Monday, October 01, 2007

Is something up?

If it was a fan, I'd say, "aw, just sayin'..." But when it's the big guy?

"...We have some depth now and we are ready for the season to start. I wouldn't rule out a last minute trade and the feeling in the air is one of growing confidence in the talent level of our team..."

The plot thickens....

Daring?...or Dopey?

OK, you be the judge on these five off-the-wall mini-prognostos…

1. Washington will score more goals than will the Pittsburgh Penguins this year.

Pittsburgh is the darling of those who would like to see a return to firewagon, balls-out offense in the NHL. Sidney Crosby!...Evgeni Malkin!...Petr Sykora (the good one)!...Jordan Staal!...Mark Recchi (he’s still here?)! There’s 200 goals, right there!! The Peerless doesn’t think that there are 200 goals there, but that’s only a part of the point. The Caps will be deep (certainly deeper than they have been in recent memory), and they’ll have a third line that can put up some points.

2. Washington will have more wins than the New Jersey Devils.

OK, part of that is that The Peerless thinks the Devils are in for a rude time of it this year, given the strength at the top of the Atlantic. However, the Caps will be a lot better than last year. Heck, improving their shootout record to .500 adds about half a dozen wins.

3. Washington will have four 30-goal scorers this year.

Last year, the Caps had three (Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, and Chris Clark). This year, Clark will not get 30, but Viktor Kozlov and Michael Nylander will. It will be the first 30-goal seasons for Kozlov and Nylander.

4. Boyd Gordon will be a Selke finalist.

Well, why not? He was a mighty-fine defensive forward last year, and if the Caps end up being the surprise team in the East, he’s likely to get more exposure. Besides, if not this year, then not too long from now.

5. Alexander Ovechkin will join Bengt Gustafsson and Peter Bondra as the only Capitals with five-goal games.

You think this is far fetched? Thus far, Ovechkin’s hallmark has been consistency – he has 98 goals in 161 career games, but only two hat tricks (both on the road). But that’s also been without the benefit of talented playmakers. That won’t be a problem this year. Some nights, the puck just can’t help but go in, and for Ovechkin one of those nights is coming.

So, you be the judge…”daring?”…or “dopey?”

Sittin' at the End of the Bar

Just sittin' here, pondering some numbers...

40. No playoff team last year had fewer than 40 wins. Last year, the Caps had 28. Are there 12 more wins in the tank? The Peerless will take the over.

50. That seems to be the over-under on Alexander Ovechkin’s projected goal total for the year. Some folks are hinting at 60, or even…well, let’s just stick with 50 for now. Based on his preseason effort (look, he had no goals in the preseason last year and finished with 46), The Peerless will take the over.

100. Take your pick – the standings points the Caps will earn or the combined goal total of Ovechkin and Alexander Semin. The Peerless will take the under on both.

2.40. That was Olaf Kolzig’s GAA the last time the Caps made the playoffs (wasn’t that during the Harding administration?). It is 0.60 goals fewer than his GAA last year. Among goalies playing at least half their team’s schedule last year, that number would have been ninth. The Peerless will take the over…but not by much.

30. Viktor Kozlov has never had more than 25 goals in a season. That was last year with the Islanders. He is in a nice spot between a pure scorer and a rookie who can do things with the puck. This is his big opportunity. The Peerless will take the over.

75. Nicklas Backstrom is coming to the NHL with the title of “best player not in the NHL.” Well, now he’s in the NHL. No Calder winner (at least those not Russian skaters) has scored as many as 75 points in 15 years, going back to Teemu Selanne in 1992-1993. The last two Calder winners (those Russian skaters – Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin) both eclipsed that total. Backstrom faces stiff competition for the Calder from the Defensemen Johnson (Erik and Jack) and some others. But, as for the 75 points, The Peerless will take the under.

25. In both of his seasons in Washington, Brent Johnson has appeared in at least 25 games (26 in 2005-2006, 30 last year). 25 games is not a bad thing, if it is done right (i.e., if Kolzig is rested, not injured). However, in those games, Johnson has to play better (and the club has to play better in front of him) than in the past two seasons. It says here that he will, but as for the 25 games, The Peerless thinks this is a push.

20. Chris Clark has set career highs for goals scored in each of the past two years (20 in 2005-2006, 30 last year). The conventional wisdom says that this was a product of playing on a line with Alexander Ovechkin. Well, that’s probably true, but Clark has shown an ability to find a way to find the back of the net. It isn’t always a SportsCenter highlight goal, but they all count, and that skill will serve him well if he mans the right side of the third line. The Peerless is going with the over.

150. Last year, the trio of Chris Clark, Matt Pettinger, and Boyd Gordon scored 115 points. Clark scored his on the top line. Pettinger scored his while missing 18 games to injury. Gordon scored his in what amounted to his first full season. Can this trio score 150 points as a unit? Probably not. The Peerless will take the under on this, but it’ll be closer than some folks might think.

And then there were...

...well, we don't know yet, do we. This morning, Corey Masisak quotes Caps defenseman Jeff Schultz in the Washington Times as saying that:

"They told me to get a residence here, so I did that. That's a good sign for now, but I've just got to get better and better as the days go."

So that leaves, for the defense:

Steve Eminger
John Erskine
Mike Green
Milan Jurcina
Shaone Morrisonn
Brian Pothier
Tom Poti
...and Schultz

I count eight defensemen in there. The Caps could go with that to start the year. Which begs the question, will the Caps carry 13 forwards? At the moment, the forwards include:

Nicklas Backstrom
Matt Bradley
Donald Brashear
Chris Clark
Ben Clymer
Tomas Fleischmann
Boyd Gordon
Jakub Klepis
Viktor Kozlov
Brooks Laich
Michael Nylander
Alexander Ovechkin
Matt Pettinger
Alexander Semin
David Steckel
Brian Sutherby

That's 16. Jakub Klepis would appear not to have a spot at this point, and Eric Fehr (not on the list above) is likely to start the year on injured reserve, leaving two potential victims of hockey's equivalent of The Turk. If you're looking for hints, perhaps this quote from Glen Hanlon, reported in this morning's Post entry by Tarik El-Bashir, provides it...

"It really hurts when you see people leave the organization who have given their heart and soul to this group."

The next 30 hours or so (23-man rosters must be set by 3:00 pm, Tuesday) will be pretty hard on guys like David Steckel, Brooks Laich, Matt Bradley, Ben Clymer, and Brian Sutherby.