Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Thrashers, December 8th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

Another day, another game, another hot team…well, sorta.

Tonight, it’s the Atlanta Thrashers making an appearance at Verizon Center, riding on the wings of a four game points-earned streak – why is it everyone but the Caps has these streaks these days?

But first, we’re at the point now where the Caps are a pretty brittle hockey club…and not just in terms of the injuries to Chris Clark, Michael Nylander, and Boyd Gordon. The mental aspect of the game has to be wearing on them. So we’ve brought back our old friend, Dr. Phil to help the Caps sort out their…well, issues.

Dr. Phil, welcome.

“Glad to be here, Peerless, as always.”

Doc…what do you tell a team like this, one that is seeing their season slip away?

“You don't need to take a personal inventory to cha-cha-cha all night long.”

I see…and if there is anything this team doesn’t do enough of, it’s cha-cha-cha, not with being 28th in the NHL in goals-per-game. But what about the injuries…would you agree that they’ve played a role in the Caps’ record?

“You don't need phlebitis to blame it on anybody but yourself.”

You mean they have to just move on and look in the mirror and suck it up…

“You don't need macadamia nuts to blame it on anybody but yourself…”

Macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, whatever…you just have to grow a pair and play the game…but they’ve been unlucky, too…shots that won’t go in for them, shots that do seem to find their way in for the other guys…

“You don’t need a lucky rabbit’s foot to goof around and do squat.”

You mean, luck has nothing to do with it, that they’ve just “done squat” on their own? Well, what sort of motivation can you provide a club like this?

“You don't need endless supplies of avocados to drop and give me twenty.”

In other words, they need to dig deep within themselves to find that motivation…that even coach Boudreau’s getting on them won’t be enough?

“You don't need a nagging mother-in-law to think for yourself.”

I think I see your point…but the boys seem to understand, based on the quotes we’re reading from players in the post game reports…

“You don’t need a press release to raise the roof.”

Ah, less “talk,” more “do”…I get it. So where do they go from here, Dr. Phil?

“You don’t need a bag of wolverines to skin a gopher.”

Ah, but it would help if the boys played like a bag of wolverines…any last words?

"You don't need to watch my crappy show to . . . Dadgummit, I forgot."

Well, “win a hockey game comes to mind,” but thanks Dr. Phil, and we’ll see you again soon.

As for tonight’s game, like we said, Atlanta comes in on a four-game points-earned streak that has them within a point of the top-eight in the Eastern Conference. The four games constitute their “Best o’ the Big Apple” tour, having defeated the Rangers and Islanders (twice), and taking the Devils to a shootout. They’ve outscored their opponents, 13-7.

Unlike what the rest of the league seems to be doing, the Thrashers haven’t been doing it with special teams – at least on offense. They are 1-for-18 on the power play over their last four games (5.6 percent). They do make up for it, though, by holding their opponents to one goal in 19 shorthanded situations (94.7 percent penalty killing).

That man – Ilya Kovalchuk – is right in the thick of the scoring, as one might assume. He scored goals in each of the first three games of this streak and has goals in four of his last five games (23 for the season, tops in the league). For those of you keeping track, he’s on a pace to score 67 goals this year…it would be nice if he were paid attention to this evening. Marian Hossa also has three goals in the four game run, so he might be worth a look from time to time, too.

In goal, Kari Lehtonen would seem to be the sure call here, since Johan Hedberg manned the nets in the 4-2 win last night against the Rangers. Lehtonen has had success against Washington – 6-2-2, 2.55, .917. He was, however, the loser on opening night in his only decision this year against the Caps when the Caps won, 3-1.

This is a team that has struggled at times this year on defense and penalty killing. The Thrashers are 29th in goals-per-game allowed, and they are 28th in penalty killing, even after their 18-for-19 run.

There are two things a team cannot do against Atlanta, based on their performance so far this year. First, they cannot let Atlanta get to the first intermission with a lead. They are 6-0-0 when leading after one period (the Caps have not allowed the Thrashers a first intermission lead in going 1-1-1).

Second, they cannot allow the Thrashers to record more shots, but here lies one of the stranger statistics in the NHL this year. The Thrashers have out-shot their opponents only twice this year in 28 games, winning both games (the Caps have out-shot the Thrashers in each of the three games played).

For the Caps, it’s a divisional game and a chance to…well, what that is we’re not sure. The Caps find themselves this morning on a pace to reach 59 points for the season – right where they were in 2003-2004 when this struggle started. So any thought of playoffs – or of any game past the one in front of them – seems rather pointless for the time being.

With that in mind, this is an opponent the Caps have seen at their worst (the 3-1 opening night win started the Thrashers on their 0-6-0 start that got Bob Hartley relieved of his coaching duties), their best (a 5-1 loss to Atlanta was the fourth of a four-game wining streak for Atlanta just before Thanksgiving), and in the middle (a 2-1 overtime loss to the Thrashers). There aren’t any mysteries here…make Atlanta pay when they are a man short…don’t get into shorthanded situations…and keep a close watch on Ilya Kovalchuk.

This one is going to extra time, and Matt Pettinger – that’s right, Matt Pettinger – is going to score a goal.

Caps 4 – Thrashers 3

1 comment:

Marky Narc said...

Peerless calls it.. and holy cow Peerless nails it. :)

Nice to see Petty sink one.