Saturday, March 31, 2007

After-Math -- Caps vs. Lightning

It’s a no point night . . .

Well…the Nats are opening their season on Monday, and apparently, one Capitals forward thought tonight might be a good time to audition for an outfield spot on the club. The Caps lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning, 5-2, and the lowlight of the game was Alexander Semin showing off his arm for Jim Bowden and Stan Kasten (as if they were watching). Flattened against the boards at the Tampa Bay blue line, Semin sat up, picked up the puck, and threw it into the Lightning end . . .

Two minutes for stupid, was the way one Lightning player put it.

Moments later on the ensuing power play, Tampa doubled their lead, and the Caps were on their way to finding another way to lose.

Being young is one thing, but being brain dead is quite another. Semin was rewarded for his antics with two inconsequential shifts over the last 22 minutes. It’s the second time he’s resorted to throwing the puck this year. Here’s a thought…duct tape his hands to his stick!

As for the rest of the game, it was crisply played, time-wise, but otherwise wasn’t much of a contest. With Semin sitting for those last 22 minutes, the Caps were reduced to whatever offense Alex Ovechkin could muster (save for a last-minute cosmetic goal from Matt Bradley). Trouble is, Ovechkin had exactly no shots on goal over a 24:39 period from late in the first period to early in the third. No other Capital seemed able to take up the slack.

Washington gave up the required power play goal, and even yielded a short-handed one for good measure. That’s nine of 11 games in which the Caps have given up a power play goal, killing off only 36 of 51 shorthanded situations in the process (70.6 percent).

Every indignity imaginable hit the Caps in this game – a goal in the first minute, a power play goal, a short-handed goal, and empty net goal, getting out-hit by a club that isn’t especially physical, and a really, really stupid play. All that was left was for Olaf Kolzig to be pantsed in his own crease.

Meanwhile . . .

. . . the Hershey Bears are riding a seven game winning streak. And, with tonight’s 6-5 win over Breidgport, the Bears took over the top-spot overall in the AHL, passing the Norfolk Admirals for first in the East Division of the Eastern Conference.

It’s not like a lot of the games have been close, either. Even with the Bears 6-5 score-first, fall-behind, come-back-in-the-end win over Bridgeport tonight, they have outscored opponents to the tune of 30-13 over these seven games. Tonight was the first time in these seven games that an opponent scored more than two goals.

Kyle Wilson has led the way in scoring, going 3-7-10. Among the others:

- Dave Steckel, 2-7-9
- Chris Bourque: 4-4-8, including a hat trick tonight
- Joey Tenute: 4-3-7
- Matt Hendricks: 4-3-7
- Quintin Laing: 3-4-7
- Jakub Klepis: 3-4-7 (before being recalled to Washington)

In goal, Frederic Cassivi is 4-0-0, 1.00, .963 in four appearances in this stretch, while Maxime Daigneault is 3-0-0, 3.00, .871 in three appearances.

It’s an unhappy spring for Caps fans in Washington, but in Hershey, there is hope of another deep run in the playoffs to come. Way to go, guys…

A Marketing Dream . . .

The Peerless was over checking on the fine folks over at On Frozen Blog this morning, perusing a note about The Finnish Curiosity, Janne Lahti, and it occurred to me . . . the NHL needs a makeover. Shoot, it’s right there in front of their gin-soaked eyes . . .


Ever been to a NASCAR race? Well, The Peerless hasn’t, but he’s seen 10 or 20 seconds of the odd race or two on TV. And what do you see?


photo: Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images

…and this…

Photo: Getty Images

Ads plastered on every square inch of driver and car, just like, well, The Curiosity…

Look, even announcers can get into gear, as it were, on this...

“And there goes the Mello Yello Burger King Alexander Ovechkin into the far corner where he drafts the DeWalt Pennzoil Zdeno Chara to take the puck . . . and Chara puts him into the wall . . . there's the yellow flag . . . two minutes for boarding . . . ”

What? It’s worse than what passes for NHL marketing now?

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Lightning, March 31st

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

Yes, we’re back on this fine spring morning to bring you another prognostication, and this morning it’s . . .



“ho-ho . . . I tell ya, you guys don’t get NO respect, NO respect . . . “

Don’t I know it…

“Yeah, if you look up the family tree of hockey, you guys are the sap.”


“Hey, we kid because we love…so, you guys are playing the Lightning…”

Yeah, and Lecavalier got his 50th last night – maybe it’ll be some incentive for Ovechkin tonight.

“Hey, that’s Vinnie, right?...Did I ever tell ya about my doctor, Dr. Vinnie Boom Botz . . . one time he tells me, ‘you’re too fat,’ and I tell him I want a second opinion, and then he tells me, ‘you’re ugly, too’ . . . maybe he should take a look at your guys.”

Uh, you’ll have to check with Coach Hanlon about that one.

“Hey, I watched your guys last night against Florida – tough break, tough break . . . you guys don’t get no respect from anybody . . . I’ll bet when the guys put on their underwear, even the Fruit-of-the-Loom guys start laughing.”

You haven’t lost it, Rodney.

“So what’s the deal . . . last time I saw you guys, you weren’t this bad . . . if one of these guys stuck his head out o’ the window of the team bus, he’d get arrested for mooning . . . on Hallowe’en, parents will be sending their kids out dressed as Caps.”

C’mon, they’re not that bad…

“No, but I got a lot of material . . . “

Sure wish the Caps did . . .

The Lightning are one of the “serious six” clubs fighting for the last three playoff spots in the East (no, we’re not inclined to include Florida as a “seventh” . . . but that could change by midnight). They have to be licking their chops at the prospect of the Caps coming to town, if only for this number:


That is the Caps penalty killing rate over their last ten games. The Caps have scored 30 goals and given up 34 in going 2-6-2 in their last 10, but that 7-14 spread in power play for and against sticks out like Rodney’s trademark red tie. It might be the tonic for a Lightning power play that is only 5-for-37 on its own over the last ten games (13.5 percent).

Vincent Lecavalier scored his 50th goal last night against Carolina, his first time eclipsing the 50-goal plateau and serving perhaps as a dagger in the Hurricanes flagging playoff hopes. Finally taking his place among the elites in the game, Lecavalier brings a 7-7-14 line in his last ten games into tonight’s contest.

The trouble is, though, Tampa Bay is only 5-5-0 in their last ten games. Why? Goaltending. An issue all year, it’s been magnified under the lens of the sprint to the finish. Last night the Lightning got a solid effort from Johan Holmqvist in the 4-2 win over Carolina. He’s been adequate in going 2-1-0, 2.87, .912 over Tampa’s last ten games. Marc Denis, who has been getting more of the work lately and could very well get the call tonight, given Holmqvist's struggles against the Caps (2-2-0, 4.31, .826), is 3-4-0, 3.76, .887 in his appearances over the last ten Lightning games. That isn’t far off his career numbers against Washington – 4-3-1-0, 3.71, .881.

The Caps can score against this team. They’ve scored 30 goals in seven games in the season series (they’ve given up 25, too). And, they can shut down the Lightning power play – 28-for-33, 84.5 percent, in the season series and scoreless in the last two games.

The difficulty for the Lightning is in keeping focus in the second half of a back-to-back set of games, this one being against a lesser opponent. Given the chance to take care of business, the Lightning have been treading water the last ten games. Last night was, for them, a step forward. Tonight is a step back…

Caps 4 – Lightning 2

After-Math -- Caps vs. Panthers

It was a one point night, folks.

The hockey gods are not accountants.

Because, if they were they would take a look at the great ledger of hockey history and figure out that somewhere, sometime . . . soon . . . the Washington Capitals are owed, bigtime.

Last night was another night of recording debits in that ledger. The Caps lost by a 3-2 score to the Florida Panthers in overtime, but frankly, it never should have come to pass in that way. Two moments – both of which went against the Caps – allowed the Panthers to hang around long enough to put themselves in a position to win in overtime. One of those moments happened in the blink of an eye, they other was reviewed and reviewed and reviewed over several excruciating minutes with Caps fans no doubt knowing in their hearts how it would turn out.

The first, one that a lot of folks missed – certainly the referees did – was a hook on Tomas Fleischmann that took him to the ice and permitted the Panthers to clear their defensive zone. Moments later on that same rush, Florida had a goal.

But it was the second one that haunts. Matt Bradley fired the puck at the Florida cage from a bad angle and the puck found its way behind Panther goalie Ed Belfour. Belfour spun and dove at the puck, covering it up . . . the question being whether or not he did so before it crossed the goal line. The referee waved off the goal, despite the goal judge lighting the lamp to signify a goal. After several minutes passed, during which a replay clearly showed the puck on edge crossing the line, the goal was waved off. The rest of the game was just details.

This time of year, the little victories are not often team ones, but individual ones for teams like the Caps. Chris Clark deserves congratulations for netting his 30th goal in typical Clarkian fashion – with his back to the play, tangling with a Panther defenseman, the puck was sent off the inside of his left skate and into the Florida net. They all count, and these are the sorts that are the product of gritty play in front. If the Caps ever trade this guy, The Peerless will seek the parties responsible, find them, and beat them into a puddle of viscous goo with a Dale Hunter stick.

Steve Eminger . . . yeah, he took the penalty in overtime that led to the Panther goal – defensemen taking penalties in OT is like the cornerback in football beaten deep . . . everyone knows who did it and what the result is. But Eminger played one of his better games of the year. It is so frustrating to watch him play a game like this (well, for 61 minutes, anyway), then see him have a total brain-lock of a game. Last night, he looked like a keeper.

But in the end, it’s another loss. 2-14-6 in their last 22 games; 11-28-7 since their high-water mark in December. 78 down, four to go. Four games to get five points and surpass last year’s point total. It won’t be easy.