After being held to just one goal in each of the past three games, the Capitals are looking to kickstart their offense. But in order for that to happen Tuesday, Washington will need to crack the armor of one of the hardest-working, defense-oriented teams in the NHL in the Predators.
The Capitals won’t face Vezina finalist Pekka Rinne in net Tuesday night as Nashville goes with backup Anders Lindback. The 6-foot-6 Swede has appeared in just six games but has strong numbers despite going 2-2-0, at a .903 save percentage and 2.52 goals-against average.
Regardless who is in net for the Predators, though, they still possess a defense anchored by the workhorse pair of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, who each average over 26 minutes per game.
“You know what kind of game to expect,” Coach Dale Hunter said. “It’s going to be a grinding game, you’ve got to expect it, play hard in the corners and win your battles.”
Nashville will likely test the Capitals’ collective patience and dedication to playing as a group all adhering to the same system, rather than trying to do too much individually. It’s no secret the group is itching to score a few goals, but the Predators are a team that preys on turnovers and mistakes while being dedicated to their own system.
“They’re not going to give you a lot, but if they’re not giving you a lot they also don’t take a lot of chances offensively,” Brooks Laich said. “It’s going to become sort of a chess match to see who blinks first, who takes a chance, who tries to open it up, who gets frustrated a little bit, and we’ve got to make sure we’re not that team.”
Of the nine games the Capitals have played under Hunter, six have been decided by one goal. Nashville, which enters Verizon Center on a five-game winning streak, is comfortable with that style of game and each of its past 10 outings has been decided by just one goal.
“It’s very important to play our system fully and keep doing what we’re supposed to do against a team like [Nashville],” Marcus Johansson said. “They’re tough to get in on and they’re playing very tight but you always have to be patient. We’re not scoring as many goals as we want to; everyone wants to score but you’ve got to stick with the plan and be patient.”