Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR! . . . Opening Night, October 5th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

We’re here, live – which sure beats “dead” – in New York for opening night on this, the 2006-2007 National Hockey League season. And the red carpet is out, upon which will tread luminaries from the world of hockey, the solar system of sport, the galaxy of entertainment, the galactic cluster of celebrity, and the odd moon from Ranger fans.

The Caps are visiting the New York Rangers, the people’s (well, Larry Brooks’) choice as the prohibitive favorite to capture the Stanley Cup and take it on a pub crawl next summer. And the limos are lining up as we inch closer to the drop of the puck inside the storied arena . . .

Why, here is Donald Trump, real estate magnate, television personality, and a man for whom his hair serves as an engineering marvel of which NASA can only dream – The Donald, himself . . . “You can call me, ‘The’”

Well, it’s a pleasure to see you, The . . . I take it you’re a big hockey fan.

“Always have been . . . even played some. You think these teeth are mine?"

And what fine teeth they are . . . what do you like most about the game, The?

“Gotta be the refs . . . I’m a big fan of Kerry Fraser.”

Well, I can see why . . . thanks for stopping by, The.

And here is the famous-for-being-famous Paris Hilton . . . Paris, I guess after duking it out with a beauty queen at a club the other night, I’m guessing your favorite part of hockey is the fights . . . Paris? . . . uh, Paris? . . . is anyone home in there? . . . Bueller? . . . Bueller? . . .

OK, well . . . here is Simon Cowell, the unsparingly blunt and caustic judge of “American Idol” . . . Simon, so you’re a big hockey fan . . .

“Well, that has to be the most inane question I’ve heard since the cabbie asked, ‘where to, buddy?’ I’m not here to admire the stunning architecture of this hat box on steroids” . . .

Uh, yeah . . . so, Rangers? Caps? Who do you see winning tonight?

“Who? Oh, yes, the sides playing tonight . . . actually, I couldn’t care less. I’m just here to promote my next exciting reality show, “The NHL’s Got Talent” . . .

And here’s Regis Philbin . . . Hey, Rege . . .

“Stop that crook, Cowell . . . he owes me money for being a judge on his lame talent show!”

Well, enough of the B-List stars, what about the game? The Caps come in limping with Dainius Zubrus still on the mend from a knee injury and Matt Pettinger in the “week-to-week” category with the always fearsome "upper body injury." It will give fans a chance to see Rico Fata skate like the wind and shoot like a pee-wee with his helmet on backwards, and it will give Jakub Klepis a chance to see if he can get some minutes on one of the top two lines. Fans will be eagerly awaiting news on whether the “Alex Squared” power play can generate some excitement or not, and will be looking to have an early answer to the matter of whether Alexander Ovechkin’s failure to score a goal in the preseason was a product of precaution (the club treated him gingerly in the exhibition phase) or is a harbinger of a sophomore slump.

The Rangers come in as a team with some questions – is Jaromir Jagr anything close to healthy? Is Henrik Lundqvist past his hip and migraine problems, and is he still “King Henrik” or just the “Hank from the Beer League” he looked to be last spring? Can fewer Czechs mean fewer wins?

Here is The Peerless Prognostication . . .

Ovechkin, who has a flair for the dramatic, will score early on one of sports’ biggest stages.

Olaf Kolzig will frustrate the Rangers.

Brendan Shanahan will enjoy a fine Ranger debut, but Jagr will have a quiet night.

Marek Malik will not have an opportunity to try any more trick shots.

The Caps will skate off with a 3-2 win.

The Peerless’ Three Star Prediction . . .

First Star: Olaf Kolzig
Second Star: Brendan Shanahan
Third Star: Alex Ovechkin

Alex and "The Hump"

I was reading Tarik El-Bashir's column on the Caps in this morning's Washington Post in which he wrote about Alex Ovechkin being one piece of the puzzle. Hockey being what it is, even the best of skaters play not much more than a third of any game. And that's the trouble with the Caps. Once you get past Ovechkin, there isn't anyone who can be called a dominant player.

The kid needs help.

So, when is it coming, George? Well, here's the money quote . . .

"You have to get to the hump before you can get over it . . . We'll add the right pieces at the right time. We'll have to see when that time comes, whether it's late this season or early next season."

As a fan, that tells me that McPhee is putting down a marker. The time is coming, this year or next, when the rebuild is going to be at a point where adding free agents or securing other assets -- not prospects or draft picks -- in trade is going to arrive. The timing is important, since next year Ovechkin will be in the last year of his entry deal, and Olaf Kolzig will be another year older.

Fans have been patient, and even though they don't write the checks for talent, they do for tickets. They aren't going to want to hear, "wait, be patient," forever. The time is coming.

Fans will be watching.