Good morning from sunny Arlington, Virginia!
I’m sitting and typing this entry from the 9th floor offices of the Washington Capitals at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. I cannot offer enough thanks to the Caps PR crew of Sergey Kocharov, Ben Guerrero and Megan Eichenberg for the hospitality and assistance in getting the “behind the scenes” work done for us in such a timely manner. My job today could not be any easier thanks to these three super people!
One floor below, the BEARS are taping their sticks up and limbering up for their morning skate, in preparation for what literally can be called a BIG game. The Washington AHL Showcase presented by GEICO will feature the third meeting in eight days between the BEARS and Norfolk Admirals. Both teams earned a win last week on the host’s home ice. So how will tonight’s “neutral ice” battle finish up? I can offer four things to watch for on the BEARS part that will need to happen in order for the team to pick up another two points:
1) Braden Holtby getting the start in goal. Unfamiliar to the thousands of Caps fans expected to fill the Verizon Center will be his jersey number – “Holts” will have his BEARS #1 donned and not his patented #70 that he wears with the Caps. But the same solid goaltender will be between the pipes on a very comfortable ice surface for him. He was the workhorse last week for HERSHEY, starting all four games from Sunday-Saturday and posting a 3-1-0 record. The “1”, however, was a tough setback in which even Holtby himself stated it was not his best effort of the season. Look for him to turn that around and have fun while doing so.
2) The BEARS power play. A “fall-back” last season (the BEARS were ranked #1 by a huge margin on the PP all year except in October) has turned into a necessity in 2012-2013. The BEARS have been in several one-goal games up to this point, and when trailing in those one-goal games, have had ample opportunity to not only come back and tie the game, but put the opposition away on the power play. The last time the BEARS and Admirals met on Saturday, HERSHEY finished with nine chances on the man advantage – including a lengthy 5-on-3 – and came up empty. The power play MUST be successful tonight if given the opportunity.
3) Three top scorers who had point streaks snapped need to produce. The players to which I’m referring (Jon DiSalvatore, Jeff Taffe, Zach Hamill) lived up to their veteran leadership status just fine last week. Perhaps it was the solid goaltending of Norfolk netminder Frederik Andersen that silenced the hot sticks of the trio. But whatever it was, I believe that if at least two of these three can find the score sheet tonight, success will follow for the team as a whole.
4) The Verizon Center crowd. Despite this being an official home game for Norfolk, it’s no secret that the night is turning into what should be a raucous HERSHEY BEARS home affair. 18,500 + will be in the stands – probably 17,500 of them backing the Caps and BEARS – and the team will be feeding off that, mark my word.
Game notes are right here to prep you. Puck drops at 7:09 PM downtown.