Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!! -- Caps vs. Flyers, November 4th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE . . .

. . . shhhhhhhhh, not so loud. We’re still getting out from under that adventure in suckitude last night (not to mention a couple bottles of Mad Dog 20/20 to “celebrate”). Let’s just leave that 4-3 loss to Atlanta where it belongs . . .

Tonight . . . uh . . . tonight, it’s the Flyers of Philadelphia in the City of Cheesesteakery Love. We’re here talking with some Caps fans about the boys and their chances against the East’s least . . .

Sir, what’s your name . . .

“Uh . . . you can call me ‘Rico.’”

Well, Rico, what do you think of the boys so far?

“I like what I see, but they are missing something . . . a guy with a lot of speed with a little bit of whisker under his lower lip.”

You mean, like Rico Fa- . . . hey, wait a minute!

“oops, gotta go . . . “

Let’s get a real fan in here . . . Sir, what’s your name?

“Some folks call me ‘Dub.””

Well, Dub . . . and I must say, you travel with a lot of well-dressed, burly men in sunglasses . . . what do you think of the Caps so far?

“Well, I think all this talk about changing di-rec-tion and redeploying players is wrong. I’m not saying that Caps fans who want Eric Fehr or Tomas Fleischmann or Coco to replace Slapshot aren’t patriotic Cap fans – heh-heh…heh-heh – they’re just wrong. The Caps have to stay the course to get the job done. If you bring some of the Bears down to Washington, the Phantoms will just follow them here.”

Sir, what in heaven’s name are you saying? That has to be the most cockamamie, idiotic . . . wait, wait a minute . . . hey, lemme go! LET ME G-mmph…mmnph….HEL-L-L-L-L-L-L-L-P!

“Ever been to Cuba this time of year?”

FILED EARLIER TODAY – The Caps get to change their luck tonight against a team for which nothing has gone as planned this year – the Philadelphia Flyers. It’s hard to find a glimmer of light in their statistics so far:

Wins: 3 (tied for 27th and last with three other clubs)

Points: 7 (29th)

Goals-per-game: 2.00 (30th)

Goals-against-per-game: 3.92 (29th)

5-on-5 goals for-against ratio: 0.48 (30th)

Power Play: 8.1% (30th)

Penalty Kill: 86.9% (9th…they’re actually one of the least penalized teams in the league)

Record in last nine: 2-7-0

Number of general managers replaced: 1 (1st)

Number of coaches replaced: 1 (1st)

Number of angry fans showing up at Wachovia Center: don’t know, but it’s gotta be first

They’ve already given up eight goals in a game (at home to Pittsburgh) and nine in a game (at Buffalo) . . . Peter Forsberg got tossed from a game against Tampa Bay last time out, on Thursday, right in the middle of a comeback try by the Flyers . . . they’re beat up (Mike Knuble, Boyd Kane, Jeff Carter, and Randy Robitaille have a variety of injuries).

The Flyers aren’t 3-8-1 by accident.

If there was a chance for the Caps – they of the 16-game winless streak in South Philly (they have one measly point) – to end a miserable chapter in their recent history, tonight affords them perhaps the best chance they’ll ever have. The key is getting a jump on the Flyers to take the fans out of the game and turn them on the home club. The Flyers have been more than accommodating in that regard to opponents this year, having been outscored in the first and second periods by a 34-15 margin. Couple that with an inability to come back in games (no standings points earned in games where they trailed after two periods), and it is essential that the Caps get a lead, and (here’s the key part) . . . KEEP A LEAD! Actually, if you have other plans this evening, it might interest you to know that the first period probably holds the key . . . neither team has a win when trailing after the first period (and only one has a victory when giving up the first goal – Washington). This game could be “decided” early, one way or another.

Folks, it’s the resistible force meeting the moveable object. It will not be pretty; it will serve to populate no highlight film. But in the end, there will be something said for, “it’s not how, it’s how many.”

Caps 6 – Flyers 4.

The Peerless' Morning After -- Caps vs. Thrashers

Flat . . . they were so flat for the last 30 minutes, you could have poured maple syrup on them and had them for breakfast.

And that’s what is so infuriating. For the first 26 minutes of the game, they played some really fine hockey. The got a nice goal – a scorer’s goal – from Dainius Zubrus pouncing on a succulent rebound from Thrasher goalie Johan Hedberg. They got a shorthanded goal from a streaking Chris Clark, who took advantage of an indifferent attempt to collect the puck by a Thrasher player to pick up the biscuit, skate in alone on Hedberg, and snap the puck into the twine.

But here was the key play of the game at 6:14 of the second period . . . a holding call on Glen Metropolit. Here was the chance to put the game away, to end the competitive part of the contest and let Thrasher Coach Bob Hartley go all whiny and chippy for the last 30 minutes.

And the Caps gagged. They had no shots on goal recorded in the two minutes, and they sent three netward . . . one was blocked by J-P Vigier, Richard Zednik sent one wide, and Kris Beech missed over the top of the net. That was it. A little more than three minutes after the penalty expired, Jon Sim (he of the “I wish every game was against the Caps” Jon Sim) rifled a nifty pass from Ilya Kovalchuk almost through the back of a wide-open net to halve the Caps’ lead.

From there, the Caps played as if their skates had no blade under their toes . . . they were back on their heels. It’s a pity, too, because it wasn’t as if Atlanta played an inspired game. They played as if they came into the building slumming, trying to play just well enough for a win, which is pretty much what they did.

The Caps wasted what was a fine offensive effort from Dainius Zubrus, who had two goals and who continues to show an aggressiveness on offense that has heretofore been unseen in his tenure as a Capital.

The Caps are, as yet, a team that does not have a talent to address adversity very well. They’ve shown an ability to withstand other teams getting a lead and then scratching back, but they haven’t really developed either the killer instinct to put a game away when it’s on their stick, nor have they developed the fortitude to deal with the change in momentum when a club begins to mount a comeback, themselves. Such was the case last night. The Caps looked ill equipped to deal with the Thrashers getting their first goal and swinging the momentum in their direction. Two more goals in 3:17 later, and the Caps were behind.

While that point is where the Caps switched into comeback mode, it should not have come to that. They should have put the game away, or at least maintained the momentum through pressure, on the power play following the Metropolit penalty. But the weak effort gave the Thrashers reason to think they could come back and eat into the most dangerous lead in hockey, the two-goal lead.

The Caps will get a chance to correct this problem against an inferior opponent this evening in Philadelphia. But this was a divisional opponent, one who had taken two extra-time decisions from the Caps already this young season. It was two points the Caps had on their plate and a chance to eat into the Thrashers’ standings lead.

They gave them away. This was a step backward.