Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Morning After -- Caps vs. Islanders

Two points, today, thank you very much.

photo: Getty Images

Well, that was . . . oops, hold on, gotta fix the glass . . . as we were saying, that was nice. The Caps . . . oops, there goes the glass again. The Caps might have won ugly, but the operative word there is “won.” When Matt Pettinger scored less than three . . . damn, there goes that glass again! When Pettinger scored less than three minutes into the . . . ARGHHHH!! Will somebody fix the #@%&ing glass?

OK . . . when Pettinger scored less than three minutes in, it looked as if the Caps might have one of those games when things click, and the opponent goes scurrying for cover as the good guys unleash a goal scoring onslaught. Well, that didn’t happen. But Olaf Kolzig almost made the singleton stand up. He did allow a shorthanded goal as the Caps played goofy with the man advantage, and Kolzig seemed to lack an awareness about who was lurking around his crease as Mike Sillinger pounded home the tying tally 27 seconds into the second period.

But that was it. No more soup for you. Take your fey little striped sleeve jerseys and go away. The Islanders tried to make an ugly game of it, and for the most part they succeeded. Between the Islanders’ painful approach to the game, the interminable stoppages for glass repair, the Caps’ own ability to take the most basic of plays – the pass from teammate to teammate – and turn it into an Indiana Jones adventure moment, this game would make the short list of ugliest NHL games of the year. You didn’t need a watch to time this game, you needed a calendar. The mites at the first intermission displayed more flow and cohesiveness.

But in the end, Alexander Semin scored a shootout goal – where else – over the goalie’s glove to give the Caps the 2-1 win and put to an end the three game losing streak.

If there were numbers of note in this game, they were those that reflectedwhat looked like a “short bench” strategy by Glen Hanlon:

- Brian Sutherby: 7:41 of ice time and only one shift in the last 27 minutes of regulation and overtime

- Donald Brashear: 4:40 of ice time and none in the last 31 minutes of regulation and overtime.

- Matt Bradley: 7:56 of ice time and one shift in the last 27 minutes.

Maybe they had Super Bowl party hors d’oeuvres in the oven . . .

On the other hand, the new kid got the most ice time again. Milan Jurcina had 25:47 and displayed a talent that Caps defensemen have not often displayed this year – the ability to actually get the puck to the net. He was credited with five shots on goal.

Richard Zednik did well in his audition for other clubs, almost stuffing the puck on a wrap-around in the first period (which led directly to Pettinger’s goal on the follow-up) and skating with energy in his 17 minutes.

The top line of Alex Ovechkin, Dainius Zubrus, and Chris Clark was held with out a shot for the first 41 minutes of the game. Hard to score that way.

Steve Eminger might have played his best game of the season. In almost 25 minutes, he was as steady and sound as perhaps in any game of his young career. He and Jeff Schultz made a good pair (Schultz chipped in with five blocked shots and used his reach to foil Islanders trying to maneuver the puck along the boards all afternoon).

This was not a game for the video highlight vault, unless you’re thing is watching guys repair dislodged panes of glass. But a win is a win is a win. And the Caps, not to mention their fans, will accept the two points gladly. It was a good start to a four game homestand. All of the games this week are winnable, and for the Caps to maintain even a glimmer of playoff hope, it is likely that all have to be won. But it’s one at a time, and this one was good for two points. Nicely done, guys.

A Crying Shame or a Joke . . . Take Your Pick

We depart from hockey for a moment to point out that one of the great travesties of sport was perpetrated yesterday when one of these players was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the other was not. Let’s go to the “tale o’ the tape.”

Regular Season:


Michael Irvin
















Top-10 finishes:










All Time:


























Super Bowl Wins



Not to mention, Monk was an exemplary character, both on and off the field. That Monk is still on the outside looking in for the seventh time after today's inductees were announced, and Irvin in on his third try is one of the true injustices of the sport. It diminishes the Hall and the NFL. It is only perhaps exceeded by the mind-boggling snub of former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue for induction. Following onto the legendary tenure of Pete Rozelle, Tagliabue was the overseer of the NFL into a marketing colossus.

The Hall's board of selectors should be replaced in its entirety and banned from any further participation in the annual selection.

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Islanders, February 4th

Caps fans . . . this is for you . . .

And it doesn’t get any easier.

It isn’t bad enough that the Caps are mired in that 6-15-0 funk, or that they lost a hard-fought 2-0 game to Pittsburgh on Saturday. No-o-o-o sirree . . .they get to return to Verizon Center to the loving embrace of fans – who will be on a hair trigger to boo – to take on the New York Islanders, who are – get this – undefeated in their last six games (4-0-2).

The Islanders over these last six games have . . .

- outscored the opposition 25-20
- converted four of 24 power plays (16.7 percent)
- killed 27 of 31 shorthanded situations (87.1 percent)
- been led by Trent Hunter with five goals, followed by Miroslav Satan and Jason Blake with four apiece
- gotten competent, if not outstanding goaltending from the Rick DiPietro (3.38, .893) / Mike Dunham (1-0-1, 2.04, .933) team – since DiPietro played against Montreal (a 4-2- win) on Saturday, expect Dunham to get the call on Sunday.

The Islanders have gotten good production from Trent Hunter (5-3-8, +3), Miroslav Satan (4-4-8, +1), and Jason Blake (4-1-5, -1), but what seems to characterize the Islanders in their last six games is a willingness to shoot it out with their opponents. They’ve scored at least four goals in five of the six games; they’ve given up at least four goals twice.

For the Caps, an arena full of Dutch boys wouldn’t be enough to plug the holes in the dike. Once among the better 5-on-5 clubs this season, they’ve slipped to 25th in 5-on-5 play . . . they are allowing an astonishing 3.48 goals-per-game (27th) . . . they are still last in the league in shots-per-game allowed at 34.8 . . . 28th in the league when trailing first . . . 25th when outshot by opponents (a really bad sign when you’re giving up those 34.8 shots a game) . . . 24th in faceoffs . . . 25th in goal differential . . . 30th in shot differential . . . 4th most penalized team in the league. The Caps’ collapse from their high-point in mid-December has been across the board.

On the good side, the Caps are 5-4-2 in the second half of back-to-back games this year, 2-1-0 on home ice.

Olaf Kolzig has had excellent career success against the Islanders with a 24-9-2, 2.31, .910 record. And, although his won-loss mark stands at 2-4-0 in his last six games, he’s been something of a victim of bad luck (and bad play in front of him), too. His 3.03 GAA is better than his season average, and his .903 save percentage is comparable to his season mark (.908).

A long time ago, the Islanders owned the Caps. They were the “Penguins” breaking Caps fans’ hearts long before the Penguins got around to it. Then, for a time, the Caps owned the Islanders. But the Caps have lost six of their last seven games to this club by a combined score of 29-16, including a 4-1 thumping on November 25th.

Once more, the matter of fast starts comes into play. The Islanders have the fifth best record in the league when leading after one period. The Caps are 28th in the league when trailing after one period. If the Islanders have a lead after one, you might think about an early start to those Super Bowl parties.

The Peerless thinks the Caps are long past the point at which they should be angry over the turn of events the last seven weeks. It’s time to play with equal parts anger and disgust, because . . .

Caps 4 - Islanders 3