Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!! -- Caps vs. Panthers, October 18th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!

Howdy, Caps fans . . . we’re back with the latest game-day installment, and tonight, it’s the Florida Panthers . . . a Jekyll and Hyde team if there was one. But before we get to that, let’s go to The Peerless’ Mail Bag . . .

Our first letter is from a Peter B. from Maryland, who writes…

“Dear Peerless . . . tell George I’m still working out, he won’t return my calls.”

Well, Peter . . . The Peerless has two words of advice for you . . . “more twinkies” . . . you might as well, because George isn’t picking up the phone.

Our next writer, a “Mr. Tony” from DC writes…

“You’re a dope . . . hockey stinks . . . nobody shows up . . . how’s Jagr doing . . . “

Uh, Mr. Tony . . . I’ve seen you at your day job on ESPN, I’ve seen you at your night job on ESPN . . . you might want to try a job with a paper hat.

Next up, “Gary in New York” writes…

“Our attendance is just as good as last year at this time, if you think of it in terms of volume. Since Americans are getting fatter every year, we need fewer of them to have as much volume in the arena . . . and with our clubs offering delectable concessions such as deep-fried lard nuggets with bacon gravy and sugar sprinkles at reasonable prices for the whole family, we should far surpass our total volume of last year.”

Gary, the only thing that’s gotten fatter since last year is your head.

“Hitch in Philly” sends us this…

“Holy crap . . . did you get the number of that bus that hit us last night?”

It was a herd of slug, Hitch, and they’re still faster than your bunch.

“JR” in Arizona...

“Why don’t you ever write anything about Jeremy Roenick, maybe the greatest American player in hockey history, and damn good-looking guy, if I do say so, myself?”

Six games, 0-1-1, -4. Consider it done.

OK, now to the game . . . the Panthers come in with a 3-2-1 record in six games – 3-0-0 at home, 0-2-1 on the road. This happens to be a road game, so that’s a good sign for the men in black. Olli Jokinen leads the club in scoring at 3-5-8, which is not surprising; Gary Roberts has been upright for six games, well mostly, which is. Todd Bertuzzi, the very definition of the “power forward,” seems to have morphed into Wayne Gretzky with a five-o’clock shadow . . . 1-6-7 in six games, and he’s taken only six shots. I don’t want to be having to write “break out game” in reference to him this time tomorrow. Florida is not an especially formidable club at even strength; most of their players are on the minus side of the ledger, and the club is 19th in overall plus/minus – dead last in road plus/minus. But they have three wins and points in four of their six games, so you might conclude that their special teams are working well. Well, you’d be right, especially their power play, which is humming along in second in the league with a 28.6 percent success rate and a shorthanded goal. But the Jekyll and Hyde character all comes down to goaltending. Alex Auld has done well in the spotlight thus far, earning all the points at 3-0-1, 2.37, .935. Ed Belfour has sucked on toast at 0-2-0, 5.52, .822.

For the Caps, the thing that tops tonight’s to-do list is “improve power play.” With Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Richard Zednik, etc., the club should have more than four power play goals in 31 chances. But lurking in the weeds is this uncomfortable stat . . . while it is still early, the Caps’ penalty kill is worse at home (8-10, 80.0 percent) than on the road (11-13, 84.6 percent).

So, for tonight, the recipe is . . . take advantage of Florida’s weakness at even strength, score a goal on the power play why dontcha, and stay out of the penalty box. Do that (which is pretty much a game plan for any game), and here is your result . . .

Caps 4 – Panthers 2

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