Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tuesday's games

Boston (2-1-0) at Washington (4-1-0), 7:30 p.m. EDT, Versus

Tim Thomas is emerging once again as Boston's No. 1 goaltender. He's allowed only one goal in the last two games, both Bruins wins, and appears to be the starter for Tuesday's clash with the Capitals. Nathan Horton has been just what the doctor ordered for Boston's stagnant offense, with three goals and five points in three games.

Thomas won't have an easy time against a Washington team that has won four straight games. Alex Ovechkin has four goals - including two overtime winners in the last three - and eight points. Washington's offense hasn't been as potent as it was last year - so far - but one gets the sense it's just a matter of time until the Capitals break out. Technically, they're third in the league at 3.4 goals per game, but that number is bloated because of a seven-goal outburst against New Jersey. Washington hasn't scored more than three goals in any of its other four games.

More intriguing from the Washington standpoint is who will be the goaltender? Rookie Michael Neuvirth has made quite a splash, playing every minute of Washington's games and has posted a .930 save percentage. He's a huge reason why Washington is allowing just over two goals per game. Semyon Varlamov is healthy now but will have to play awfully well to justify removing Neuvirth as the top dog.

Prediction: Washington 4, Boston 1

Calgary (2-2-0) at Nashville (3-0-1), 8 p.m.

Reports of Jarome Iginla's demise were greatly over-exaggerated. The Flames captain finally got on the scoresheet in Calgary's 5-3 win over Edmonton. We're still waiting on Jay Bouwmeester to do anything of consequence in a Flames uniform. Same with Olli Jokinen.

Calgary has missed Rene Bourque, a player with oodles of offensive talent but one who has trouble staying healthy. This year the injury bug hit him pretty early, suffering a concussion in the second game of the season. Fortunately for the Flames, Bourque could return later this week, but they'll be without him tonight.

Barry Trotz continues to make chicken soup out of chicken, well you know. Apart from defenseman Shea Weber and possibly his partner Ryan Suter, the Predators have a significant lack of star power on their team. That's nothing new. Nor are the financial constraints they're perpetually under. What's also not new is Trotz keeps finding ways to mold the players he has into a cohesive unit and finds ways to earn victories.

Steve Sullivan is stepping up to be the leader his team needs. His streak of games with a goal ended in a 3-2 overtime loss to Washington, but Sullivan has four goals in four games and is producing at the pace he has occasionally shown in the past. Injuries have done their part to derail his career but he appears to be healthy.

What's also impressive about Nashville is its ability to churn out good goalies. First it was Tomas Vokoun. Then Chris Mason. Then Pekka Rinne. Now it's Anders Lindback, who has been very good in Rinne's absence because of injury. (Honorable mention to Dan Ellis.)

Nashville 3, Calgary 1

Vancouver (2-2-1) at Minnesota (1-2-1), 9 p.m.

This could be a case of bad timing for the Wild. After being held to seven goals in their first four games, the Canucks exploded last time out for five against Carolina. The Sedins are still putting up points (seven each) but until the last victory, they were getting no support. Tonight will be the first test to see if Vancouver's other strong offensive talents are awake or if the Hurricanes just suck (which is possible.)

This is the part where I say something good about the Wild, right? Um. Hoo boy. Well, hey, Minnesota has as many points as 2010 playoff teams Buffalo, New Jersey, Ottawa, San Jose and Phoenix! So there's that.

Nah, seriously now. Matt Cullen, like Horton mentioned above, has been just about what Minnesota needed. He leads the team with six points but the goal scoring has been a significant problem outside of 5-on-4 action. Guillaume Latendresse isn't pulling his weight, with just one goal and Martin Havlat hasn't found the back of the net yet.

Niklas Backstrom is faring about as well as he can. Roberto Luongo, on the other hand, has found the Xcel Energy Center to be a house of horrors.

Minnesota 4, Vancouver 3

Carolina (2-2-0) at San Jose (1-1-1), 10:30 p.m.

I think the Hurricanes want to take flight again. Back to Finland.

After winning their first two games overseas, the Hurricanes have dropped two straight contests, being out-scored 8-3. The effects of the youth movement Carolina is going through appear more prevalent now. The Hurricanes are in the bottom third in the league in goal scoring and penalty killing. Cam Ward is facing a lot of shots and holding his own, but he'll have to start stealing games if Carolina wants to win games. No one has emerged as an offensive threat. Eric Staal and Jussi Jokinen can do it, and Jeff Skinner has shown plenty of potential, but right now, little is working for the Hurricanes.

What works in Carolina's favor is San Jose's goaltending is murky, muddled and mediocre. So is the Sharks' offense. Neither Antti Niemi nor Antero Niittymaki have really staked claims to the No. 1 job - though in three games, there hasn't been much time to do that. Niemi has the one win but fared poorly in his most recent start.

The offense isn't clicking either. San Jose has just seven goals in three games, including none from 44-goal man Patrick Marleau, who signed a fresh new beefy contract in the offseason. Dan Boyle also hasn't scored yet, though both players are contributing a little with two assists each. Still, they both need to put up better numbers. Ryane Clowe, a fine power forward who could be good for 20-22 goals and 50 points a year, can't be your leading scorer.

San Jose 4, Carolina 2

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