The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
As we prepare for this evening’s contest against the Atlanta Thrashers, we go to our mail bag to take the pulse of the fan during this difficult time for the Capitals . . .
First up is a letter from a fan in
“Dear Peerless…You’ve been watching the Caps for a few years now, and I know that they’re having trouble, but tell me – is it contagious or something? I mean really, 84 runs in 12 games…you’d think Olie Kolzig was pitching.”
No, Manny, it’s not contagious, it’s the water.
Next up is a fan from
“Dear Peerless . . . Stop. No, really. Stop. We’re running out of players here. That stupid bear is going to start in goal against
Well, Bruce, The Peerless doesn’t have a line to George McPhee, but if it’ll help, I can see about the club sending Slapshot down if they bring up Steckel.
And finally, a letter from the District . . .
“Dear Peerless . . . I wanted to take this opportunity to update our plan-holders and fans regarding the moves we made at the NHL trade deadline involving chicken tenders, dippin’ dots, personal pizzas, and soft pretzels. First and foremost, all of these decisions were made for food reasons, not financial ones. Our decisions were solely based on what was best for the hungry hockey fan . . . “
George? George? . . . stop. Enough with the letters.
Meanwhile, the Thrashers come into tonight’s game having apparently righted their ship. In danger of falling out of the top-eight two weeks ago when they were mired in a 2-7-2 run, they ran of five wins in a row before losing at Florida on Saturday, 3-2. In the last half-dozen games that the Thrashers have played, they have managed to outscore the opposition 22-12 in going 5-1. It is quite the reversal of fortune for a club that had been outscored by opponents 43-28 in the 11 previous games.
The difference in special teams has been noteworthy. The Thrashers’ power play has converted 6 of 32 chances in their last six games (18.8 percent) versus 6-of-44 in their previous 11 (13.6 percent). The penalty killers have retired 25-of-28 shorthanded situations over their last six games (89.3 percent) versus 32-of-45 in their previous 11 games (71.1 percent). It is the difference between being outscored by about half-a-goal a game during the rough stretch and outscoring opponents by roughly the same margin during the 5-1 streak. The net goal-a-game difference makes a huge difference at this time of year.
Marian Hossa has led the way back for the Thrashers’, going 5-5-10, +9, in the last six games. Couple that with the fact that he is 21-22-43, +12, in 36 career games against
Kari Lehtonen will almost certainly get the call in net this evening as the Thrashers try to cement their status among the top-eight in the East. Lehtonen is 5-1-0 in his last six games, 2.01, .939. His maintaining that level of production will be the critical element for the Thrashers down the stretch and into the playoffs.
For the Caps, it’s another chance to inch forward against a club preparing for the playoffs. There’s been a lot of slipping backward in the 1-8-4 stretch in which they find themselves. Here is another way to look at this . . . the Caps have one win in regulation – one – in their last 19 games dating back to a 7-3 win against Carolina on January 27th. On the other hand, eight of their losses were of the one-goal variety, five of them in shootouts. They’ve been just bad enough to lose on most nights, which serves to illustrate how thin the margin is between being a playoff club this time of year and being one that is looking to next season.
Seneca wrote, “Fire is the test of gold; adversity, of strong men.” These are the times when such strength is forged.
Caps 5 – Thrashers 3.