Monday, October 30, 2006

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!! -- Caps vs. Flames, October 30th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!

The long and winding road ends for this trip tonight, in Calgary. The boys are 1-1-1 so far, so a point here would make this a “satisfactory” trip; a win would put it in the “exceeds expectations” category. Of course, this is the season of ghosts and goblins, so anything might happen . . . which brings us to thinking about what some of our Caps might don as costumes for Hallowe’en . . .

Richard Zednik . . . “The Invisible Man” (don’t ask)

Kris Beech . . . “Baby Jessica” . . . he’s fallen down a well – from the second line to the fourth line to the stands – and it’s going to take a lot to get him out.

Brent Johnson . . . a pack of “Rolaids” . . . because he’s been great in “relief”

Chris Clark . . . “James Tiberius Kirk” . . . because his five year mission is to boldly . . . go . . . wherenoCaphasgonebefore . . . to seek out new playoffs . . . to explore strange new worlds . . . like . . . a Stanley Cup championship

Steve Eminger . . . “Ivan Majesky” (that’s another “don’t ask”)

Alex Ovechkin . . . Agent 008 . . . the only agent who could replace James Bond.

Mike Green . . . “Alfalfa” . . . quite a little rascal out there (and then there’s the resemblance, too).

As for the game, tonight’s opponent – the Calgary Flames – seem to be suffering the same lack of offensive punch in the early going that plagued them most of last year. They are 22nd in the league is goals-per-game. But what is unusual for this club, they are giving up goals at a faster pace. At 2.78 goals-per-game yielded, it is not where one would expect a club having Miikka Kiprusoff in the nets. Kiprusoff has been in goal for all nine of Calgary’s games thus far, and has yet to find a rhythm. After giving up five goals in back-to-back contests against Toronto and Montreal, he’d settled down somewhat with seven goals allowed in his last three games. But his numbers so far are distinctly “un-Kiprusoffic.”

Jarome Iginla leads the club in goals and total scoring – 5-4-9 – as is to be expected. But no other Flame has more than three. Dion Phaneuf is giving signs that last season’s top notch rookie year was merely a prelude to a long and distinguished career. He leads the club in ice time (and is fifth among all defensemen) and is second on the club in plus-minus. That he’d be in the top-15 among all defensemen in this statistic on a team that struggles as much offensively as Calgary is an indication of his value to the club. He draws the unenviable assignment of taking the ice whenever Alex Ovechkin takes a shift.

Calgary is among the top-third in 5-on-5 goals for/goals against ratio; they are in the bottom third in both special teams statistics (although they rank in the middle third in both home power play and penalty kill). Calgary, perhaps even more than Washington, is going to want to see this as a penalty-free game.

Calgary has been something of an enigma so far. In their first four games, they scored only five goals but split four decisions. In their last five, they’ve scored 18 goals but have gone 1-3-1.

Washington, on the other hand, has gone win-SO loss-regulation loss in the three games of this road trip. The Caps’ goal scoring has gone 5-2-0, while the goals given up has gone 3-2-4. Of the seven goals scored by the Caps on this trip, two have been by Alexander Ovechkin, two by Dainius Zubrus, one by Chris Clark, one by Mike Green, and an empty netter by Matt Bradley. See the problem? Not a single goal coming (at least with a goalie defending) by anyone other than the top line, save for Green’s (Matt Pettinger and Kris Beech earned assists on that one). Add to this the fact that the Caps have had only ten power plays in the three games on the road trip (of which two were converted), and the offensive problems are easier to understand. On the other side of the ledger, the Caps have found themselves shorthanded 20 times on this trip and have given up four goals.

It would seem that the Caps are going to have to force the action more aggressively – to draw penalties and to try to get into a run-and-gun effort – in order to end this trip on a high note. If it is a low-scoring, “let ‘em play” sort of game with few penalty calls, Calgary would appear to have the advantage.

So, what does The Peerless think? Well, last year, the Caps had a western swing into Dallas, Anaheim, and Phoenix. In the last of those games, a rookie did something that made every highlight show in North America. We might not see something that earth-shaking in this game, but it’s an opportunity for the Caps to demonstrate how much they’ve improved, by ending a long road trip strong.

Caps 5 – Flames 3.

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