, the decisions of the Campbell Clown Corps are so absurd and so frequent that I don't rage, I don't laugh and I don't even cry anymore. I just watch in numb disbelief, then go about my day. Interestingly, my dad told me that was how a lot of his comrades handled life under a totalitarian regime.
With Sutton's return, Dustin Kohn went back to Bridgeport, but he performed steadily enough to make me feel better about the "first call-up" down there.
Jeff Tambellini ... seems he has not been seen since The King of Pop was alive. (Maybe it's just me, but I always thought that was a backhanded title. Like the "King of Reality TV" or the "King of Trendy Holiday Gifts.")
In goal ... as if Scott Gordon would tell you by the time of this posting. I'm assuming Dwayne Roloson -- he's still #1, right? -- as this could be a Capitals firing squad, and a road trip beckons where there will be plenty of opportunity to use both he and Rick DiPietro. (Speaking of the road ... three-day break in between Florida games. I smell a trap.)
Prediction: Destiny dictates a shootout. Whether it's of the Bettman gimmick variety or the Boudreau meets Gordon wide-open variety will depend on the Islanders goalie.
P.S. The new post-Mirtle From The Rink has launched with a team of writers led by Mike Chen. I heard today Frank from Pensburgh was doing a DiPietro post, for which he solicited a comment or two from me. I haven't seen it yet, but it should up there this morning.
P.P.S. Sorry for coming "here to talk about the past" with yesterday's post. Been under the weather and hoarding meds, so I needed a canned post for a quiet off-day ... totally forgetting how much GM talk is a magnet for debate. From what I saw early last night (I know there was some minor late-night tit-for-tat but nothing worth crying over), I thought everyone handled comments well and ran with other debates in the FanPosts, which is very cool: That's absolutely how the site is supposed to work, in terms of main daily topic and tangential topics, etc. I'm just sort of keeping the lights on, the keg full, and making sure brawlers (of which we've had very few) are hip-checked or tossed out the back door into the paddywagon for a little one-on-one time with Clark Gillies.