The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!
The Caps – 6-14-0 in their last 20 games – visit the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are 10-2-2 in their last 14 games, 7-0-1 in their last eight. The Penguins have done just about every thing right over the last five weeks. The basics:
- Record: 10-2-2
- Goals for/against: 56 / 33 (4.00 / 2.36)
- Power Play: 25 / 70 (35.7 percent)
- Penalty Kill: 58 / 68 (85.3 percent)
- 14 skaters share in the 56 goals scored
- In four of their last eight games, they have scored five or more goals
- The big guns are roaring: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Mark Recchi each have eight goals in the last 14 games
- The Penguins start strong. In 14 games they’ve outscored the opposition 15-7 in the first period.
- The finish strong, too. In the third period, they’ve outscored opponents 22-10.
- The third period has been among the more noteworthy things in their run – only twice in 14 games were they held off the scoreboard (they won one and lost the other in a shootout).
- Scoring first seems not to matter much. In eight of the 14 games the Penguins scored first. They were 6-1-1 in those games. In games where the opponent scored first, the Penguins were 4-1-1 . . .
. . . but leading after one does. The Penguins carried a lead into the first intermission nine times. They were 8-0-1.
The Penguins have been a finely-tuned six-cylinder engine over the last 14 games:
- Sidney Crosby: 8-19-27, -4
- Evgeni Malkin: 8-13-21, +5
- Mark Recchi: 8-9-17, even
- Jordan Staal: 6-4-10, +10
- Ryan Whitney: 4-11-15, +4
- Sergei Gonchar: 4-10-14, even
Although The Peerless wonders . . . how can one score 27 points in 14 games, and still be -4? Answer – don’t let the Penguins get the man advantage.
But for all those gaudy numbers among the skaters, the difference in the last 14 for the Penguins is this . . .
9-1-2, 2.11, .932
Those are the numbers for goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who over this stretch is giving the Penguins the results they expect from a number one overall pick. To the extent the Penguins can keep this up, it will be the extent to which Fleury can maintain this, or close to this level of play.
Mellon Arena has been
for the Caps for more than a decade. The Caps lost in an embarrassing fashion in the teams’ first meeting this year, giving up a 4-0 lead on their own ice in a 5-4 shootout loss. The Caps, who have been plagued by poor starts in games in their seven week slide and poor overall defense, are looked at in many quarters as being the guests of honor for a ritual sacrifice. It has all the makings of a rout.
The Peerless doesn’t do routs for the other club. The Caps have managed to conjure up excellent efforts against good teams all year. The Caps have to consider the Penguins a good team, or at the very least a decent team playing excellent hockey.
The keys are these:
- Avoid the slow start; play the Penguins at least even for the first 20 minutes – conservative hockey
- Bring the packing materials. No, not to help the Penguins move to
- Do not get into a special teams fight. Five-on-five to stay alive.
- No lead is safe. If the December 11th game doesn’t drive that point home, the Penguins’ 22 goals in the third period in their last 14 games had better.
The over-under here is seven. If the total goals in this game is seven or more, chances are the Caps are on the short side of that number. So . . .
Caps 3 – Penguins 2.