Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Thrashers, November 21st

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

Well, Caps fans, here we are on the eve of Thanksgiving, and we’re finding it a little hard to be thankful, at least hockey-wise.

But fear not…we have with us one of the great hockey minds of the modern era to help us navigate our way through these discouraging times. Let’s sit down with…Dr. Seuss.
Doc, welcome…we’re very happy to have you here to answer a few questions for us…

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”

Well, first, to what do you attribute this disappointing start by the Caps?

“I'm sorry to say so but, sadly it's true that bang-ups and hang-ups can happen to you.”

So, you see this as a matter of injuries…do you think they can recover from this slow start? Do you think they have to look at things with a little more urgency?

“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”

They had that fine start to the season – the three-game opening winning streak. What was different then, compared to now?

“When they played they really played. And when they worked they really worked.”

Some fans think that the Caps need to be a little nastier in their play, that they are letting teams take too many liberties with them. What do you think their attitude should be when opponents start getting chippy?

“I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind. But I've bought a big bat. I'm all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!”

It’s a long way to get into the top eight…the old cliché has it that teams in that position need to take them one at a time. How do you keep a sense of optimism in that situation?

“Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.”

Coach Glen Hanlon is having a tough time of his own right now…what would you say to him?

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. You are the guy who'll decide where to go.”

Strategy-wise, the club seems a bit lost. They have a lot of skill, but they’re not really displaying it much…what would you change?

“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the things you can think up if only you try!”

If you could step into the locker room and give the boys some encouragement, what would you tell them?

“Will you succeed? Yes indeed, yes indeed! Ninety-eight and three-quarters percent guaranteed.”

Well, Doc…you’ve given all of us a lot to think about. As for the game, the Caps host another divisional rival – the Atlanta Thrashers – which presents both an opportunity and a problem. The opportunity is, of course, the chance to earn two points at the expense of a team in their division. The problem is that while the Caps won their first three divisional games this season, they are winless in their last six games against Southeast Division rivals (0-5-1). So it is with more than a little trepidation that we look at what Atlanta brings to the table.

It’s been a tale of two seasons for the Thrashers. In the first – an 0-6-0 start that got head coach Bob Hartley a pink slip – the Thrashers made up for inconsistent offense with a ghastly defense. They were shut out twice, scored more than two goals just once, and were 2-for-26 (7.7 percent) on the power play. On the other side, they didn’t hold any opponent to fewer than three goals, gave up an average of more than 34 shots a game, and allowed 10 power play goals in 35 shorthanded situations (71.4 percent penalty killing). They did not happen about their record by accident.

Since then…

The Thrashers are 10-4-0, they’ve scored 47 goals in those 14 games – scoring more than three goals six times – and their power play is succeeding at a 18.5 percent rate. Defensively, they still are a work in progress, but in their recent 6-1-0 stretch they have held opponents to two goals or fewer four times. With respect to the latter, the result is in large part a product of surprisingly effective play out of Ondrej Pavelec and Johan Hedberg in goal, getting playing time as Kari Lehtonen, who only returned to practice with the club this past Sunday after suffering a groin injury against the Rangers last month, has been on the shelf.

Pavelec won the first three games of this seven-game stretch (including a 31-save effort against the Caps in a 2-1 overtime win) before tumbling a bit and giving up five goals in a 5-3 loss to Carolina. Hedberg stepped in and won the last three, stopping 67 of 72 shots in the process and recording a shutout of the Hurricanes.

On the offensive side of the ledger, if there a term more descriptive than “hot” to describe Ilya Kovalchuk?

...blistering?....scorching?...sizzling?...blazing? He has 11 goals in his last eight games. That’s a pace for a 113-goal season, which if memory serves would be a record. But it’s not as if Marian Hossa isn’t in his rear-view mirror, either. Hossa has seven goals in those same eight games. Lurking in the weeds is Todd White, who is 3-5-8 in his last seven games, himself.

Atlanta’s recipe for their recent success has been simple. The goalies keep the club in games long enough for Kovalchuk and Hossa to find the back of the net – those two have 18 of the Thrashers last 29 goals.

Fortunately…well, maybe…the Caps’ problems haven’t been as much on defense as they have on offense. But Alexander Ovechkin and Alexander Semin aren’t exactly chopped herring in the goal-scoring department themselves. For the Thrashers, it’ll be six of one, half a dozen of the other in terms of who gets the start in goal, if Lehtonen’s return is delayed any further. Hedberg has the advantage of familiarity with and a decent enough record against the Caps, but Pavelec played extremely well in what was his only career appearance against Washington.

Half a dozen…hmm…

It’ll be an entertaining game, with ups and downs and subplots and scary moments, but it’ll provide some interesting conversation around the Thanksgiving tables of Caps fans. Y’all can talk about the hat trick for Ovechkin when you’re passing the candied yams…

Caps 6 – Thrashers 4


…and with that, we’re probably going to be away for a few days doing some holiday festivizing of our own. In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving, Caps Nation.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

http://ted.aol.com/index.php

Did Ted remove the link to your blog under "Favorite Sports Blogs"

I swore I visited this place before using his links...

Anyways, do you ever predict the caps not to win?! Heh..

GO CAPS GO!

Jordan said...

This is going to be a rough game, I have a feeling. Hopefully Semin and Clark will continue to produce.

Paul said...

EXCELLENT analysis. great writing, man.

Paul said...

EXCELLENT analysis. great writing, man.

The Peerless said...

I've never been linked on Ted's page, to my knowledge.

And no, I never predict the Caps not to win.

usually frustrated caps fan said...

Well peerless - unfortunately you were wrong on the prediction again. I've now joined the growing blogsphere since ted challenged us all in his post "A humble request" on Ted's Take. Mark's Musings can be seen at:

http://markb2260.blogspot.com/

Tonight I am perplexed about the caps....