Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Bruins, February 6th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

Once upon a time, there was a hockey team. They had a difficult 2005-2006 season, but when the 2006-2007 dawned, they exceeded expectations and got off to a surprising start. They were well over .500, and their fans were dreaming playoff dreams. All was going well. But then the December holidays came and the Grinch visited, leaving a foul stench around the team. The team went into a funk and couldn’t keep anyone from putting the puck into their net. Goals were allowed in bunches . . . game after game after game. The team fell through the conference standings . . . eighth . . . ninth . . . tenth . . . eleventh . . . the fans were in a sour mood, and things were getting worse and worse. Playoff dreams became winter nightmares, and the cold, dark truth was revealed that perhaps this wasn't the year the team would return to the playoffs.

The Caps?

Nope, the Boston Bruins.

On December 29th the Bruins stood at 19-13-3, and all was well in Beantown. Since then, the B’s are 4-11-1 and sinking in the Eastern Conference. And it isn’t as if the Bruins have been losing games close . . . 10-2 to Toronto . . . 6-1 to the Rangers . . . 7-1 to Buffalo. The defense and goaltending have been horrible, matched only by an offense that has been anemic. In their last 16 games, the Bruins:

- have been outscored 72-31 (4.5 - 1.9 per game)
- converted 12 of 75 power play opportunities (16.0 percent)
- killed 73 of 87 shorthanded situations (83.9 percent)
- allowed 34.2 shots per game – 11 times they have yielded at least 35 shots
- scored one or no goals eight times
- allowed five or more goals seven times
- lost eight times by at least three goals
- have been shorthanded ten times in a game twice
- lost a home-and-home to Toronto by a score of 15-3
- started fast in games (18 of 31 goals scored in the first period), then fizzled (outscored 22-5 in the second period, 29-8 in the third period)

The Bruins have had their expressions of joy reduced to vacant stares . . .

Individually, the Bruins really have been reduced to a two-man show in the last 16 games. Marc Savard is 6-13-19, and Glen Murray is 7-5-12, but between the two of them, they are -16 over those last 16 games. From there, it just gets worse for the Bruins. For no one more so, perhaps, than Patrice Bergeron. The third-year player started the year 13-29-42 in his first 35 games. But in the last 16 he is 3-3-6, -16. That last number is not a misprint. He hasn’t been on the plus side of the ledger since December 19th. The minus stats for the Bruins over the last 16 games are of the sort from which Bruin fans would avert their eyes. P.J. Axelsson – generally thought to be among the better defensive forwards in the league – is a -12. Phil Kessel is -7 in 12 games since returning to the Bruin lineup after cancer surgery. Brad Boyes, -16 (again, not a misprint) . . . Marco Sturm, -12 . . . Paul Mara, -10 . . . Brad Stuart, -18 . . . minus 18??? Zdeno Chara’s -4 looks positively “Norrisesque” by comparison. The Bruins are getting pasted at even-strength.

The goaltending hasn’t exactly been top-notch over the last 16 games, either. Tim Thomas is 3-8, 3.96, .885, while Hannu Toivonen is 1-3-1, 4.49, .859.

On the other side of the ice, the Caps are coming off a 2-1 shootout win against the Islanders, which followed a 2-0 loss to Pittsburgh. The good part of that is that the Caps seem to have become reacquainted with team defense. The bad part is, they have one actual hockey goal in the last 128 minutes of play.

If there was a team served up on a platter for what ails the Caps, it would be these Bruins. And that is precisely the kind of opponent the Caps have saved some of their ugliest games of the year for (see the combined work against the Florida Panthers in the last three meetings).

If the Caps show up and do something more than merely toss their sticks on the ice, they should win this game, and it shouldn’t be close.

The Peerless being nothing if not consistent, he sees the Caps actually showing up tonight and taking out a measure of frustration against the struggling B’s. Alex Ovechkin is likely to be wearing a Chara Parka for much of the evening, but it could be a big night for someone like Alexander Semin. Shoot, even the third line could get off the schneid, tonight.

Caps 6 – Bruins 2

photos: (AP/Karl B. DeBlaker)