Friday, March 30, 2007

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Panthers, March 30th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

That’s right, boys and girls, TPP is here to prognostify you to your heart’s content. Tonight, it’s the Caps heading to balmy south Florida to take on the Panthers. If you haven’t been noticing, the Panthers are teasing their fans just enough to think that there is the chance of a playoff in their near future – as in “April.” Don’t believe it. We won’t go into all the weird math as to why that’s a dim possibility, only to say that there are too may teams to climb over (four), and too few points to be had.

Florida is probably thinking, though, that here are two points ripe for the plucking. And, based on the season series this year, one would be inclined to agree. After winning the first two games of the season set by a combined score of 9-3, the Caps have dropped the last four and have been outscored 22-12 (not including a shootout result) in the process.

If there is a theme to the Panthers over their last ten games, it is “doin’ the two-step.” They’ve alternated two wins with two losses throughout this last ten-game stretch (6-3-1, to be precise), and seeing how they are coming off two wins, you’d think the Caps are in position for a win.

Florida has outscored its opponents by a 33-28 margin in their last ten games, and while that’s not bad, their power play certainly has been – 2-for-32 (6.3 percent). If there is a glimmer of promise on that score, those two goals were scored in the Panthers’ last two games (one in each, if you’re too lazy to do the arithmetic). The penalty kill has, in comparison, been positively fabulous (39-for-46, 84.8 percent). Trouble is, Florida is second in the league in most short-handed situations faced.

Olli Jokinen is the embodiment of “hot” (no, not his looks, unless you like that mug-shot of a deranged menace look). Ove his last ten games, he is 7-9-16, +11. That’s a good month for a lot of people; Jokinen did it in less than three weeks.

Nathan Horton has chipped in another six goals (6-1-7, +1), and Josef Stumpel has gone 4-4-8, +4, to fall into second among the Panthers’ scoring over the last ten games.

Ed Belfour is no the man in goal. He’s figured in nine decisions in the last ten games and is 5-3-1, but has offered up a 3.42 GAA and a .891 save percentage, neither of which calls to mind Ken Dryden.

For the Caps, let’s face it . . . there are all sorts of factors pointing south for this contest. There is their record against Florida this year . . . then there is the fact that there is little to play for, not even really a spoiler angle . . . the Caps are 2-7-1 in their last ten . . . they’ve lost by three or more goals in half of their last 12 games . . . Alex Ovechkin is a very long shot to get 50 goals (if you’re into individual statistics) . . . and, it’s south Florida (pass the sun block).

Nevertheless, there are guys playing now who are auditioning for a spot on next year’s roster. In a sense, they are auditioning to keep playing in the NHL, if you concur with the argument that if a guy can’t make this club, he’d have trouble latching onto another roster.

It is with that in mind that The Peerless is averting his eyes and typing . . .

Caps 5 – Panthers 4.

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