The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!! . . .
Geez, four in a row. The Peerless is giddy with joy, verklempt in appreciation . . . or perhaps it’s just gas.
All this winning makes The Peerless want to dip into the ol’ mail bag and take the pulse of a joyous Capitals Nation and the hockey world . . .
I was thinking, now that the Caps are winning, the perfect holiday gift for every member of your family would be Caps tickets or Caps gift ticket certificates. Great seats are available in all sections . . . in fact, some whole sections are available, so cll a Caps ticket representative now . . . please? Pretty please?? Plee-hee-heezzzze . . . sniff-sniff.
There, there, Ted . . . things will get better. Truth be told, folks in these parts are missing the best sports show in town, bar none. The Caps have been entertaining and, more important, successful. Where else around here does one get to see the kind of speed, collisions, scores . . . wins . . . the Caps are dishing up these days? If you haven’t seen a Caps game live – a hockey game live – you’re missing out on the most entertaining 60 minutes of action you’re likely to see. What, you’d rather spend three hours watching guys on TV make left turns? The local burgundy and gold sports institution implode? Hee-yeah…right.
I have a boo-boo . . . the big, mean, ugly hockey player hit me when I wasn’t lookin’ and now . . . now –sob-- I have a boo-boooooooooooo . . .
Look, Briere, enough is enough. Move on, OK?
I don’t wanna…they can’t make me…I can’t do it…it’s too hard, I don’t feel right, my sticks aren’t good, I think my skates need sharpening, the ice is icky, whaa-whaa-whaa.
Jags, you’re the captain. Take a damn turn in the shootout, ok?
It’s going to be the must-see TV event of the year! Crosby!! Ovechkin!!! Malkin!!! Together, on the ice!!!! National TV!!!!! Ya gotta watch!!!!!! It’ll be the hockey event of the year!!!!!!! Bigger than the Stanley Cup!!!!!!!! Bigger than the Super Bowl!!!!!!!!!
Whoa, Mr. Commissioner . . . I got an over-under ratings number for you . . . 0.2. More people watch bass fishing. More people watch bass fishing for bass.
As for the game . . . It doesn’t get easier for the Men in Black. Anaheim now has the best record in the NHL – 21-3-6 for 48 points. They’re about ready to lap the field out west, holding a nine-point lead over Nashville for the conference points lead. Although it is perhaps the best defensive team in the NHL, their offense shouldn’t be overlooked. Third in total scoring (goals-per-game), sixth in 5-on-5 goals for/goals against ratio, first in power play efficiency, fourth in shots taken-per-game, they make things tough on defenses and goaltenders in most aspects. But here is the big number on the offensive side of the ledger . . . Anaheim leads the NHL in third period scoring. They close out games effectively. Combine that with the fact that they are fifth in fewest third period goals allowed, and it makes it clear that beating them is a 60-minute affair. Given that only three teams have done so in regulation, one would think it is a daunting task.
Well, it is. But consider this . . . the teams that have beaten Anaheim in regulation are Calgary, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles. Combined record, 31-41-14. And it’s not as if Anaheim is gifted in the extra session – 2-1 in overtime, 2-5 in shootouts. Hey, we’ll glom onto any piece of driftwood in thinking up reasons for the Ducks to lose. But defense isn’t among them. In Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer, the Ducks have perhaps the best pair of defensemen in the league. Offensively, they have similar results (Pronger is 4-27-31 with two power play goals and a game-winning goal, Niedermayer is 5-21-26 with two power play goals and a game winner), they get comparable ice time (both around 27 minutes a game). Niedermayer, surprisingly perhaps, has been credited with more hits (37 to 28), Pronger with more blocked shots (46 to 19). But this is a team that is solid up and down the roster on defense. Only three players with more than 15 games played are on the minus side of the plus-minus numbers, two of them (Ryan Shannon and Dustin Penner) having fewer than 50 games of experience each.
All of that almost makes goaltending an afterthought . . . yeah, we Caps fans wish. Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Ilya Bryzgalov make up what might be the most formidable goaltending duo in the league. Pick your poison . . . Giguere, 2.11 GAA; Bryzgalov, 2.19 . . . Giguere, .925 save percentage; Bryzgalov, .909 . . . Giguere, 17-2-5; Bryzgalov, 3-1-1. Maybe head coach Randy Carlyle will take it easy on his old club and dress Michael Wall (1-0, 3.00, .864).
But on the other side of the ice, the Caps have won four in a row. And none have been fluky. They’ve outscored Tampa Bay, Dallas, Buffalo, and Ottawa by 22-11 in that stretch, getting timely scoring from all over the roster (12 players have scored the 22 goals) and excellent netminding from Olaf Kolzig (2.75, .929 over the four game streak). The one thing the Caps have done well in this four-game streak – well, one of the things they’ve done well – is start fast. They’ve outscored their opponents by a combined 9-1 in the first period in the four games, scored first in every game, and led at the first intermission in every game. And, those nine first period goals have come from some unlikely sources – Alex Ovechkin has one, but Chris Clark and Richard Zednik have two apiece, with the others coming from Kris Beech, Bryan Muir, Ben Clymer, and Matt Bradley.
What the Caps have done lately is what they will have to do to win this game – get off fast, get balanced scoring, get solid goaltending and defensive play, and give a full 60 minutes worth of effort (gee, like that’s news on how to win games, eh, Mr. Peerless?).
And that’s just what The Peerless expects tonight, as the Ducks waddle off the ice with the fourth regulation loss entered into their record book . . .
Caps 3 – Ducks 2.