The last time the Washington Capitals faced off against the Tampa Bay Lightning they were on their way out of the Stanley Cup playoffs last spring.
While no game in October, or the regular season, can make up for being swept out of the playoffs by the Lightning in the playoffs last year facing the team that knocked them out this early in 2011-12 presents an interesting opportunity for the Capitals.
“We owe them a good game,” Mike Green said. “They obviously took us down last year in four and that’s something you don’t forget. Doesn’t mean we’re gunning out there for anybody, just means that we’re going to play our hardest game and make sure we challenge them.”
The Capitals and Lightning each have new faces on the roster since they last saw each other, but there will be a certain familiarity regardless. Tampa Bay still plays a quick, transition-based game and boasts a multi-dimensional attack with many of the same forwards that made it to the Eastern Conference final last spring.
“It’s huge test for us I think, especially early in the year when emotions too are high,” Alex Ovechkin said. “We know how to play against them and we know their strengths and weaknesses. It’s kind of a game when you build momentum.”
Karl Alzner made it clear that the Capitals are eager to face the team that ended their postseason run — “All the guys want to beat them really bad,” he said. “It’s going to be an intense game and a good one.” — but the defenseman also pointed out that the team must find an equilibrium with its intensity level. Whether Washington is facing a rival like Tampa Bay, or later in the week Pittsburgh, or an unfamiliar opponent or team in the bottom of the standings.
“I’m going to try to be just as intense tomorrow as I was [against Carolina], I think everybody else is too,” Alzner said when asked if a game against the Lightning would ramp the team up more. “We don’t want to have those lulls like we did last year, we had a lot where we were really fired up for a game against Pittsburgh and we’d play the Islanders the next day we weren’t always as into it. We want to try to stay even the entire year.”