Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!! -- Caps vs. Bruins, November 18th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!

Geez, this back-to-back stuff is hard on the fingers typing all this crap. The Peerless is thinking some soothing music is in order . . .

“Dude . . . fire up the iPod!”

Steve? Shouldn’t you be on a plane to Boston?

“Hey, it’s plot development . . . I’m fictionally there.”

Uh, OK . . . you got any Beethoven in there?

“Comin’ right up . . . how about the Eroica?”

Well, sure . . . I thought you guys were into a different sort of music.

“That? . . . oh, that was just for that DC Sports Bog guy’s benefit. We dig this stuff . . . hey, hey, Muirsie, not the von Karajan, the Solti version . . . what are you, nuts?”

“Solti?! . . . geez, Emmer, why go Chicago when you can go Berlin?”

“Hey, hey, hey . . . who put that crap on?!” (oh, geez, here comes Erskine … this could be ugly) “you don’t listen to Beethoven first thing in the morning; where’s the Mozart?”


“Yeah . . . a little Die Zauberflöte is just the thing on a quiet morning.”

“Dude . . . Mozart is last week, we need something to wake up.”

“Herrrrrrrrrrrre’s Johnny . . . I got just the thing . . . “ (ok, so now here’s Brent Johnson)

“Geez, Johnny, no . . . we don’t want to hear the Berlioz again. Every time you watch ‘The Shining,’ we have to hear that witches sabbath junk for a week . . . “

While these guys are fighting over who gets control of the iPod, let’s look at tonight’s contest between the Caps and the Bruins in Boston . . .

The Caps come off a couple of disappointments – a 3-2 shootout loss to Boston on Wednesday and a 4-1 loss to Carolina last night, both at home. For this, the boys’ third game in four nights, they head out on the road. It isn’t the stuff of dreams, but it’s a chance to get all ornery and take out the week’s frustrations on what would seem to be an inferior opponent. But the B’s have hit their stride of late, coming into this contest on a three-game winning streak (something the Caps have not accomplished to date this season). Seeing as how the scores in those games were, in order, 4-3, 3-2, and 2-1, it is tempting, given The Peerless’ predilection toward numbers, to predict a 1-0 Bruin win. We’ll get to that later.

In those three games – in which the Bruins scored eight actual hockey goals (and a Bettman special of the shootout variety) – Phil Kessel, Patrice Bergeron, and Glen Murray have potted a pair apiece. Seeing as how those three generally play on three separate lines, one could say they are striking a blow for balance.

The Bruins’ power play certainly hasn’t been the root of their three-game success, not at 2-16 (12.5 percent). And their penalty kill, while an improvement over their still ghastly 75.8 percent for the season (29th) hasn’t been earth-shaking at 82.4 percent in these last three games, either (14-for-17).

They’ve pretty much done it through attention to overall defense and goaltending . . . six goals on 88 shots allowed.

For the Caps, The Peerless has an idea . . . find another sponsor for the power play. This Pepco Energy Services Power Play thing isn’t working. In their last five games, 3-for-28 (10.7 percent), although they have registered a power play goal in each of the last three games.

Here is your stat to ponder . . . Alexander Ovechkin has not been held off the scoresheet in consecutive games this season. He was held without a point last evening (as he was in the last game in Carolina – in games not against Carolina this year, he’s registered a point in 13 of 16 games). He gets to wear Zdeno Chara on his name plate again this evening – a guy Ovechkin often finds difficulty playing against.

So that means . . . who else steps up? In the last ten games, the Caps have scored 26 goals. The top line of Ovechkin-Zubrus-Clark has 15 of those goals. Toss in the four contributed by Matt Pettinger, and what we’re left with is this . . . The other 14 skaters on the team have contributed seven goals . . . in ten games . . . and one goal – one – from a defenseman (Shaone Morrisson).

The lack of goals from defensemen is a bit troubling (five in all this season), but perhaps not surprising. Steve Eminger (none) is young and is probably still in that “learning when to jump into a play” stage. Mike Green, ditto (but he – with two goals – seems a bit further along). That Brian Pother has none so far isn’t as surprising as it might seem at first blush – he’s never scored more than five in a year. But what all this means is that clubs might be inclined to pack themselves in (is it me, of do a lot of shots from Caps forwards end up ricocheting off opponents?). If the Caps can establish a threat of any kind from the blueline, forwards might see a bit more clear ice.

This is one of those games a club has to find a way to grind out. It’s the third game in four nights, on the road, against a team on a bit of a hot streak facing your backup goaltender (assuming Johnson gets the start). Some call that a recipe for disappointment. The Peerless calls it, “made to order.”

Caps 2 – Bruins 1.

The Morning After -- Caps vs. 'Canes

5-0 . . . 4-1.

That, folks, is the difference between knowing how to do a thing and learning how to do a thing.

It serves little use to try to assign “blame” to any player or aspect of the Caps game in the 4-1 whupping they took at the hands of Carolina last night. Suffice it to say, Carolina is better and leave it at that. Carolina has earned – as if a Stanley Cup isn’t enough to demonstrate – their advanced degree in “hockey.” The Caps are still, in many respects, a group of underclassmen.

If it wasn’t the Caps on the other end of the scoreboard, it could be said that it was a treat to watch the ‘Canes play the game they played – patient, efficient, effective. I had the feeling after about ten minutes of the first period that it was just a matter of time. The difference in the teams came down to this – the Caps spent a lot of energy chasing the play, the Hurricanes spent their time letting the play come to them. They owned the puck, they tilted the ice toward Olaf Kolzig, they had an answer for everything the Caps tried.

That’s not to say that the Hurricanes were dominating in the Buffalo beating Philly, 9-1 sense. They weren’t. They played the game they had to play on the road to win – excellent team defense and opportunistic offense. When finally presented with chances – gift wrapped in the form of four power plays in the second – they took advantage, netting two goals in 1:46. Game over, drive safely.

The stats of the night for the Caps, in an odd way, belong to Alex Ovechkin – 18:48 and three. That would be ice time and shots on goal. He had only five shifts in the second, one of those in the last 21 seconds of the period. Hard to make a difference sitting on the bench.

I don’t feel nearly as bad about this loss as I do the shootout loss to Boston, an opponent the Caps should have buried (and frankly, should bury tonight). If Carolina plays at or close to the top of their game, and the Caps do likewise, Carolina is going to win most games. That’s just a fact of life at this stage of the teams’ respective states of development. But the Caps competed. They didn’t play as if in awe of these guys (they outhit them, 24-16, although Carolina isn’t generally a team given to a lot of hitting). John Erskine and Alex Ovechkin led with three hits apiece, but even Richard Zednik got in on the fun with three of his own. But that isn’t much solace when you get only 22 shots on goal, only four of those from your second line (Semin, Beech, Pettinger).

This goes into the category of “lesson given, lesson learned.”