Tuesday, January 09, 2007
The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Flyers, January 9th
The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! . . .
Tonight, we are brought to you by Quickie, the best in all-purpose brooms.
The Caps face a challenge and an opportunity tonight in their contest with the visiting Philadelphia Flyers. First, they can sweep the season series against their long-time rivals for the first time since . . . well, ever. Second, this is the “getaway” game of the home stand, the last one before the boys embark on a four game road trip. If the boys could get two points to give them six of eight on this home stand, they could find themselves right back in the thick of the mix as they start on their pre-All Star Game push.
Since the last time the Flyers visited Verizon Center on December 16th, they’ve played something like SOS hockey . . . L-L-L-L . . . W-W-W . . . L-L-L. The trouble is, that 3-7-0 record in their those ten games is just about the points pace they’ve put up all year. It is an historically bad year for the Flyers, a pace that would leave them with the worst record in their history (their 51-point pace would eclipse, if that’s the right word, their 58 point effort in 1969-1970 under the steady hand of the legendary Vic Stasiuk).
It’s not as if the Flyers have played well and been unlucky. Look at the numbers over these last ten games . . .
Power play: 6-47 (12.8 percent)
Penalty kill: 47-56 (83.9 percent . . . ok, that’s decent, but they sure get enough practice)
Outshot: 381-268 . . . good heavens, they’re being outshot by more than 11 shots a game, almost four shots a period! They could wall off the goal with bricks and mortar and still not win games with that kind of performance.
And, for the season . . .
Goals/game for: 29th
Goals/game against: 30th
Power play: 28th
Penalty kill: 7th
Shots/game for: 22nd
Shots/game against: 26th
Winning % when scoring first: T-26th
Winning % when scored upon first: 30th
-- Their top scorer – Simon Gagne – is tied for 72nd
-- They have no . . . NO players who are “plus” for the year with the club (Alexei Zhitnik, who is +5 for the year, is -8 in 11 games since being traded to Philadelphia) . . . no player who has played at least 30 games is better than -5.
-- They’ve been outscored at even strength, 112-66.
They’ve been beaten – often – and beat up (Peter Forsberg has had a plethora of injuries, and their goalies have fought of a variety of ailments).
The Flyers, in a word . . . suck.
And even with all that, the Caps could lose this game . . . why? Several reasons:
Herb Brooks . . . yeah, that one. The one who once said of his team, “you don’t have enough talent to win on talent alone.” And, the Caps don’t. They can beat the best the East has to offer if they bring their “A” game (as they did against Buffalo earlier this year). They can lose to the worst – or close to it – if they don’t (as they did to the Islanders). If the Caps don’t bring their “A” game and the Flyers get a spark early, they could make things needlessly rough on themselves.
Focus . . . this is the getaway game before a road trip. Sometimes, there is just that little hint of looking ahead.
Luck . . . one got the impression last Saturday that Alex Ovechkin and/or Alexander Semin could have had more goals than the three with which they finished the game. Pucks hopped over and past their sticks all night (might have been a result of the effects on the ice of a basketball game played earlier that day). It happens, it’s hockey.
But, there is no reason the Caps should – on paper – lose this game. And, to put it bluntly, any team with any designs on competing for a playoff spot has to jump on a team like this early and stand on their throats, especially a team playing the last game of an eight-game road trip. The Caps are on a bit of a mini-roll after a slump. Alexander Semin has four goals in the last two games, Dainius Zubrus chipped in a pair himself, and Alexander Ovechkin broke a five-game goal scoring slump the last time out. The stars are aligned for a big night for this club.
But nothing is a given.
Caps 6 – Flyers 1.