caps, leafs, annapolis ready to go

BY BRIAN MCNALLY | MARCH 3, 2018

Game #65

CAPITALS (36-21-7, 79 points) VS. MAPLE LEAFS (39-20-7, 85 points)
WHEN: 8 p.m.
WHERE: Navy-Marine Corps Stadium, Annapolis, Md.
TV: NBC, NHL.com
RADIO: 106.7 The Fan

THE SCENARIO: The third outdoor game for the Capitals, who for now remain in first place in the Metropolitan Division.  

Neither team has lost an outdoor game. The Capitals beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2011 Winter Classic, 3-1, and the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2015 Winter Classic, 3-2. The Maple Leafs defeated the Detroit Red Wings in the 2014 Winter Classic, a 3-2 shootout win, and in the 2017 Centennial Classic, 5-4 in overtime.

The atmosphere should be fantastic. The United State women’s hockey team will be honored before the game for their gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang last month. So will the gold-medal winning men’s curling team. There will be flyovers and Midshipmen and military men and women honored after the first intermission.

“It’s just a different atmosphere,” Caps defenseman John Carlson said. “I think football stadiums and baseball stadiums, which I’ve played in, they’re amazing. But to have a kind of unique atmosphere and history to this place and from a fan’s point of view the sightlines and all that are way better at a place like this than a 60,000-seat football field.”

It’s not a regular hockey locker room at Navy. There are no rooms to hide in. It’s named after Roger Staubach for god sake. Caps players were openly getting worked on by team trainers in full view of dozens of reporters. They dressed in stalls with plaques memorializing ex-Navy athletes, like this one for Dmitry Orlov.

It’s hard to ever forget where you are even if it’s not technically on campus.

Downtown Annapolis was hopping Saturday afternoon. Hundreds of Caps and Leafs fans were wandering into bars and restaurants and shops on the water. Temperatures hovered around 50 degrees, but the wind has died down from the freak show we saw Thursday night into Friday that canceled schools throughout the region and closed the federal government. The NHL was concerned, but ultimately has decided to play the game tonight even if conditions aren’t perfect.

“I was more concerned last night when everything was rumbling around,” Caps coach Barry Trotz said. “As long as the house was still there this morning, I was pretty good.”

The warm-ish temperatures are not an issue for the NHL ice makers, who can deal with high temperatures much better than rain. Think back to the slushy mess in the 2011 Winter Classic between the Caps and Penguins in Pittsburgh.   

Remember, we could see history tonight if Alex Ovechkin gets a hat trick. That doesn’t seem likely in these conditions, but three goals makes him just the 20th player in NHL history to reach 600 for his career. Better that happens now than late at night when the Caps play in Los Angeles and Anaheim next week. There’s also a Saturday afternoon game at home against San Jose.

Ovechkin downplayed his chances.

“It will be cool, but I don’t think it’s going to happen tonight,” Ovechkin said.

His teammates aren’t quite so sure.  

“Nothing will surprise me if Ovi scored his 600th tonight,” teammate T.J. Oshie said. “When I first got here, it seemed like I would get surprised by some of the things he’s able to do, some of the goals he’s able to score. That surprise factor isn’t there for me anymore after being here a couple years. He’s able to do stuff that pretty much no one else is really able to do as far as scoring goals. It would be surprising to get, what, three? Three away. No, no. That wouldn’t surprise me at all. He got four earlier this year.”

Maple Leafs projected lineup
Patrick Marleau – Nazem Kadri – Mitchell Marner
Zach Hyman – Tomas Plekanec – William Nylander
James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Connor Brown
Leo Komarov – Dominic Moore – Kasperi Kapanen
Morgan Rielly – Ron Hainsey
Jake Gardiner – Nikita Zaitsev
Travis Dermott – Roman Polak

Frederik Andersen
Curtis McElhinney

Injured: Auston Matthews (shoulder)

Scratched: Matt Martin, Connor Carrick, Josh Leivo

Capitals projected lineup
Alex Ovechkin — Nicklas Backstrom — Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana — Evgeny Kuznetsov — T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly — Lars Eller — Andre Burakovsky
Chandler Stephenson — Jay Beagle — Devante Smith-Pelly
Dmitry Orlov — Matt Niskanen
Michal Kempny — John Carlson
Brooks Orpik — Christian Djoos

Philipp Grubauer
Braden Holtby

Scratched:, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek, Alex Chiasson, Travis Boyd

Injured: None

Photos by Brian McNally for The Sports Capitol

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