Friday, November 30, 2007

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Hurricanes, November 30th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

You might remember our special edition of the Prognosticator last season when we assembled a collection of esteemed medicos to explore the injury bug that hit the Capitals.

Well, the bug is back, and so is our panel of physicians…we have Drs. Dr. Marcus Welby…

“…a pleasure, Peerless.”

…James Kildare…

“truly an honor to be back..”

…Victor Ehrlich…

“…hey, Peerless…”

…and Ben Casey.

[nods under a brooding stare]

Doctors, Tarik El-Bashir reports in this morning’s Washington Post that Alexander Semin, Chris Clark, and Boyd Gordon are on the shelf with a variety of injuries. Semin’s ankle has been re-tweaked, Clark has the always ominous “groin injury,” and Gordon has an undisclosed injury that has left him in "week-to-week" status. Gentlemen, is this unusual?

Dr. Welby…”uncommon, yes…unusual, no. This is hockey, and hockey players get hurt, it’s part of the package.”

Dr. Ehrlich…”well, I just remember Dr. Craig would tell me that you just have to suck it up…and he’d roll his eyes and say something nasty after that, but he did that so often, I’ve forgotten what that was.”

Dr. Kildare, what would you advise in this situation?

Dr. Kildare…”HMO”

A health maintenance organization?

Dr. Kildare…”no, a ‘hockey mentality, Oscar.’”

Dr. Casey?

Dr. Casey…[deep sigh, followed by frown with furrowed brow]

In the meantime, what do you prescribe for the Caps?

Dr. Welby…”wins”

Dr. Kildare…”oh, I agree”

Dr. Ehrilich…”I don’t know; let me ask Dr. Craig and get back to you on that.”

Dr. Casey…”putz”

Any other remedies in the meantime?

Dr. Ehrlich…”Quintin”

Dr. Welby…”you mean, ‘quinine,’ son?”

Dr. Casey…”no you ossified fart, he said ‘Quintin’…as in “Laing?”

Dr. Kildare…”you mean Lumicaine?...for excessive sweating?”

Dr. Casey…”no, pretty boy…Laing…Laing…Quintin Laing…played with Hershey?...called up for this game?...get with the program, fellas.”

OK, so the depleted Caps will take the ice tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes, and Quintin Laing has been called up from the Bears to fill in for the injured. For the Caps, it is a chance to build on last Saturday’s 5-2 win over the Hurricanes at Verizon Center. Carolina is stumbling at the moment, losers of their last two contests and 4-6-0 in their last ten.

Carolina’s struggles have been on the defensive side of the ledger. They’ve given up 38 goals in their last ten games, four times yielding five or more goals. What it means is that if they don’t score, they don’t win. Six times in this stretch they have scored two or fewer goals, and their record is 1-5-0.

This is the front end of a back-to-back for Carolina, who visit Buffalo tomorrow evening. So, who mans the nets for the Hurricanes is uncertain. Cam Ward is 4-4-0 in the games he’s played over this ten game stretch, with 3.15, .892 numbers to go along with the win-loss record. John Grahame, who took the loss in last Saturday’s 5-2 loss to Washington, is 0-2-0, 5.03, .836. If Coach Peter Laviolette can find a way to start Ward for both games, one would think he will.

Sixteen of the 19 goals the Hurricanes have scored in the last ten games come from the sticks of five players: Rod Brind’Amour (5), Cory Stillman (4), Eric Staal (4), Justin Williams (4), and Ray Whitney (3). Carolina is not a club that gets much goal scoring from its defense (three goals all season), so the ability to contain the forwards will be of paramount concern here.

For the Caps, a recovery is in order. After winning their first two games under interim coach Bruce Boudreau (outscoring opponents, 9-5), they’ve stumbled with losses in their last two, one in a shootout (outscored in real goals, 4-2). The old problems resurfaced in those last two…no goal scoring. Decent performances by Olaf Kolzig (0-1-1, 1.95, .930) were wasted as the Caps could manage just the two goals on 64 shots. Of that total, Alexander Ovechkin has one goal on 20 shots. That the rest of the squad could manage but a single goal on 44 shots is of no minor concern. That the rest of the squad had only 44 shots (1.3 shots-per-skater/game) is just as troubling.

The Caps also have a back-to-back set, with tomorrow’s contest in Florida against the Panthers. That argues for Kolzig getting the nod tonight (12-8-1, 2.23, .924 lifetime against Carolina) and Brent Johnson getting the start tomorrow.

The Caps are 2-1-0 against Carolina this season (6-14-2 against the rest of the league), so it isn’t as if they’ve lacked for success, despite having been whacked 5-0 in their only appearance in Raleigh. The Caps are visiting a team that certainly has the capacity to score, but one that has struggled on defense (including against the Caps last weekend) and especially on the power play (eight goals allowed in 21 penalty-killing chances in their last five games – 61.9 percent). That’s the recipe for a win here – a couple of power play goals and forcing the Hurricanes to play catch-up, opening up the ice…a lot like last Saturday’s game (without the nail-biting in the third period)…

Caps 5 – Hurricanes 3

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