Monday, October 29, 2007
No, the Penguins are not actively seeking a goaltender to supplant Marc-Andre Fleury, but if the kid doesn't close some of the holes in his game, expect GM Ray Shero to take a serious run at renting veteran Olaf Kolzig if the Caps are sellers at the Feb. 26 trade deadline.
And it isn’t even Hallowe’en yet! These people will eat Santa Claus whole if this is doesn’t improve by December 24th.
So, as a public service, The Peerless brings you the other side of the street…the sunny side, if you will. We’ve assembled a group of famous optimists to try to get the Caps and Caps fans in the proper frame of mind, that this season is hardly lost ten games in...
Let’s start with Winston Churchill...Winnie...
“I beg your pardon...”
Excuse me, Mr. Prime Minister, you said once, “a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” How do you think this applies to the Caps?
“Young man, it speaks for itself. Your Capitals, and I cannot claim to be much of a hockey fan, are finding things a tough go...but it is an opportunity for these young men to step up, especially those who haven’t played a starring role. Why, I remember when the bombs were falling in London, and I..."
Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister...we also have with us Dr. Albert Schweitzer...Dr. Schweitzer, you once said that “an optimist is a person who sees a green light everywhere, while a pessimist sees only the red stoplight. The truly wise person is colorblind." I take that to mean, “don’t get too high from the highs, don’t get too low from the lows.”
OK...that seems like a...Yes, Mr. Prime Minister?...
“I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else.”
Well, that’s a good point...but let’s hear from the philosopher and mathematician Rene Decartes... Rene, you asked, “an optimist may see a light where there is none, but why must the pessimist always run to blow it out?” You must have had Caps fans in mind with that one...
“What, are you stupeed? I died more zen 300 years before you had a hockey team...”
I see, well, we have Stuart Smalley here, and he has some advice on trying to do to much to change things...
“That’s right Peerless, it's easier to put on slippers than to carpet the whole world."
You mean, just play ‘em one at a time...
“That’s right, you can’t say the season’s over...it’s like I said, ˜Whining is anger through a small opening.”
And what opening would that be?
“Well...let’s just say, I’d rather not say...”
Well folks, we’ve got a hockey game to play, and this opponent is having quite the “nu-NHL” season. You might remember the fine sports flick, “Bull Durham,” where in it, manager Joe Reardon and coach Larry Hockett have this exchange about phenom Ebby Calvin LaLoosh...
Joe: "He walked 18.”
Larry: “New league record!”
Joe: “Struck out 18.”
Larry: Another new league record! In addition he hit the sportswriter, the public address announcer, the bull mascot twice...
Larry: “Also new league records! But, Joe, this guy's got some serious sh*t.”
Well, think of that when you ponder the Toronto Maple Leafs…3.83 goals scored per game (second in the league)…3.67 goals allowed (second worst in the league). But they’ve got some “serious sh*t,” as Larry might say. 18 Leafs have scored goals…from “A” to “Z”…well “W,” anyway – Nik Antropov to Andy Wozniewski. You might compare that to the Caps, where 11 players have scored goals, and at least one – Chris Clark – is unlikely to play tonight.
For the Leafs, Mats Sundin is partying like it’s 1993 – the year he had 114 points for the Quebec Nordiques. He’s 6-12-18, +10 in 12 games so far and staking an early claim to some post-season hardware. He’s hardly alone in having his fun as Antropov leads the club in goals (eight) and is second in points (15), while Jason Blake is 2-10-12, +5 in the midst of finding time to manage chronic myelogenous leukemia. Combined, these three are 16-39-55, +27. That’s a pretty good year for a lot of guys (in fact, as a group, they are 34-53-87, +17 in 92 man-games against the Caps). Meanwhile, you’d go through ten players on the Caps before you found a combination of 55 points.
On the other side of the coin, the Leafs’ defense sucks. No, really…it sucks. They give up a ton of shots (34.3 per game – most in the league and five more a game than the Caps yield), and there is that 3.67 goals against per game. They’re also lousy on draws (25th at 47.3 percent) and not especially good on the penalty kill (18th at 80.0 percent…their home penalty kill is worse – 78.4 percent).
Take your pick of goalies; neither one has shined much. Vesa Toskala, thought to be the savior that would finally lead the Leafs back to the promised land of the playoffs (The Peerless would have said, “Stanley Cup,” but why indulge that deluded birthright Toronto fans seem to believe in), is a respectable 4-3-1, but his GAA of 3.34 and save percentage of .900 isn’t going to garner him any all-star or Vezina votes. Andrew Raycroft, who did a fair imitation of Jim Carey after winning the Calder Trophy in Boston in 2004, escaped to Toronto to put up some decent numbers last year (37-25-9, 2.99, .894) but is only 1-1-2, 3.64, .894 so far this year. Raycroft has had some success against the Caps: 4-3-1, 2.14, .917. Toskala has no career decisions against the Caps.
The Caps have lost three one-goal games in their last four contests, although in two of them the final margin was achieved by virtue of goals scored late with the goaltender pulled. This is a game that, on paper, the Caps have no business winning. Their offense (2.40 goals/game, 21st in the league) doesn’t scare the rather porous Leafs defense, and the Leafs’ offense has scored at least four goals in their last four games.
So, if you’re looking for an odd number to hang your “here’s why the Caps will win” hat, it might be this…Toronto has taken a lead at the first intermission four times this year, and they’ve won only once. Compare that to the rest of the league, where half the clubs’ winning percentage leading after one period is .750 or better. If the Caps find themselves behind early, fear not. The Leafs are at least as likely as not to give it back.
And we’ll close with something for all you “woe is us” Caps fans. In 2005-2006, coming out of the lockout, the Caps also were 4-6-0. But the difference is that in that year, the Caps had already lost four games by at least four goals. This year – one. In 2006-2007, the Caps actually started better: 3-3-4. But they started only 2-1-2 in their division; this morning, they haven’t yet lost to a division opponent.
The difference between this team and the two editions that preceded it are that those teams were not good. That is different from a team that is not playing well. Anaheim, to use an extreme example, is a very good team not playing very well (4-7-2 this morning). The Caps aren’t Anaheim, but they’re not a bag o’ pucks, either. And that’s why The Peerless has the utmost confidence (since he’s not betting any actual money) that the Caps will emerge with a “W” tonight…
Caps 5 – Leafs 3.