James Bond says, grab the popcorn.

Tampa Bay Lightning @ Washington Capitals: GAME #22

Time: 5:00 PM Eastern Time

Location: Capital One Arena

Broadcast / Streaming: NHLN-US, NBCSWA, SUN

Opponent SBNation Site: Japer’s Rink

Preview:

The last time the Lightning faced the Capitals, it was the third game of the season. The first two games had been a disaster defensively as the Lightning were way out-possessed and were lucky to have come out of the opening set with the Florida Panthers 1-1-0. Taking on the Capitals at home, the Brayden Point line and the penalty kill was able to shut down a red-hot Alex Ovechkin who entered the game with seven goals and back-to-back hat tricks to open his season. Even shutting down Ovechkin, the Lightning still needed an overtime goal from Brayden Point on a power play to beat the Capitals 4-3.

Since Ovechkin’s blistering start of 13 goals in his first 16 games, he has gone goalless in his past six games with just two assists to his credit. It’s only a matter of time before Ovechkin heats back up and starts putting pucks in the back of the net again. With this game, the second of three against the Capitals this season, the Lightning will be the visiting team and Jon Cooper will be unable to reliably get the Point line out against Ovechkin to shut him down. Whatever line Ovechkin gets sent out against will need to be aware of Number 8’s presence.

Five questions with BeccaH from Japer’s Rink:

BeccaH of Japer’s Rink was kind enough to give her insight on Ovechkin’s team—on Thanksgiving, no less! Here are her thoughts.

Raw Charge: Who has been the Capital’s best defenseman this season?

BeccaH: To be honest, it depends on the day, because they’ve all had their good moments (and plenty of very, very bad ones) – but it probably boils down to some combination of John Carlson and Christian Djoos. Carlson in particular has had to shoulder a ton of responsibility, between Niskanen’s month-long absence due to injury and the team’s two rookie defensemen still finding their legs, and for the most part he’s done a pretty good job of it. As for Djoos, he’s out with an injury himself now but when he’s in the lineup he’s very calm and positionally sound, more than one would expect for a rookie, and his knack for finding open space hint at him being a sneaky-good offensive weapon on the blueline very soon.

RC: What is the weakest link in the Capitals roster and what upgrades might be most needed closer to the trade deadline if someone can’t step up to fill that role?

BeccaH: I’m not sure if there’s one specific weak link for the Caps; right now the biggest issue is just an overall lack of depth, at forward and on defense. Depending on where the team is at in the standings come the trade deadline, it’d be good if they could bring in at least another solid defenseman and maybe some bottom-six forward depth. Of course, those two things are pretty much what every team is looking for at the deadline, so whether MacLellan can actually get it done or not is another issue.

RC: Will Ovechkin win another Richard?

BeccaH: If I had been asked that immediately after he picked up hat tricks in back-to-back games to start the season, I’d say 100% yes! As it is, he’ll probably be in the mix – everything he usually does to score goals is still working and it looks like he even got a little bit faster this summer, so there’s no reason to think he can’t make a run for another Richard.

RC: Which four but likely five metro teams do you think make it into playoffs this year? Other than Pittsburgh, for obvious reasons, who from the Metro would you least want to take on in the first round of the playoffs?

BeccaH: I’m going with Columbus, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, the Caps (hopefully!) and I think the Rangers squeak in ahead of the others for that fifth spot. And other than Pittsburgh (because… yeah) I’d go with not wanting to face Columbus, for a couple of reasons. First of all, they’re pretty physical and it could be a really bruising opening round… and secondly, I just can’t take yet another series of having to listen to Tortorella yammer on!

RC: Who’s been the biggest surprise and biggest disappointment of the season thus far?

BeccaH: There are a couple of depth guys up front who have been surprising (in a good way) – Lars Eller, Tom Wilson, etc. – but I think I’ll go with Chandler Stephenson. The kid’s been called up a couple of times over the past few years but he’s really taken a step forward this season and is averaging about a point every other game.

As for disappointments… it’s not entirely (or even mostly) his fault but Philipp Grubauer’s struggles are tough to watch. It’s not that he’s playing THAT badly, although he’s had some rough games, but the team just can’t seem to score goals in his starts and he’s still looking for his first win of the season. He’s drawn a lot of tough games, to be fair – the second of back-to-backs on the road, that kind of thing – but he hasn’t really been able to steal any of those games, either.

RC: Thank you, BeccaH!

Tampa Bay Lightning:

Forward Lines:

Vladislav Namestnikov — Steven Stamkos — Nikita Kucherov

Ondrej Palat — Brayden Point — Yanni Gourde

Alex KillornTyler Johnson

Chris KunitzJ.T. BrownRyan Callahan

Defense Pairings:

Victor Hedman — Jake Dotchin

Mikhail SergachevAnton Stralman

Braydon Coburn — Dan Girardi

Slater Koekkoek

Goaltenders:

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Peter Budaj

Washington Capitals:

These are from Daily Faceoff, so they’re likely wrong.

Forward Lines:

Chandler Stephenson – Nicklas Backstrom – TJ Oshie

Alex Ovechkin – Evgeny KuznetsovDevante Smith-Pelly

Jakub Vrana – Lars Eller – Tom Wilson

Brett ConnollyJay BeagleAlex Chiasson

Defense Pairings:

Brooks Orpik – John Carlson

Dmitri Orlov – Matt Niskanen

Taylor ChorneyMadison Bowey

Goaltenders:

Braden Holtby

Philipp Grubauer


Article first appeared on www.draysbay.com