Washington Capitals @ Tampa Bay Lightning Free NHL Pick 1/31/12
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The Capitals have to be frustrated with the way that the first half of the season played out. Yes, they are in first place in the Southeast, but the division has been the worst in hockey this year, and there is no reason whatsoever to not be ahead by at least 10 points. Head Coach Dale Hunter has his work cut out for him to get this team to the Promised Land this year after replacing Bruce Boudreau, especially knowing that the squad only has eight wins on the road from the whole first half of the season. Alexander Ovechkin, who has been a brutal disappointment this year, is suspended for this game, which might be just as well, knowing how poorly he played against the Lightning in the playoffs last season. Mike Green, Tom Poti, and Nicklas Backstrom start the second half of the season on IR, and the biggest of those injuries comes to Backstrom, who has a concussion and has already been out of the lineup for a month.
The Lightning came out of nowhere last year in the playoffs to make it to the Eastern Conference Finals, but in the first half of this year, they looked like a team that has a lot of work to be done just to be competitive again. Tampa Bay is nowhere near the playoffs quite yet in the Eastern Conference, though we know that it had a solid run with four straight wins to end the first half of the season. Still, the team is only one point ahead of the worst record in the conference. The big problem has been in net. Dwayne Roloson was a rock for the Bolts in the playoffs last year, but this season, he and Mathieu Garon have been train wrecks. The two are combining to allow 3.4 goals per game, which is easily the worst mark in the league. An offense that hasn’t gotten great contributions this year from anyone aside from Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, and Vincent Lecavalier just can’t afford the goaltending to be as bad as it has been.
Washington Capitals @ Tampa Bay Lightning Pick: We know that Tampa Bay can catch “lightning” in a bottle (pardon the pun), especially knowing that the team really played well at home in the first half. For whatever reason, the Capitals just haven’t played well against this team historically, and we have no reason to think that that will change on Tuesday night.
Free Hockey Pick: Tampa Bay Lightning
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