Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Rangers, November 1

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

Well, Caps fans, we are in the midst of having won one in a row. And what a one it was. A 7-1 win in Toronto against the Maple Leafs is always a treat, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The Caps are still only 5-6-0, but that is better than the stumbling 4-6-1 start that tonight’s opponent – the New York Rangers – have compiled.

A trip to Manhattan always brings with it the thrill of the sights and sounds of the big city. And the visitor might be advised to partake of some of the delectable delights of the Big Apple when taking in the city. Perhaps no place says, “New York” more than The Stage Deli in Manhattan, where their famous sandwiches bear the names of those who created them. From the “Marv Albert” (corned beef and swiss cheese) to the “Alex Rodriguez” (turkey, chopped liver, lettuce, tomato, and onion), you’ll find something famous when you're famished.

But what about the Rangers? The Peerless perused the menu and didn’t see anything dedicated to the Blueshirts. Well, if there were any Rangers on the menu, perhaps Caps fans might be able to order such as…

The Jaromir Jagr…over-boiled chicken, limburger, and chopped liver…it has no heart, and stinks, too! Call your friends to order one…on your cell phone!

The Scott Gomez…sliced Alaska salmon, caviar, waygu beef, moose milk cheese (really!), and a nice slice of heirloom tomato…oh, so nice, and overpriced at half the price!

The Brendan Shanahan…blue cheese (extra mold), aged corn-fed beef, and hard-boiled egg…we’ll even throw in a bottle of Ensure!

The Sean Avery…sliced tongue, hot peppers, extra sharp cheddar cheese, and bologna…it puts the “smack” in “lip-smackin’ good”

The Larry Brooks…bologna…lots and lots of bologna…we don’t even bother with the bread!

The Chris Drury…ground buffalo, boneless chicken wings, and white American cheese…you’ll wish you were in Buffalo…he does.

The Fedor Tyutin…pastrami, sauerkraut, chopped liver, and onions…you’ll be “tyutin” all night long!

The Stephen Valiquette…two slices of white bread…hey, when he plays a game, we’ll fill it in!

The Marc Staal…chicken, turkey, duck, and goose…hey, they’re all brothers under their poultry skin…

Now that you’ve had you fill, what can we expect tonight? Well, we can expect the fans at Madison Square Garden to have a low “boo” threshold. A club featuring a payroll that includes the likes of Jaromir Jagr ($8.36 million), Scott Gomez ($10.0 million paid to him this year), Chris Drury ($7.1 million), and Henrik Lundqvist ($4.1 million) sitting dead last in the NHL in scoring (1.73 goals/game) and 12th in the Eastern Conference in points will have that effect.

Only Lundqvist can be said to have earned his money so far. His 1.82 goals-against average (5th in the league) and .930 save percentage (6th) have kept the Rangers in every game, despite the goal scoring drought. King Henrik is only 4-3-1 when giving up two goals or fewer – a sign of the consistent goal scoring trouble the Rangers have had. The Rangers are third best in the league in goals-allowed-per-game.

Offensively, it’s hard to know where to start. The Rangers are second in the league in shots per game (33.8). They’re certainly not shy about launching the puck. But here is a glimpse at the trouble…Brendan Shanahan takes almost six of those shots a game, and he has two goals to show for it. His 3.2 percent shooting percentage is worse than Fedor Tyutin, Petr Prucha, Ryan Callahan, and Dan Girardi, who – combined – earn less than three-quarters what Shanahan is earning.

Shanahan is hardly the only problem. Someone forgot to tell Scott Gomez that the season started. Being 2-1-3, -2, through 11 games is not what the Rangers had in mind when bringing him across the river. But, three points ties him for fifth in team scoring.

See the problem?

However, in the end, all roads (and pucks) go through Jaromir Jagr. That he would be leading the team in scoring is not a surprise. That he would be doing it with 11 points is. If he was to continue that pace over the entire season, it would be only time he would have failed to average more than a point a game (save for his split season with the Caps and Rangers in 2003-2004), since 1991-1992. This is an important consideration for Jagr, given the nature of the criteria to trigger an option for next year on his contract (and the Caps’ obligation therein). At the moment, at the pace he is on, he would meet none of the criteria, not even the trophies (unless you think an 82-point season will win the Ross or be deserving of the Hart, and the Rangers are not now in the top-eight, so there goes the Smythe).

For the Caps, their seven-goal effort against Toronto catapulted them to 15th in the league in scoring at 2.82 goals-per-game. They’re actually better on the other side, giving up 2.73 goals-per-game, good for 13th in the league. Again, it’s not five-on-five play that is hurting the club – they are ninth overall in five-on-five efficiency. Their special teams remain mired in the bottom half of the rankings – 20th on the power play (16.1 percent) and 19th on the penalty kill (80.7 percent). Their “special teams index” (power play ranking-plus-penalty killing ranking) ranks 22nd in the league. The Rangers, by way of comparison, are 13th.

If there is anything in the numbers that suggests a strategy for the Caps it is this…”shoot early, and shoot often.”

The Rangers are winless when trailing first (0-5-1), and they are winless when trailing after one period (0-3-0). Conversely, they unbeaten when leading after one period (4-0-0). You can pretty much plan your evening on the basis of the first 20 minutes…unless they’re tied.

This is a really good sign for the Caps (it’s what we do here). The Caps are tied for fourth in first period goals scored (13) and have outscored their opposition 13-6 in the first frame. The Rangers, on the other hand, are six for and six against in the first period this year.

The Caps will get that first goal tonight, and it will be a lead they will not relinquish…

Caps 2 – Rangers 1.

Edit...we almost forgot, there is a post-game treat for fans after the Flyers game on Friday...the Chuggers of the NVAHL (Northern VA Adult Hockey League) will be playing the Justice from the HNA (Hockey North America) after the Caps game. If you choose to hang around after the Caps victory, you can all move down to the players bench area and watch some spirited hockey, amateur style. As English put it over on The Official, "the Washington Post...says, 'A must see game'". He wrote it on his copy of the Post with a Sharpie, but no doubt the WaPo was thinking it. Give it a look...The Peerless prognosticates a hard-fought affair won by the sons of the Old Dominion.