Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Bruins, March 15th

Stinks to be on the outside with your face pressed to the glass, watching all the fat cats getting ready for the playoffs, doesn’t it?

Well, that’s where the Caps and the Bruins find themselves – the Bruins a little closer to the door of the dining room with 71 points to the Caps’ 60. Two teams looking further ahead, like to next year. It must be especially galling for Boston to be in this position, having blown $57.5 million on deals for free agents Marc Savard (-10, despite 88 points) and Zdeno Chara (-11, but with a “hardest shot contest” win at the All Star Game).

The Bruins will welcome Washington into something called “TD Banknorth Garden” in the midst of a 3-5-1 record over their last nine games, which follows an 8-2-0 run, which follows a five-game losing streak. Streak . . . yeah, that applies.

If there is anything that has betrayed the B’s in their last nine, it’s been offense. 22 goals scored in nine games, ten of those coming in two games (a 4-1 win at New Jersey and a 6-3 win in Detroit). They have only nine goals in their last five home games. They have certainly spread the mediocrity around. 15 different skaters have the 22 goals. Marco Sturm (3-5-8, +1) and Brandon Bochenski (3-3-6, even) lead the club in goal scoring. Marc Savard also has eight points (1-7-8), but typically it seems, is also -6 in his last nine games.

That plus-minus is a real bugaboo for the B’s. No Bruin who has played at least 40 games for the club is better than a -3. And the guy with the -3? Milan Jurcina. He’ll be wearing the other uniform at TDBnG. Eight players who have been with the club all year are -10 or worse (the Caps have seven) – this does not include four other players no longer with the club (Wayne Primeau, Brad Boyes, Paul Mara, and Brad Stuart).

Special teams have been about as productive lately as one might expect a 12th-place team to be – the power play is 5-for-45 (11.1 percent), penalty killing is somewhat better at 37-for-43 over the last nine games.

If there is a bright spot for the Bruins, it’s been goaltending. Tim Thomas is 2-4-1 in Boston’s last nine games and really deserves better. He’s got a 2.64 goals against average, but a .924 save percentage (a 51-save [performance in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Flyers didn’t hurt his numbers). He’s having to face over 35 shots-per-60 minutes in his six appearances over this stretch, which is positively Kolzigesque.

But here is the problem for the Caps – since they were at their high-water mark of 15-10-7 in mid-December, they are 3-15-1 in road games. Only five of those losses were of the one-goal variety. Eight of them were by three or more goals, including two of their last three. There’s being a polite guest, and there is taking things too far. The Caps need to break some of the china, insult the hostess, spill some beer on the carpet.

The Caps are 1-9-4 in their last 14 games, the lone win coming on the road. They’ve been outscored 52-32, their power play has been mediocre (10/58, 17.2 percent), their penalty killing bad (48/62, 77.4 percent). Alex Ovechkin has eight goals in the last 14 games; Alexander Semin and Brian Sutherby have four apiece. 13 other skaters split the remaining 16 goals. Trouble is, those three are also a combined -20 over the last 14 games.

Let’s face it, the Caps are a visitor made to order for the Bruins. But while the Caps suck on the road, the Bruins can seem to win much at home, either. The Caps have ‘em right where they want ‘em. Olaf Kolzig is expected to make a return, according to Post writer Tarik El-Bashir, and this will inspire the Caps to a victory . . . no, really. Hey! The Peerless does NOT use drugs!!

Caps 4 – Bruins 2.

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