Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Panthers, February 27th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

A special Deadline Day edition of the prognosto . . .

At this writing the Caps have dealt Richard Zednik to the Islanders for a 2007 second round pick and Lawrence Nycholat to Ottawa for a 2007 sixth round pick and defenseman Andy Hedlund, who looks thrilled to be a Cap.

By the time the Caps take the ice against Florida this evening, the club might have said its farewells to Dainius Zubrus and Jamie Heward as well. It promises to be a busy day, or not.

As for tonight’s opponent, the Florida Panthers are what begin and end the month for the Caps. Since losing to the Panthers on February 1st by a 6-3 margin, the Panthers have been treading water, going 4-3-3. While the Panthers have outscored opponents by a thin 27-25 margin over those ten games, they have had problems on special teams . . .

- fewer power play opportunities than opponents: 41 for, 53 against

- fewer power play goals: 5 for, 12 against

- lower power play conversion rate: 12.2 percent for, 22.6 percent against (77.4 percent penalty kill)

More than one-fourth of the goal scoring has come from a single player in this stretch, but it’s not who you might think. Olli Jokinen has been held comparatively quiet at 3-5-8, +2 over the last ten games. Nathan Horton, though, has been on quite a streak. He is 7-4-11, +3 over these last ten games. The Peerless wonders if a new Panther line is going to be formed.

If the Panthers have been treading water, the Caps have been thrashing in the deep end of the pool. They are 3-5-3 since last they saw the Panthers, and only a 4-2 win against the Devils last Saturday can qualify as a “quality” win. It is a team in disarray at the moment – Alex Ovechkin is 2-2-4, -4 in 11 games since the last meeting against the Panthers, Alexander Semin was benched in his last game for lackadaisical play (he’s 3-2-5, over the same stretch), Chris Clark was injured (shoulder) in the San Jose contest (he was 2-1-3, -4 in this stretch up to that point), and Dainius Zubrus has “trade me” stenciled to his forehead (2-3-5, -5). So much for the “big four.”

If there has been a bright spot, it’s been the play of goalie Brent Johnson in relief of the injured Olaf Kolzig. He has a 1-3-2 record since taking over the top spot, but he is also 2.61, .911 in those games. That the Caps have scored only 24 goals in the 11 games since playing Florida (only 15 in six games since Johnson took over) goes a long way to explaining the win-loss record. So does special teams play . . . four power play goals in 39 chances (10.3 percent) and giving up 12 in 48 shorthanded situations (75.0 percent penalty kill) isn’t a recipe for winning.

All of that said, The Peerless thinks this game will be ugly. Re-e-e-e-eal ugly. And, bad as the special teams have been for both teams, none of them will be a factor. Brent Johnson will be . . .

Caps 1 – Panthers 0.

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