Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Peerless Prognosticator is BACK...ON THE AIR!!! Caps vs. Canadiens, December 27th

The Peerless Prognosticator is BACK ON THE AIR!!!

Ok, so we took a few days off to give the fat man directions, whip up some Peerless Nog, and make rather merry, as Bob Crachit put it. We returned just in time to see Brent Johnson do his bit for the waste lumber industry. Enough column inches have been expended in recounting that effort.

But tonight, it’s Le Club de Hockey Canadien. Montreal, perhaps more than even Buffalo, is the epitome of the kind of club that will succeed in the new NHL. Five-on-five, they are an ordinary team at best (25th in 5-on-5 goals for/goals against ratio). But special teams? First on the power play, second in penalty killing. This is a bigger factor than the goaltending of Cristobal Huet (which is the name of a high-end glassware set, not a hockey player), who is ninth in the league in goals against average and first in save percentage. He’s 5-1-1 in his seven decisions in December. But, Montreal splits time between their goalies than most other teams. Huet has played about two-thirds of the available minutes this year, while David Aebischer gets the rest. The Peerless is inclined to think that Huet’s performance this year is surprising, but his numbers this year (2.36, .931) are not appreciably different than his statistics last year (2.20, .929).

Among the skaters, Saku Koivu remains the Hab to watch. Six goals in his last eight games, and he’s winning almost 56 percent of the draws he’s taken this year. The Chris Higgins-Koivu-Michael Ryder line has 11 goals in those last eight games, more than a third of the Montreal total. But while that group is especially dangerous, the Canadiens have scoring from 14 different skaters in the last eight games. Goals can come from unexpected places (although not from Maxim Lapierre, who despite three goals in four games, was returned to Hamilton of the NHL). Given Montreal’s special production on the power play, the man to watch here will be Sheldon Souray – third in total scoring among defensemen, first in power play goals, first in total power play scoring, tied among defenseman for game winning goals (including an overtime winner). You'd think his name was Sheldon Gonchar...

The Caps suffered what looked to be a monstrous nog-over in the first ten minutes of the game last night. But, they are 4-2-2 in the back half of back-to-backs so far this year and have won their last three of such games. Alex Ovechkin, as if he needed more attention, took over the league lead in goals last night with his 25th (in fewer games than any of his four closest pursuers) and has climbed to a tie for fourth in total scoring. In December, he is 9-12-21, +4 in 11 games (by way of inevitable comparison, Sidney Crosby is 7-16-23, +2 in 12 games). Alexander Semin is 3-5-8, +5 in his last five games. On the other side of the coin, Matt Pettinger is scoreless in his last seven games and -4 . . . Ben Clymer has had one plus game since November 4th (the day he moved back to forward) . . . in the callup category, Jeff Schultz has acquitted himself well in his three games since being called up from Hershey – more than 18 minutes of ice time a game and -1 overall.

Montreal is 7-1-1 in their last nine. In that time their power play converted 32.5 percent of its chances (13 of 40) and killed 83.3 percent of it shorthanded situations (35 of 42) with four shorthanded goals (they lead the NHL with 11). Outscoring the opposition 17-7 in special teams situations – more than a goal a game – clearly points to the importance of special teams tonight (Montreal outscored opponents 14-13 otherwise over these nine games). More so, given that the Caps’ special teams haven’t been particularly special in their last nine games – 19.2 percent on the power play (10-of 52), 78.1 percent in penalty-killing (32 of 41). If this is a tightly called game, it favors Montreal. If the refs “let ‘em play,” the Caps would appear to have the advantage. Hey, the gift giving season is over . . .

Caps 4 – Canadiens 2.


Netsracque said...

Votre analyse est appréciée, Pronostiqueur Sans Paire!

Jordi said...

My magic eight ball says otherwise! :)

Trust me Souray's not the #1 D to watch. You're better off watching the guys with a better D rating like Komisarek, Markov and possibly Streit. Look out for the third line as well - a big favourite.

Anonymous said...

On a brighter note---Killer Kaminski was sighted in the stands---someone said he was here to visit Olie. Anyone get to talk to him?