Monday, November 06, 2006

The First "Old Man's Major Award" Award!

Ladies and gentlemen, it's time. Time to bestow the first "Old Man's Major Award" Award -- OMMAA -- to a worthy Capital.

The ballot boxes have been unstuffed, the bribes collected, the votes tallied, the chads swept up. And the winner is . . .

. . . a player who exudes cantankerosity, a player who can scowl with the best, who lives each day in the constant befuddlement of what his youngers are up to, who soldiers on every day with a litany of profanities that are charming in their incomprehensibility, an "everyman" sort of player who would just as soon repair the furnace in a suit jacket and vest as he would take a double shift on the power play.

Ladies and gentlemen, the inaugural recipient of the OMMAA is (drum roll please) . . . .

Jamie Heward!

Congratulations . . . display it proudly and prominently!

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!! -- Caps vs. Senators, November 6th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!

We are coming to you li-i-i-i-i-i-ve from my keyboard where we bring you the first “BCS” – Bettman Championship Series – poll of the young season. The sister (it sure ain’t its brother) of its similar poll in college football, the BCS poll is a product of several variables:

-- Sharp uniforms . . . Nothing makes a hockey team like a sharp dressed man. “Old school” need not apply. Teams should make use of pastels where possible, a splash of color on the sleeves and maybe on the hem of the jersey.

-- A lack of intestinal fortitude . . . you have a better chance of polling high if you’ve dropped a purse than if you’ve dropped a glove. If you’ve raised a hand in anger against your fellow hockeyist (“hockey player” is just so 90’s), you can forget racing to the top of the BCS standings.

-- Being “special” . . . yes, we’re all “special” but some teams are more “special” than others (“special” is always in quotes in the BCS to show how “special” a club or a player is). It’s all about the power play in the BCS. Five-on-five is something for black-and-white highlights from 1953.

-- Photogeneity . . . in the BCS, you’d better have players that have a “good side” for their photo shoots. Be they posing shirtless for a photo spread or donning uniform for a commercial shoot in household settings, you’d better be ready with an impish smile and a shock of unruly hair to make it in the BCS.

-- Frugality . . . sure there’s a salary cap, but it’s not like you should actually spend up to it. Teams at the top are plucky sorts who make due with payrolls a lot less than that of the left side of the Yankee infield.

With all this in mind, here is the first BCS ranking of the season:

  1. Buffalo Sabres. The slug roolz! And it has that sick, lemon curd yellow color kids adore. Add to the fact that the Sabres appear populated by a collection of munchkins, and they are the unanimous choice of me to sit in the top spot.
  2. Pittsburgh Penguins. Please…the crooked smile of the precocious Sidney Crosby keeps this pollster up at night subscribing on line to Vanity Fair and ordering Reebok apparel. To that, add the mysterious Evgeni Malkin and the puppy-dog-chasing-a-car Marc-Andre Fleury, and the Pens mop up in the “awwwww” factor category.
  3. New York Rangers. The team with the “That Girl” buzz, they get pushed around all over the place, but still manage to assemble a winning record. Tom Renney looks like an assistant principal behind the bench, but the rest of the club, decked out in all-American red, white, and blue, just screams “USAUSA” or "BCS...BCS," take your pick.
  4. Anaheim Ducks. A surprise entry, mostly on the strength of J-S Giguere, who was an extra in "The Fifth Element." But with players with wholesome names like “Scott” and “Chris” and “Rob,” how can they not be in the top five? Besides, and club with a “Teemu” is a threat to crack this list.
  5. New York Islanders. The surprise of the first poll, but with one – count ‘em, one – fighting major so far this year, and the last club to earn one, the Islanders are the epitome of what the Bettman Championship Series is all about.

As for tonight’s contest, the Caps are facing one of those “benchmark” games. The Ottawa Senators are not the Senators of the past few years, at least in this early going – 5-7-0 (10 points, 14th in the Eastern Conference) – but they remain a dangerous team, capable of lighting up an opponent.

If one looks at the Senators’ team statistics, one scratches one’s head (we’re going for the world land speed record for the use of the word “one” in a single sentence). Why is this club 14th in the East? 15th in goals-per-game, 7th in goals-against . . . 3rd in 5-on-5 goals for/goals against ration . . . 3rd in penalty killing . . . ah, here we are – dead last in power play: 8.4 percent. Add to that the fact that the Senators are 20th in total man advantages (24th on the road), and one gets a glimpse as to one of the things contributing to the Senators’ troubles – four power play goals on the road -- in the early going in the Bettman Hockey League.

Two Senators with great big bulls eyes on them are Daniel Alfredsson and Andrei Meszaros. Alfredsson, who was 43-60-103 last year, is only 2-5-7 in 12 games so far this year and is the subject of trade rumors. Meszaros, who was a +34 last year, is a -5 this year – last on the club (only two “plus” games out of 12) -- although he continues to get major minutes of ice time.

The Caps, on the other hand, are one of the early surprises at 5-4-4. The things fans would have been concerned about – defense, special teams – continue to be areas of concern, but they are improvements over last year. One other area of concern is balance. Alex Ovechkin, Chris Clark, and Dainius Zubrus – in that order – lead the club in scoring. Alex Semin is fourth, but he’s in the midst of a five-game scoreless streak, and he’s been moved to the fourth line. The Caps are getting almost nothing from anyone else offensively. Enter Tomas Flesichmann.

Fleischmann was inserted on the second line with Jakub Klepis and Matt Pettinger against the Flyers to help jump start the second line, and he had a couple of decent scoring opportunities. But that line reflects a problem the Caps have. If the Caps had a sturdier, more consistently productive center on that line, Alex Semin is probably moved back to that line, and Fleischmann moves to the right side. But a line of Semin-Klepis-Fleischmann is at once too young for major minutes and responsibilities (115 games of experience among them) and is far too lacking in physical play – even in this league – to be effective.

The Caps have an opportunity here. Back home, against an opponent that can be dangerous (and has been in VerMCIzon Center). It’s an opportunity to put some distance between themselves and .500, to win consecutive games for the first time this year, and to move up a bit in the standings.

The Peerless likes the arc of the Caps' improvement so far this year and sees this as a game by which to mark their progress. In the end . . .

Caps 4 – Senators 3.