Friday, December 29, 2006

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Devils, December 29th

First to score wins…

If there is one statistic that matters in the game this evening between the Caps and the New Jersey Devils, that’s the one. Why? Because both teams suck at coming from behind. Washington is 28th in the league in winning percentage when scored upon first, New Jersey 24th. If you’re worried about missing the next exciting episode of “Shark” this evening at 8:00 on CBS, don’t be. This game could be settled in the first ten minutes, thus leaving you free for an evening of exciting prime time viewing entertainment, brought to you by the same folks who made “CSI” a four-letter word.

Here’s another nugget to chew on . . . The Caps have six shorthanded goals this year (tied for 8th in the league); the Devils have given up eight shorties (tied for second most). Paging Chris Clark . . . Paging Brooks Laich . . .

And one thing you’re not likely to see . . . a Caps power play goal. First, the Devils have the fewest shorthanded situations in the league this year by a wide margin (more than 12 percent fewer than second place Tampa Bay). Second, they’re killing off 88.2 percent of those situations . . . 16 power play goals allowed this year.

The Caps are in a plum-pudding addled funk at the moment, following up a 7-1-1 run with a 1-4-0 skid. Part of the five game slide is health (Richard Zednik, Shaone Morrisonn, John Erskine, Matt Bradley, Bryan Muir), part of it is just a lack of results (Matt Pettinger: 0-0-0, -3; Brian Sutherby: 0-1-1, -2, 30.3 percent on faceoffs; Jakub Klepis: 0-0-0, -4; Brian Pothier: 0-0-0, -4; and even with a 3-3-6 line, Alex Ovechkin is -3).

More odd numbers . . .

In this five game slide, the Caps – heretofore thought of as a decent even strength team – have only five even strength goals (six power play and a shorthanded goal make up the rest of the total of 12 goals). They’ve given up 14 goals at even strength.

They’ve give up at least four goals in four of the five games.

Of the 12 goals they’ve scored, eight have come off the sticks of the top line of Ovechkin, Dainius Zubrus, and Clark; two others from Alexander Semin – the usual suspects. But the Caps have gotten scoring from virtually no one else (four goals – two from Kris Beech, one each from Bryan Muir and Jamie Heward . . . please note the utter lack of contributions from the third or fourth lines there).

Chalk things up to injuries if you like, but what the injuries have done is expose the Caps lack of depth. And, they’re just not playing well . . . for example, Matt Pettinger hasn’t scored a point in his last eight games and is -5 over that span; Jakub Klepis has no points in his last nine and is -4; Brian Sutherby hasn’t scored a goal in more than two months.

The Caps get fairly consistent production from the top line; Alexander Semin has the scorer’s streakiness but has good numbers as well. However, the Caps live and die by the contributions the other guys make at both ends of the ice. No one is expecting Brian Sutherby to become Jason Spezza, or Matt Pettinger to become Jarome Iginla, but to the extent the Caps aren’t getting consistent production from players such as these (and they’re not the only examples), they’re not getting consistent results. For the Caps to win tonight, it is as likely going to be a product of what these guys do as it is what Alexander Ovechkin or Alexander Semin – guys with bulls eyes on their backs – do.

Those are the guys to watch and the guys who will come through tonight . . .

Caps 3 – Devils 2.

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