Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!! -- Caps vs. Stars, November 30th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!

Well, the Caps got off the schneid last time out and . . .

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. . . rode a 48-save performance by Olaf Kolzig to a 5-2 win in Tampa . . .

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. . . but next up are the Dallas Stars, a club that always gives the Caps fits. But before we get to that, we have a special treat. With the league’s teams approaching the one-third point of the season, The Peerless thought it might be time to get a Commissioner’s eye view of the league so far . . . Mr. Commissioner . . .

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Mr. Commissioner? . . .

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Mr. Commissioner??

“WHAT?!”

Mr. Commissioner, we’re interested in your take on the season so far.

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Mr. Commissioner?

“Ok, OK, already! . . . what was the question?”

Your take on the season so far?

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Mr. Commiss–

“It’s great, it’s wonderful, best season ever, blah-blah-blah...”

Mr. Commissioner, I thought we could–

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Mr. Commissioner, what in heaven’s name are you doing?

“Don’t interrupt me, I’m busy . . . Crosby-Fleury-Malkin...(send) . . . Crosby-Fleury-Malkin...(send) . . . “

Well, while the Commissioner stuffs the All-Star Game ballot box, we’ll take a look at what’s up next for the Caps.

At 16-8-0 Dallas is tied for the fifth highest point total in the league. They suffer for being in the same division as Anaheim (tops in points) and San Jose (third). Dallas has not played those clubs often (they are 1-1 against those two so far this year), but they are 15-7 against the rest of the league. They’re doing it in a way familiar to those who have watched that team over the years – they are giving up fewer goals per game than any team in the league (2.13). As one might expect from that result, the Stars are quite effective at even strength (fourth in 5-on-5 goals for/goals against ratio) and equally effective in killing penalties (fourth at 87.7 percent). Add to that the fact that they are second in the league in shots allowed per game (a minuscule 25.8), and it is clear that teams have to earn what meager offense they can generate against this team. And, if a team does fall behind, the task becomes even more difficult – Dallas leads the league in winning percentage when scoring first.

Looking at the club at the individual level, the team defensive numbers reflect a strength from the inside out – no defenseman has a minus number for the year. It is a group that is solid and deep. Add a three-time Selke winner in Jere Lehtinen, and it is as formidable a defensive group in its parts as it is as a team.

It would be tempting to think of the weak link here as being goaltending, but if anything Marty Turco is a regular season wonder. He can be counted on to have a GAA in the low 2's (or lower) and a save percentage in the .920 range (with a sparse workload in terms of shots). Given that the Stars played the Blackhawks last night, though, one might think Mike Smith will get a turn. Smith, in limited action (six games) has sparkling numbers – 5-1, 1.53, .937. Getting him would not necessarily be a blessing.

As for the former local hero, Jeff Halpern has had what for him is a typically indifferent start – 3-5-8, even, in 23 games (not including the Wednesday game), although he’s been stirring a bit more of late (2-2-4, +1 in his last six).

The Caps, on the other hand, are a club that might be between tendencies. In their six game winless streak they scored only nine goals while giving up 24 (not including a shootout loss). The Caps have given up 33 more goals than have the Stars – 1.38 more per game – while giving up 14.4 more shots per game. Those are significant numbers. 1.38 goals per game on 14.4 shots is a .904 save percentage. If, say, Olaf Kolzig and Marty Turco both save .904 percent of their shots, both have an average game in terms of shots faced, the Caps lose by more than a goal. For the Caps to get the club to overtime, Kolzig would have to save 93.8 percent of the shots he faces (assuming an average game of 36.5 shots). That’s a lot of arithmetic, but the point is that Kolzig has to stand on his head while Turco sits in a rocker to achieve the same result in terms of goals allowed.

But we said they might be between tendencies. They suffered a bump in the road (ok, they spun into a ditch for half a dozen games), but they spread the love around against Tampa – five players scored the five goals – and they withstood a late Tampa charge, thanks largely to Kolzig. Perhaps this is the beginning of a bit of a run. It can’t come at a better time, given the level of competition the Caps will face.

Some numbers of note . . . Alex Ovechkin has scored goals in 12 of his last 19 games – not points, goals (a total of 14 goals). That is at once a remarkably consistent record, and it is a 60-goal pace over 82 games.

The last time Dainius Zubrus won half his face-offs? . . . Veterans Day. He’s gone seven straight games on the sub-50 percent side of the ledger.

Ben Clymer is quietly struggling. Since his splashy return to forward against Philadelphia on November 4th, he has not been on the plus side of the ledger (-7 in 11 games).

Matt Pettinger has points in eight of his last 11 games (4-5-9).

Since laying an egg against Ottawa, Olaf Kolzig has saved 245 of 262 shots (93.5 percent) in seven games.

This is likely to be an aesthetically ugly game to watch. Dallas grinds out wins, and the Caps are a team hard to predict as to which one will appear. "GAL LODI" is going to have to be the recipe again – “get a lead” . . . “let Olie do it.” The Caps almost have to approach this as a road game, keeping things simple and taking advantage of what few opportunities they are likely to get. Dallas has been in a feast-or-famine stretch lately, scoring at least four goals in their last seven games but getting only a single marker in each of the others (including the 2-1 loss to Chicago Wednesday, which ended as The Peerless wrote this). Given how Kolzig has played lately and Ovechkin’s consistency in goal scoring, a couple of markers could do the trick . . .

Caps 2 – Stars 1.

1 comment:

Netsrak said...

Dear Mr. Commissioner,

Vote for Rory Fitzpatrick!

Love,
Netsy