Saturday, January 20, 2007

The, uh . . . Afternoon After

points to-freakin'-day.

What the $#@& was THAT?

Uh, guys? These are the Florida Panthers, not the Edmonton Freaking Oilers of 1985?

Sometimes, numbers don’t tell the story. Today, it was ALL about the numbers . . .

42-18 . . . No, that’s not the score of the New Orleans Bowl (that was Troy 41 – Rice 17). It was the shots on goal. For those of you who follow that particular number, that’s 177 – 88 by which the Panthers have outshot the Caps in four games this season.

32-6 . . . From the 10:26 mark of the first period when Ben Clymer took a shot on goal until the 9:35 mark of the third when Brooks Laich was credited with one, the Caps were outshot by this margin.

74 . . . the total of shots on goal credited to Florida (42), missed shots taken by Florida (13) and shots blocked by the Caps (19).

10 . . . the number of minor penalties the Caps took.

16:24 . . . the total amount of time the Caps spent shorthanded in the game.

12:00 . . . the total amount of time the Caps spent shorthanded in the last two periods (more on this, later).

2 . . . the number of shots taken by Alex Ovechkin. He hasn’t had fewer in a game since March 12th of last year, against Ottawa. Last I checked, no one was confusing the Panthers with the Senators.

14, 17 . . . 14 skaters were responsible for 17 giveaways. Florida had only ten giveaways for the game.

Two . . . the number of shifts Kris Beech had after the first period. The Peerless doesn’t think this was an accident.

9:33 . . . the ice time for Jamie Heward. Given that Lawrence Nycholat had more than 24 minutes, a gimpy Mike Green more than 18, and even Jeff Schultz more than 13, The Peerless doesn’t think this was an accident, either.

4.12 . . . Olaf Kolzig’s goals-against average in four games against Florida this year.

.933 . . . Kolzig’s save percentage in four games against Florida this year. For the record, no goaltender in the league has this high a save percentage for the season.

5-11-0 . . . the Caps record since they beat the Flyers on December 16th. Maybe they caught something.

But here was the turning point of the game. It didn’t even happen during any of the periods. Florida was whistled for four penalties in the first eight minutes of the first period. The first of them was a goaltender interference call on Martin Gelinas. Gelinas didn’t take his punishment lightly and said something to referee Bill McCreary, who was skating away from Gelinas. McCreary did a U-turn and went straight to the box, pointing emphatically at Gelinas. At the close of the period, as the teams were skating off, Gelinas skated up to McCreary and held forth for more than a minute, calmly by all appearances (The Peerless notices such things). Florida was whistled for only three more penalties the rest of the way, the Caps for six. Neither team scored on any of their power plays, and The Peerless is not suggesting that McCreary took special pity on Gelinas, but sometimes, honey works better than vinegar in catching flies (or getting on the better side of a referee). And, the power play discrepancy is there to see. Spending 12 of the next 34 minutes shorthanded (including allowing a goal on one power play) did nothing for the Caps in terms of establishing, let alone maintaining any rhythm.

Look, the Caps are beat up on the blue line, and the Panthers exploited this to forecheck the crap out of Washington. But the forwards didn’t exactly help out here, either. One might think, hey, the defense is kind of green and kind of beat up (that was Jamie Hunt skating in the pre-game, in case Mike Green couldn’t go) . . . maybe they could use some more support. Didn’t happen. It just wasn’t a very responsible effort on the part of the forwards, and it was a predictably bad performance by the defense in its wake.

Olaf Kolzig deserved a whole lot better, as he has often from his teammates against this opponent this year.

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Panthers, January 20th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!


John Erskine, Bryan Muir, Mike Green, Brian Pothier.

Injured, injured, injured, sick. And we’re not even up to Richard Zednik.

So, The Peerless has assembled a crack panel of medicos to discuss the situation and offer some advice. First, Lt. Col. Henry Blake . . . Dr. Blake, can you explain this?

"Look, all I know is what they taught me at command school. There are certain rules about hockey and rule number one is young hockey players get hurt. And rule number two is doctors can't change rule number one."

Cpt. B.J. Hunnicutt . . . can you explain the rash of injuries?

"You've gotta understand I'm not working on sick people here…well, except for Pothier. I'm working on hurt young people, with essentially healthy bodies that have been insulted by pucks."

Maj. Frank Burns, can you sympathize with teammates and fans who are seeing players felled like this in such numbers?

"I'm sick of hearing about the injured. What about all the dozens of wonderful guys who are playing this game without any of the credit or the glory that always goes to those lucky few who just happen to get their feet broken."

"Frank, it's after six, you can stop being snotty!"

Cpt. B.F. Pierce . . .

. . . “Hawkeye” . . .

Ok, Hawkeye, doesn’t it play on players’ minds, the possibility that I might be next?

“Hockey's pretty much the same story: the fighting goes on, the hatred, the violence, the senseless brutality, men behaving like animals - and then there's the game.”

Maj. Charles Emerson Winchester, do you ever remember a number of injuries like this?

“The only thing Charles remembers fondly from his childhood is his hair.”

Col. Sherman Potter . . . what do you make of reporting injuries like this as “lower body” injuries? This seems to be a recent development.

“Horse hockey! Now you take World War II. My unit got the word that Nazis, dressed as eskimos, had overun Seattle. Incredible as it seems, half my unit believed it."

Maj. Sidney Freedman, you might have a different take on this as a psychiatrist. Any advice for the folks in Capitals Nation?

"Ladies and gentlemen, take my advice, pull down your pants and slide on the ice"

Now that sounds like a novel solution . . . as for the game itself, wakee-wakee Caps fans. This is an afternoon game. One o’clock. So eat a hearty breakfast and let’s get ready for payback!

When last the Caps and the Florida Panthers skated off the ice, the Caps were on the short end of a 7-3 debacle. The shock seems to have had its effect on the Panthers, who managed a single standings point in the two games that followed (that earned in a 3-2 OT loss to Carolina). Florida is 4-3-3 in their last ten games, which is a pretty good definition of treading water. Given that they sit 14th in the Eastern Conference, that isn’t all bad – it could be viewed as improvement – but it won’t help them advance in the standings much, either.

Among Panthers to watch, Stephen Weiss, who had a hat trick against the Caps last Saturday, has been all but quiet on the score sheet in the two games since, recording only an assist. Olli Jokinen, who does not have an especially distinguished career record against the Caps (8-10-18, -16 in 36 games), say a seven-game points streak ended in his last game, against Toronto. On the other hand, Josef Stumpel, who managed a single point in his last five games to end 2006, has had points in five of seven games in 2007. Jay Bouwmeester seems to be fulfilling the potential many felt he had when drafted in 2002. He’s had a solid season this far, but is really starting to eat up minutes. In eight of the last 12 games he’s logged in excess of 25 minutes. Rostislav Olesz might have only eight goals on the year, but seven of them have come in his last 15 games. And, for your fun Joel Kwiatkowski stat – the forward leads the team in faceoffs-won percentage (100 percent). He is one for one on the year.

The Caps had a bad road trip. There really isn’t a way to sugar coat that. Don’t bring any of this “they played better than their record” nonsense this way. They played four games, they lost three. They were blown out in two of them. They gave up 17 goals in three losses. That’s not good, not at this time of year.

The game against Carolina – a 5-2 win – was closer than the score indicated, owing to two empty net goals in the last minute, but a win is a win, just as a loss is a loss (really deep, there, Peerless). They did play well, especially in keeping the Hurricanes from establishing any momentum. And, Olaf Kolzig did what a veteran goalie might be expected to do. He played as if saying, “enough is enough.” 34 saves on 36 shots in the other guys’ building is a good night anywhere.

A lot might be made of Alexander Ovechkin’s having “only” four goals in his last 11 games. But, on the other hand, he’s got 12 assists for a 4-12-16 line. He is not just, as some folks in other cities think, just a puck hogging goal scorer.

Alexander Semin’s scoring line is the mirror image of Ovechkin – 10-2-12 in his last seven. He is now seventh in the league in goal scoring, second among Russian players, and first among players with less than 100 games of NHL experience (he has 95).

Just like last week, this is an opponent the Caps should beat. This is the getaway game for the All-Star break, it’s at home, and the boys want to head out on a high note. There really isn’t an excuse for being flat (like, “gee, it was a 1:00 start”), and there isn’t one for losing this game. It’s time to look at each game with a higher sense of urgency. It should be a fine afternoon for the home team.

Caps 5 – Panthers 2