Thursday, January 25, 2007

Your Second Half Prognostos

And now it’s time for . . . second-half prognostos.

We’re going right to the source here, the ne plus ultra of the prognosticatory arts – The Magic 8-Ball. We will consult this oracle to discern just what lies in store for the Caps (and some other things) for the rest of this year . . .

Oh, Magic 8-Ball . . . will the Caps procure a defenseman before the trading deadline?

Will Richard Zednik finish the season a Cap?

Will this defenseman trip over the boards in his first practice and be lost for the season to a "lower body" injury?
…ask me later.

Oh, great oracle, is Peter Forsberg in the Caps’ future?
…ask yourself. (hey, did I get a wise-ass 8-ball?)

Will Alex Ovechkin win the Richard Trophy?
…not a chance (not exactly shy about it, are you?)

Will Alexander Semin win it?
…yes (well, that’s better)

Will Ovechkin win the Ross Trophy?
…signs look good.

Will he win the Hart Trophy?
…ask me later.

Will the Caps finish the season above .500?

Will they make the playoffs?

Will they finish ahead of Pittsburgh?
...who knows?

Will they be a lottery team?

Will Glen Hanlon win the Adams Trophy?

Will Sidney Crosby be spirited away by aliens?
…who knows? (The Peerless didn’t hear a “no” in there…)

Will the Penguins stay in Pittsburgh?

Will Gary Bettman suffer weeping sores and have his limbs set upon by rabid gerbils?
…signs look good (hope springs eternal!)

Will The Peerless win the Powerball grand prize?

Well, The Peerless is off to see what island he wants to buy.

Better . . .

Last night's NHL All-Star Game was more akin to a professional production than the "let's put on a SHOW!" effort the previous evening for the Young Stars Game and Super Skills Competition. Part of it was that the guys on the ice are the best salesmen for the sport the league could ask for. Equal parts good time and competitive edge, the game also served to point out that the league really is more than Sidney Crosby (or Alex Ovechkin).

16 players accounted for the 21 goals in the 12-9 Western Conference win. 26 players had points (Sidney Crosby not being among them). The big Eastern line of Crosby, Ovechkin, and Brendan Shanahan was held to a single point -- Ovechkin's goal (assisted by Daniel Briere -- imagine that) in the second period.

But there was the venerable Joe Sakic with four assists, Brian Rolston and Rick Nash chipping in two goals and two assists, respectively, for the West. The story for the West was the unsung all-stars -- Lubomir Visnovsky had a goal and an assist and was +4. Rolston was +5. And Yanic Perreault wrote the next chapter in his unlikely season by scoring a pair of goals and having a +5 night. Uncharateristically, though, Perreault lost 9 of 15 draws. The Peerless suspects he'll take that trade for a night, at least. Marian Hossa had four helpers for the East, and Daniel Briere was 1-4-5, +5 for the East to win him the game's MVP award (prognosticated, accurately of course, by this author).

Some guys struggled. It was not a night to be a Tampa Bay Lightning representative, as the pair of Lightning -- Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis went a combined 1-1-2, -9. Crosby and Simon Gagne were -4, apiece. The goalies were, as one would expect abused mercilessly (21 goals on 77 shots -- 27.3 percent shooting percentage). Martin Brodeur has an especially difficult night, giving up six goals on 16 shots. But he and Marty Turco were good sports about it, as they were mic'ed up to provide running commentary (a nice touch for the telecast, although Brodeur's commentary was lost when his microphone was popped loose on a goal he allowed). Turco, in particular, seemed to warm up to the idea, appearing to offer comments while in the midst of saves.

And, as if this should be a surprise to anyone, no hits were recorded -- none (Jeremy Roenick not having been invited to this game).

If there was a coming out for any player, The Peerless might be tempted to go with Zdeno Chara. Much has been made these last two days that he is the largest player in the history of the league, and he uses a stick that seems to span the width of the rink. But Chara had a couple of goals last night and showed good instincts in jumping into the play. He's shown this from time to time, but on this stage, he really shined.

One should not make too much of this game. It is what it is -- an enjoyable romp for the game's best players, given an opportunity to display the skill and even the good humor that is absent in the night-to-night crush of games during the regular season. The Peerless thought it was immensely entertaining.

As for the broadcast, it seemed as though Versus, if it didn't find it's "A" game, found something close. Doc Emrick was a lot sharper last night than for the skills competition, and the supporting commentary was for the most part appropriate without being intrusive. They even found use for the "rail-cam," although here's an idea . . . put that thing on the other side of the ice. Watching that thing running the rail in front of the play on the wider shots got to be annoying after a while.

But all that is details. It was a nice break for players and fans in the midst of a long season. It's back to work tomorrow and the beginning of the sprint to the finish.