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Game Seven: Time for Capital Punishment

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That's right, it's time for the very first Thrashers vs Capitals game of the season! So far, it looks like these two teams will be competing for the Southeast Division title this season, and with 6 head-to-head games, these games should be very entertaining. Here's your basics:

Atlanta Thrashers vs Washington Capitals

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009 - 7:00PM

Tickets - Local TV: SportSouth (HD available)

Opposing Team's SB Nation Blog: Japers' Rink

How have the two teams fared so far this year?

Thrashers

Capitals

Record

4-1-1

4-2-2

Points Percentage

0.750 (T-4th)

0.625 (12th)

Top Goalscorer

Kovalchuk (7)

Ovechkin (9)

Goals per Game

3.50 (T-5th)

3.50 (T-5th)

Goals Allowed per Game

2.33 (6th)

2.88 (15th)

Powerplay

30.0% (2nd)

21.6% (14th)

Penalty Kill

88.0% (4th)

84.6% (9th)

The good news from the chart above is that the Thrashers have actually been playing a bit better than the Capitals so far this year. The bad news? The Caps aren't likely to roll over and play dead. (Oh, Glen Hanlon, how we miss you...) To win against the Capitals, you must do more than simply contain Alexander Ovechkin... and it's not like anybody can contain him anyway.

The goal for the Thrashers will be to get on the scoreboard first. So far this year, they've won every game in which they've scored first. (Only 3 other teams can say that.) Despite the widespread availability of highly-discounted tickets, Philips is likely to be half-empty (or is the arena half-full?) and an early Caps goal will easily factor the crowd out.

If you don't already have tickets, I've provided a link above. I'd highly recommend going to the game if you're in town. I will, sadly, still be stuck in Pittsburgh. (I'll be at Saturday's game, though.)

Tonight's Three Questions of the Game:

  1. Will the Russian Offensive continue in Georgia? Like its counterpart in world politics, this situation has two sides. The first is the Thrashers' scoring leader Ilya Kovalchuk. He's been absolutely on fire this year, scoring 7 goals on just 20 shots. That shooting percentage of 35% leads the team (except Eric Boulton, who has one goal on one shot) and is 3rd in the NHL (of players with at least a handful of shots). That's about double the highest season total he's ever had and almost certainly unsustainable over the long term. If he can continue it for just a few more games, though, it will help the Thrash pick up a few important points against the Caps.
  2. Will the (other) Russian Offensive cease in Georgia? There are two faces to every coin, and for my money, the Southeast division's two most important faces are those of Kovalchuk and Alexander Ovechkin. Ovie always brings his game up a notch when playing against his countryman, and if he can bring it up past 1.13 goals/game and 2.0 points/game, the Thrashers are in some serious trouble.
  3. Can we get a Little help here? We're now 6 games into the season and Bryan Little hasn't scored a goal. He had two last year in the season opener against Washington. John Anderson mixed up the lines during the game against the Canadiens, and reports are those lines are the same that practiced this morning. Hopefully that will be enough to light a spark under the Thrashers' No. 2 goal-scorer from last season.

Aaron's Take:

- Intersting note: This is Washington's first visit to Atlanta, and their first divisional game this season.

- Get this: the Caps are coming off a 5 day layoff - their longest of the season (other than the Olympic break). The Thrashers are one day removed from their last game (vs. the Canadiens), in which they looked downright sleepy at times. If the Thrashers can get amped by their second home crowd of the year, I expect nothing short of a regulation victory.

- Am I the only one that missed the announcement that our team has changed its name to the Atlanta Surprising Thrashers?

- Get ready for another atrocious shot count, folks. Alex Ovechkin is averaging better than 7.5 shots per game.

- If the Thrashers can keep their PK rolling, they have a good shot of knocking off the Caps. Washington is 0-2-2 when they don't score on the man advantage.

- Washington may have some coasting issues: the Caps have blown a lead 8 times in their first 8 games, as well as allowed three goals in the third period by the lowly Leafs. It just remains to be seen whether Atlanta can stay out of the box, especially in the third.

I'm counting on a little extra sumpin-sumpin from Ilya Kovalchuk - Ovechkin has a way of bringing it out in him. Even beyond the two Russian superstars, both teams have enough depth for quality scoring across multiple lines (May I reintroduce the Khalua Line? They just make the whole room... hang together). My "bold prediction": Pavelec takes a beating on shots and GA, but the Thrashers walk away with one of those 6-4 victories we all love.