Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!! -- Caps vs. Bruins, November 15th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!

Well, here we are . . . 8-5-4 . . . 20 points . . . the best start for the good guys in more than a decade. Still, 17 games does not make a season, and tonight it is the well rested Boston Bruins visiting VerMCIzon Center. The B’s have played fewer games – 14 – than any other team in the league, and only the Islanders have played as few road games (6). Tonight will be only the second Bruins’ road game in the last month. It could be a difficult time for –

“on the road again . . . just can't wait to get on the road again
The life I love is playin' hockey with my friends
And I can't wait to get on the road again . . . “

Willie! . . . I didn’t know you were a hockey fan.

“My heroes have always been goalies.
And they still are, it seems.
Sadly, in search of, but one step in back of,
Themselves and their glove savin’ dreams.”

Really . . . so you’re a goalie at heart, eh . . . how long have you been a hockey fan?

“Even when forever ends for me today . . . How long is forever this time . . . “

So, which team do you follow?

“Blackhawks are special with their own brand of misery . . . from being a loser too long.”

I guess that makes for some long winter nights, huh?

“I think of the hearts they have broken
And the golden chances that have passed them by
The dreams they once made now are over
As empty as the bubbles in my beer...”

Any teams you’re especially not fond of?

“Mama don't let your babies grow up to be Pens fans
Don't let 'em watch Crosby and wear Penguin shirts
They’ll only grow up to be wearin’ fine skirts . . .”

Words to live by . . . so lets’ get to the game . . .

Boston comes in 5-7-2 (12 points), propped up only by the Flyers in the 15-team Eastern Conference. They’re 2-2-1 in their last five, though, which for this club is indicative of improvement. While the Bruins are not an especially bad team on offense (15th in goals-per-game scored), they are a disaster on skates on defense. Their 3.93 goals-per-game allowed figure is 29th in the league. Their penalty killing of 75.3 percent is dead last. Their road penalty killing figure of 71.0 percent doesn’t really even merit the term “dead last” (although they are) . . . “ghastly,” “putrid,” and “Dear God, they stink on toast” come to mind.

The goaltending for Boston has been predictably bad, given the team-wide defensive statistics. It seems they are having more than a little difficulty settling on a number one goalie. Hannu Toivonen – a goalie of considerable promise – is 4.20 with a .869 save percentage. In his last two outings – a loss to Buffalo and a no-decision against Tampa Bay – he gave up nine goals on 38 shots in just less than 63 total minutes . . . that’s an 8.59 GAA, .763 save percentage. You may insert your own adjective here to describe just how bad that is. Tim Thomas is 3-3-2, 3.64, .887, which while an improvement, is not making anyone think, “Gerry Cheevers.” Since taking over in relief from Toivonen in the Tampa Bay game on November 4th, he’s 2-1 (a no-decision against Toronto), 5.26, .869. Brian Finley, who took the loss in relief of Thomas against Tampa, gave up only two goals in 39 minutes – qualifications for the Vezina among this group.

Enter Phillippe Sauve, plucked from the desert of Phoenix earlier this week, but he was sent to Providence. Uh, why? He’s allergic to baked beans, or something? Heaven only knows who the Bruins will start in goal, but the question is, will it matter?

All this means is that the Caps had better not be Ottawa-ing themselves into thinking, “hey, we’re good, we’re fine, we’re gonna have a high old time.” The Caps don’t have enough talent to win on talent alone (sorry, Herb…it seemed the right time to use that line). But this can be a big night for Alexander Ovechkin (if he can get out from under the shadow of Zdeno Chara) and the rest of the Caps. The Caps are 6-3-1 in their last 10 outings, 2-1-0 at home. The key here has been the play of goaltender, Olaf Kolzig. In those ten games, Kolzig has a record of 4-1-1 (plus a no-decision against Ottawa), over which time he has a 2.56 GAA, .938. Facing more than 41 shots per 60 minutes over this stretch has the makings of a problem down the road, but he’s been more than equal to the task recently.

Boston is an average offensive team playing against a goaltender (assuming Kolzig gets the start) who is hot. Washington is a better offensive team (almost a third-of-a-goal per game more than the Bruins) playing against a team with defense and goaltending issues.

If the Caps come out flat, they are certainly ripe to be plucked. But if they come out with a strong effort, Boston is not – by virtue of recent performances – in their class.

Caps 5 – Bruins 1.

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