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              Capitals @ Sharks Preview         by: Sparky      March 15, 2002


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Washington Capitals
San Jose Sharks
March 15th, 2002   10:30 pm
       The Stats
San Jose
35-21-7-3, 80 points
3rd, Western Conference
1-0-0-0 vs. Washington
2.95 Goals/Game (5th)
2.42 GAA (8th)
14.7% PP (21st)
85.9% PK (7th)
18-9-2-2 at home

2.80 G/G
2.00 GAA

3.00 G/G 
2.30 GAA

Top Scorers
T. Selanne - 23
S. Thornton - 20
M. Sturm - 18
O. Nolan - 31
V. Damphousse - 28
N. Sundstrom - 27
O. Nolan - 48
V. Damphousse - 43
T. Selanne - 42
Kiprusoff 6-5-2, 2.51, .914
Nabakov 29-19-5, 2.27, .918
Sparky's Take
Magic 8-Ball
       Sparky's Take
The Capitals begin their make or break road trip with a date with San Jose tonight.  The Caps stumbled in their last home game against Dallas, falling 5-2 in a sloppy game.  Washington is three points out of the last playoff spot in the East and trails Southeast Division leader Carolina by nine points.  The Caps have gotten away from their improved defense lately, allowing an unusual number of odd man rushes and rebound chances in close.  To have a chance against the high-flying Sharks, Washington will need to tighten up the blueline, clear the crease, and keep the action away from Olie Kolzig who has been less than stellar in net.  Peter Bondra is hot for the Caps, despite a 0 point performance against Dallas, and the Jagr/Oates/Zubrus line is due to start producing again now that #9 is healthy and playing again.  One player to watch out for is rookie defenseman J.F. Fortin who unleashed a number of devastating slapshots in practice yesterday, beating Kolzig three times in a row unscreened from the blue line. 

The Sharks aren't winning every game like they were when they beat the Caps in DC on February 28th, but they are still hot.  San Jose is fighting to maintain their lead over LA, Phoenix and Dallas in the Pacific division of the Western Conference and needs every point to stay there.  They are one of the most balanced teams in the league, in the top ten in scoring and goals against average.  They have a good power play, though prone to long dry spells, but excellent penalty killing.  Key for the Sharks is the play of Nabakov in net.  He's been hot for most of the season, even scoring a goal in his last game.  The Sharks are tough to beat in San Jose; they are sixth in the Western Conference in home wins, but the Caps got there last night so they've had a chance to rest up and get ready. 

Players to Watch:
Owen Nolan, the captain of the Sharks, is one of the most under-rated power forwards in the league.  The Irish basher is at his most dangerous around the net where he can absorb a tremendous amount of punishment just to set a screen or pick.  He's got a nose for loose pucks and rebounds, and passes very well under pressure.  His shot is fast, but not very hard or accurate, so if he isn't shooting off of a rebound or through a screen goalies have a chance against him.
Evgeni Nabokov has come out of nowhere the last two seasons and is becoming one of the best goalies in the NHL.  Lighting quick reflexes and a good knowledge of the game are his primary weapons, although he does have good size for a net minder.  He's third in the league in wins, 2nd in shutouts, 6th in save percentage.  Nabokov will have a bad game here and there, but not very often.
Bryan Marchment is the bruiser for the Sharks.  Not that large (6'1", 200lbs), he plays an intensly physical game and is will drop the gloves with anyone, anytime.  He racks up the PIMs by the bushel, having topped 200 PIMs three times in his career (and is on track to do it again this year) and 300 PIMs once with Chicago.  Marchment doesn't bring a lot to the table on offense, but he plays solid defense and is the kind of guy opposing forwards deliberately avoid as much as possible.  With Stephen Peat not playing, Marchment might be a little bored out there, but he'll certainly try to entertain himself at some point.

The Sharks are a dangerous team and if the Caps can't get a couple of early goals this game could be a repeat of the disaster at MCI.  It is vital for Washington to establish the forecheck early, earn a power play or three, and get the PP going to end a quiet spell.  Nabakov is too good for Washington to count on getting 4 goals, so they'll have to really concentrate on defense and shut the speedy Sharks down.

Prediction: 4-3 Sharks
       The Matchups




Penalty Kill


The Sharks have more depth, the Caps have more top line talent.  A slight edge to Washington.

San Jose plays solid, physical defense and can shut anyone down.  The Caps struggle with speed.

Although Kolzig is struggling, he's not giving up as many softies.  Nabokov is on the top of his game, though.

Despite their recent woes the Washington PP unit is frightening.  This is the one hole for San Jose.

The Caps are much improved, but still struggle.  The Sharks are top ten.  Not much more to say here.

Washington is desperate and rested.  The Sharks may be a little complacent after their last win over the Caps in DC.

The Sharks are playing better hockey, period.  Washington is capable of beating them with a full 60 minute effort.
       Magic 8-Ball Says...
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27-28-10-1  65 points
10th, Eastern Conference
0-1-0-0 vs. the Sharks
2.70 Goals/Game (11th)
3.01 GAA  (27th)
19.5% PP (3rd)
82.2% PK  (25th)
9-17-5-0 on road
14.39% road PP
77.54% road PK
2.60 G/G 
2.80 GAA

2.90 G/G 
2.70 GAA

Top Scorers
P. Bondra - 33
J. Jagr - 24
S. Gonchar - 21
A. Oates - 54
J. Jagr - 36
S. Gonchar - 31
A. Oates - 65
J. Jagr - 60
P. Bondra - 55
Olaf Kolzig 23-26-7, 2.87, .902
C. Billington 4-4-2, 3.04, .881
"Will the Capitals beat the San Jose Sharks tonight?"

"Without a doubt"

The Caps come out flying and put together the kind of effort they need to beat a quality team on the road.
4-1 Caps

Magic 8-Ball's Record: