Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Hurricanes, March 22nd

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

It’s another back-to-back tilt, tonight’s being a visit to ‘Cane Country to take on the Carolina Hurricanes. It’s the last meeting of the clubs for the year, and the Hurricanes hold a 4-3 edge in games won, and a 24-20 edge in goals scored.

Oddly, in none of the seven games has the result been decided by one goal. In fact, every game has been decided by three goals or more – the hockey equivalent of Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed throwing nothing but head shots. The pattern of wins and losses is rather interesting, too. The clubs have alternated wins in each of the past four games, each club going 1-1 on home ice.

The Hurricanes will enter the game on a similar roller-coaster over their last ten games, having gone 5-4-1. They have managed to outscore their opponents 26-19 over this stretch, but seven of those goals came in their last outing, a 7-2 whuppin’ put on the New Jersey the Meadowlands on St. Patrick’s Day.

Carolina’s special teams have been a Jekyll and Hyde production the last ten games. On the power play, the Hurricanes are a Dr. Jekyll on the power play, going 4-for-49 (8.2 percent), while the penalty kill has been a Mr. Hyde 42-for-43 (97.7 percent). In fact, the Hurricanes are 50 for their last 51 on the penalty kill (98.0 percent). They have yielded that single power play goal over their last 13 games, since yielding three in three chances to the New York Rangers on February 15.

Carolina has been paced in scoring over the last ten games by Rod Brind’Amour (3-5-8, +6), while Scott Walker and Justin Williams lead the team with four goals apiece. Anson Carter – picked up at the trading deadline – has yet to register a point in six games and is a -2. in the last three games in which he’s appeared, dating back to a March 2 game against Pittsburgh, he’s been given less than ten minutes of ice time.

Goaltending hasn’t been a problem for Carolina. John Grahame received most of the work over the last ten games with a 3-3-1 record in seven appearances. He managed a 1.99 GAA and .925 save percentage along the way. Meanwhile, Cam Ward was 2-1-0 in three appearances with a 1.45 GAA and .943 save percentage.

Scoring first appears to matter for the Hurricanes, lately. In five games in which Carolina scored first, they are 4-1-0. Giving up the first goal they are 1-3-1. They also seem to start sluggishly in games, having scored only six of their 26 goals in the last ten games in the first period.

These clubs know each other well, as you would expect of divisional opponents. And, given the patterns in the previous seven games, it’s late in the season to expect things to change than much. What is suggests is that it’s the Caps’ turn. If they can break through on the power play (5-for-30 against Carolina this year), all the better. But with the exception of the last game against the Devils, the Hurricanes have had difficulty scoring goals. With goaltender Olaf Kolzig playing well in his return and with a long history of success against Carolina (24-11-9, career, versus Carolina), the case for the Caps is that much stronger. The question will be whether he gets the call in the back half of the back-to-back game. Nonetheless, the Caps should do well . . .

Caps 5 – Hurricanes 2

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