Saturday, October 27, 2007

Sittin' at the end of the bar...

Sometimes, numbers just don’t tell the story...imagine a team having this statistical edge:

Shots: 33-23
Shots attempted: 63-47
Hits: 25-19
Takeaways: 9-7
Giveaways: 2-4 (having fewer of them)
Power play chances: 3-2
Faceoffs won: 24-19

You’d think that team won, wouldn’t you....nope. Rangers – the ones with the edge – lost handily at home to Toronto on Saturday, 4-1.

Carey Price still has the biggest dumpload of a backside in professional hockey. J-S Giguere wears Michelin Man chest protectors...Price wears clown pants. But I’d sure like to have him on my team. has in introduced a “real time” window for each game that gives you score, time, and SOG in cute colored graphics...but they’ve mangled the shift chart (they don’t have one anymore), the game summary, and what used to be the “super stats”....the triumph of format over content...welcome to the Internet 2007.

When the season began, the Devils and the Rangers having the same record wouldn’t have been considered unusual...that they are both 3-6-1 is.

And Buffalo’s limping along at 5-5-0, too...whodathunk that it’d be the Islanders leading the New York (plus Jersey) challenge tournament at 5-4-0?

And in that same vein, of last year’s eight playoff teams in the east, only four are playing above .500 (Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, NY Islanders).

Last year, 26 goalies playing at least 41 games had a save percentage of .900 or better. So far this year, 18 goalies playing at least five games are .900 or better. Just sayin’...

Speaking of which...Manny Fernandez’ save percentage is .832 up in Boston. Guess the Wild kept the right goalie (even though he injured his groin – in practice, no less – and will miss at least Sunday’s game).

Philadelphia was the odds-on favorite to be this year’s most improved team (well, for this prognosticator, anyway). But did anyone have Columbus being 6-3-1 at the 10-game mark? Of course,
having a goalie with four shutouts ain’t hurtin’, either.

Got the beer, got the snacks, got hockey...

-- Well..that was quick...Boyes at 45 seconds...turnover at the Blues line, Pothier and Schultz left behind...1-0 Blues...

-- Caps opening with the five forward power play unit again...Ovechkin and Semin at the points...all for naught...St. Louis not shy about throwing the body around. Brashear to the box...

-- Another turnover...another break...another shot over Johnson's glove...2-0, courtesy of Eric Brewer.

-- And Manny Legace returns the favor...Mike Green sent a floater over over Legace's blocker (his own defenseman got in his view)...2-1...this could be one of those dozen goal games.

-- We're ten minutes in...17 hits credited already...10 for the Caps.

-- Kozlov with some nice stick work and a wrister that Legace gloves...that's the difference -- Legace made that save, Johnson didn't on Boyes' second goal.

-- Pettinger off the side of the post...the Caps finally have a buzz in front of the net...the third line crashing the net.

-- This is not Shaone Morrisonn's best he gets whistled for collaring Jackman up high...then Erskine gets the gate for cross-checking Tkachuk...those two are having some fun tonight.

-- There's the horn for the first...odd period...Caps played pretty well for long stretches, interspersed with some truly boneheaded plays.

-- CSN reports that the Semin deal is two years for $9.2 million.

-- Carolina is laying the lumber to the Islanders...8-2 with ten minutes left...Brind'Amour has a hat trick, Whitney has a pair.

-- Greenie again, off the glove of Legace...Brashear doing the screening...2-2..and another power play...and another penalty to the Blues...5-on-3 for 1:21

-- Really bad entries on the power play...a recurring problem...and the power play ends without cheer.

-- Two on one, turned into a two on none...and Johnson comes up big...then a 3-on-2...Johnson again.

-- Pothier in the box...for roughing?? Lame call by VanMassenhoeven.

-- Another penalty...too many men...playing with fire, boys...this is the sixth PP for St. Louis.

-- Habs and Pens went to eight rounds in the shootout...only one goal; Markov the winner for the Habs. Fleury got yanked again in this one.

-- Caps had 15 hits in the first so far in the second.

-- Boyes again...using Jurcina as a screen to send the puck...over Johnson's glove...3-2, Blues

-- Just when the guys were singing the praises of Nicklas Backstrom, he misses on an intercept of a pass, and Backman sends it to the back of the net...4-2, Blues, barely a minute into the third....and the Caps looked pretty washed out...the travel might finally be kicking in.

-- Caps to the PP...Brashear draws the penalty...they need this one, right here, or the competitive portion of the game is probably over.

-- So much for the power play...and now the Blues get to go a man up...

-- Ten minutes left, and it already feels like mop-up time.

-- Caps PP...nice save by Legace on Pettinger, then Ovechkin has to sprint back to make sure the Blues don't get a shorthanded break....and now, another 5-on-3 for the Caps...time out, Caps...talking about what clubs to hit after the game?

-- five blocked shots by the Blues defending a 5-on-3...that's just nuts...and the power play ends with no harm to the Blues...

-- and once more, the Caps get a goal with the goalie pulled...Nylander deflecting an Ovechkin drive...4-3.

-- then the Caps couldn't get the puck out of their own end (Dan Hinote with some fine forechecking), and couldn't complete a pass when they more shots, no more goals, no points tonight...Blues 4 - Caps 3.

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Blues, October 27th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

Tonight the Caps get the St. Louis Blues in The Gateway City, the back end of a back-to-back, home-and-road set. Speaking of “blue,” we caught up with a “Capital” out of the past in getting ready for this game. It is one of the sadder stories in hockey, the tale of a celebrity kicked to the side of the road when his looks faded and the next hot new thing emerged on the scene. Well, let’s let him tell it…

We’re here with someone a lot of older Capitals fans will recognize – one of the biggest celebrities in the history of the franchise, someone who, back in the 1980’s, was known to kids and grown-ups alike. Yes, we have with us, “Winger.” Winger, how have you been?

“How does it look like I’ve been…I’m molting, my looks are gone, I drink too much, and no one knows my face anymore.”

Well, that’s one of those bad runs of luck one has to endure from time to time.

“Yeah, look at you, fancy-schmancy blogger…”

Winger, have you been following the Caps at all?

“I’ll always have a warm place in my heart for the boys. They always treated me right, and I do love the game so.

What do you think of this year’s crop?

“Hard to tell…they haven’t really hit their stride yet. It’s like a car that just can’t quite turn over when you turn the key. But when it does….vr-r-r-r-room!

What’s impressed you most, so far?

“Well, that Ovechkin kid, of course. He’s inching up that scoring ranking – 21st this morning, I think – but there’s more to his game this year…plus-two, I see…and geez, the boy can hit…tied for seventh among forwards in hits and even up among the leaders in blocked shots. Yeah, he’s really become a hockey player.”

You keep pretty close tabs on these guys.

“Yeah, well…what else does a washed-up mascot have to do these days?”

What about the new guys?...Nylander, Poti, Kozlov?

“Fans need to realize, these guys have been brought in here mostly for offense and especially the power play. It’ll take time for that to gel. Those three you mentioned have five of the 21 goals the Caps have scored, and you’d expect them to have a bigger share as the season goes along.”

About that power play…it’s struggled so far. What’s the problem, as you see it?

“Consistency – all the way from the ice to the bench. We’re – look at that, I’m still saying ‘we’ after all these years away – we’re only nine games in, and the Caps only have three players who have had a power play goal. And Ovechkin has half of those. Six-for-43 isn’t going to cut it. But maybe the Caps need to resist the temptation to change things all around. I saw that five-forward thing last night – it actually had a goal. But I read this morning that Coach Hanlon isn’t going to go with it in St. Louis. I do wonder though….what are two guys with world-class wrist shots doing at the point on the power play heaving slap-shot bombs?

Well, Chris Clark won’t play…he took that puck off the side of his head last night.

“Yeah, maybe he needs to skate with a Ridell on his melon when the Caps play in Toronto on Monday…look like Chris Cooley.”

Don’t know if they allow that sort of thing…what about the other side of the special teams – penalty killing.

“Geez, I remember that Kelly Miller kid…smart kid…not flashy, but got the job done. I see a lot of that in Boyd Gordon.”

Yeah, we’ve been singing his praises pretty loud so far, too.

“The Caps have given up 25 goals this year…know how many Gordon has been on the ice for?”

No, I don’t…



“That’s right…not a single one. And he’s won more than 63 percent of his draws…only three players in the league with more than 75 draws taken are ahead of him”

Bet Yanic Perreault is one of them.

“Gee…small wonder they call you ‘Peerless’…bet you’ll prognosticate that the sun rises in the east tomorrow, too.”

It’s a gift…what about the goalies? Think Brent Johnson will get the start?

“I’d expect so…back end of a back-to-back…on the road…in a city where he played.”

We’re just about out of time, Winger…I hope this isn’t a sensitive subject, but what’s your take on Slapshot?

“Please…don’t get me started. Look at some of my old pics. I look like a cross between Liberace and a Vegas show girl – the feathers and feather-boa look. And my nose looks like you could open a can of tuna with it. You know Slapshot had some nose work done, don’t you?...”

No, I hadn’t heard that…

“And those shoulders…silicone implants…”

Well, that’s all the time we have for our visit with for the Caps, they play a thoroughly beatable team tonight, which right now is a guarantee of exactly….nothing, except a Peerless prognostication….

Caps 4 – Blues 3.

"...I hear that prima donna has a personal manicurist, too!"

It's a NO point night -- Caps vs. Canucks, October 26th

A no point night...and today’s frustrating analogy comes from the section “T” of the dictionary…

traction (trak’-shun): noun -- the adhesive friction of a body on some surface, as a wheel on a rail or a tire on a road.

In last night’s 3-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks, the lack of traction – in the game and for the season – was on display. Let’s leave aside, for the moment, that it was Roberto Luongo in net for the Canucks – a goaltender the Caps haven’t beaten since the Hoover administration. They had their chances – lots of them. It was a virtual replay of the game against Tampa Bay on Wednesday in this respect…in the game against the Lightning, the Caps “outattempted” the Lightning in shots, 57-45 (shots-plus-attempts blocked-plus-missed shots). Last night, the total favored the Caps, 57-46.

And it wasn’t as if the Caps’ chances were of the poor variety, but there was a subtle difference in the nature of the attempts. The top scorers on the top two lines – the players you’d expect having the most chances taken (Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Chris Clark, Viktor Kozlov) – had 33 attempts on Wednesday. Last night?...24. A substantial number of those 24 attempts were of the quality variety – Luongo having to sprawl across the mouth of the cage to foil a one-timer from Ovechkin and then, with the game in the balance in the waning moments, turning away Semin from in close being perhaps the most visible examples of fine chances.

It comes down to traction…the Caps just couldn’t really find any last night, just as they haven’t (yet) this season, save for those first three games. They are a shot, a save, or a hair’s breadth away from having a big night or a decent streak. Last night was typical of that – no Caps played especially poorly, but there were some bad plays that the opposition took advantage of (much as Tampa did on Wednesday, without the same unfortunate game result). Mike Green played the puck a bit lazily along the boards, and when he and Taylor Pyatt had finished their “monkey-humping-football” routine, nudging the puck down the ice into the Capitals’ end, Olaf Kolzig remembered that he was last night’s goalie too late to stop the puck from slithering under him for the Canuck’s second goal. There weren’t a lot of those instances last night, but enough so that the Caps never established much of a rhythm until very late and very desperate. In other words, they never got much traction.

It was unfortunate, because the Caps put on an incredibly dominating performance in one underrated aspect of the game – faceoffs. We pointed out coming in that Vancouver was faceoff-circle challenged coming in, and they lived down to that. The Canucks lost 44 of 68 draws (35.3 percent winning percentage). Boyd Gordon and David Steckel won a combined 25 of 35 draws (71.4 percent). But even that is deceptive and indicative of a lack of traction. The Caps were only 14-13 in defensive zone draws (51.9 percent). The Canucks were somewhat better at pinning the Caps in their own end at the start of plays.

The Caps were equally dominating in physical play, outhitting the Canucks, 32-12, as befitting the biggest team in the league. Milan Jurcina led the hit parade with five, but Matt Bradley and Donald Brashear chipped in four, themselves.

Among the notable numbers at the individual level, Brian Pothier played like he was at an arcade game (or was wearing a number “8” jersey)…eight shots on goal, another four attempts blocked. Add in two hits and a couple of blocked shots on his own in more than 27 minutes of ice time, and it was a pretty good game from the blueliner.

Ovechkin had his second straight multiple point game (1-1-2), and complemented his game with a couple of hits and three blocked shots. The demonstration of Ovechkin’s more well-rounded game continues, and not at the expense of consistency.

The Peerless does have to doff his prognosticator’s cap to Alexander Semin in one regard. The kid didn’t back down when getting tangled up with Willie Mitchell during one lengthy sequence last night. Mitchell is a pretty tough fellow – not in the brawler sense, but he throws his weight around effectively. Semin and he tangled, and when Mitchell decided the time was ripe to throw that weight around, Semin gave it right back…then went after him again…and again. The two tussled from one side of the ice to the other, but while Mitchell wasn’t any the worse for wear in the exchange, kudos to Semin for taking care of his own business.

The Peerless gets the feeling the Caps are this close to breaking out – in a game and over a stretch of games. But it’s getting to where they need to demonstrate that pretty quickly. Carolina has opened a seven-point lead (although in two more games played than the Caps). While the Caps’ season has 73 more games to play, one does not want to lose contact with the teams at the top of the division, even this early. Right now, the Caps need a push from someone to get some traction...who is it going to come from?