Friday, November 02, 2007

A contract worth noting...Jason Spezza reports that Jason Spezza has inked a seven-year extension for $49 million, with the deal front weighted in signing bonuses ($40 million total obligation for years 1-5).

For those of you lighting candles that Alex Ovechkin's deal gets done soon, it's a deal worth noting. So, for those of you keeping score, that's two big, front-loaded contracts bestowed upon Senators, Dany Heatley having signed one (six years/$45 million -- $26 million of it in years 1-3) a month ago.

The cap hits for the big contracts look like this:

Jason Spezza: $7.0 million
Dany Heatley: $7.5 millon
Sidney Crosby: $8.7 million (coincidence, right?)

All are front loaded (Crosby gets $36 million in years 1-4 of his five year deal).

That $7.5 million cap figure seems as good a place as any to settle for Ovechkin, given what his cohorts have signed for. The trick is going to be the years. That Alexander Semin has signed a two-year/$9.2 million deal that is back-loaded ($5.0 million in the second year) also might suggest that the stream of payments could be an issue.

Nothing ever comes easy, much as it might look that way just looking at the numbers.

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Flyers, November 2nd

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

Didn’t we just do this yesterday?...Well, we’re doing it again today, because…THE FLYERS ARE COMING TO TOWN!

And you know what that means…uncouth Flyer fans…

“Yo!...Peerless, who you callin’ uncouth?”

Rocky?...Well, here is one of Philly’s favorite sons come to pay us a visit. Rocco, what’s going on?

“Hey, I just wanted to come to see how youse guys were gonna hold up against our Flyers.”

Well, what about them…what do you think of them so far?

“They’re great! should see dese guys hit. It’s like me’n Creed way back, remember that?”

Sure do, Rocky…what about Martin Biron?...he’s been a “rock” himself in goal.

“Hey, Peerless…you’re a funny guy, ya know? But this Biron – I think he’s really Marty Barone…you know, an Italian guy – he’s great! Flashin’ those pads…catchin’ those pucks…he’s got a better glove hand than that Clubber Lang guy. Geez…top-ten in wins, goals-against, save percentage…youse can’t do no better’n that.”

Speaking of Clubber, these Flyers still don’t seem to have the look of the old “Broad Street Bullies” teams…

“Hey…dese guys can hold their own, if ya know what I mean…seven fights in 11 games…and that Riley Cote has three already!”

You think he and Donald Brashear might have a go tonight?

“Hey, I’m lookin’ forward to it. Brash has the big left hand, but Cote is a real fireplug…kinda like I was…he just keeps punchin’”

How about Daniel Briere…he’s been the “good” free agent signing so far, it seems.

“Hey…I don’t know nuthin’ ‘bout ‘free agents’…nuthin’s free where I come from, ya know?...but this Briere, he’s a tough kid, even though he’s got that baby face.”

If you were to tell Caps fans who to look out for, who would you pick?

“Hey, Peerless…you don’t telegraph your punches when you’re in the ring, ya know what I’m sayin’?...but I’m thinkin’ the Caps oughtta be lookin’ out for Jeff Carter. He’s got six goals in 11 games so far, and he’s had three in five career games against the Caps.”

Well, Rock, what’s up with Simon Gagne?...he took that shoulder from Jay Bouwmeester a few games back and hasn’t been seen since.

“Yo, did you see that hit?...It was like that Russian guy I fought…Drago. Gagne’s been dizzy ever since. He’s been takin’ dese tests up in Philly…memorizin’ names and stuff like that…and he’s showin’ up about as punch-drunk as I was after I pounded Tommy Gunn into the front of a bus. He's dumber'n Paulie, ya know what I'm sayin'?”

Is he going to play tonight?

“I dunno, ya know?...he’s seein’ kinda slow, like when a guy throws a punch, and you’re still seein’ it, but he’s already hit ya, ya know?”

I think I do…so Rock, you seen this Ovechkin kid?

“He’s great!...I saw that hit he had last year…when he put that guy through the glass in Colorado?...geez, he hits harder than I do!”

That’s sayin’ somethin’, Rock…

“And he’s fast too…like Creed. Ya blink, and he’s either already hit ya eight times, or he’s around ya makin’ ya look foolish, ya know?”

So what do you think, Rock?...I’d guess you’re picking Philly to win tonight, eh?

“Hey, I dunno, ya know?...they lost three o’ their last four, and got beat pretty good in a couple, know what I’m sayin’?...and they’re not a great road team, either…they’re in the middle of a long road trip.”

Eight games, isn’t it?

“Yeah…Flyer fans are gonna forget how ta boo, ya know?”

Sure Rock…what’s been going on? guys have a horse show or something up there?

“Nah…worse…they had friggin’ Disney on Ice…I wanna stuff a left hook in Nemo’s face, already, ya know?”

I know, Rock…I get that feeling whenever I see another picture of Sidney Crosby…

“Yeah…me too…”

For the Caps, the object is to stop the bleeding. They’ve already endured a four-game losing streak in the early part of the season. Starting in on another streak just isn’t part of the plan. The Flyers present the kind of opponent the Caps should match up well against. They are good – so they will get the Caps’ attention – but not so good as to render the Caps uncompetitive. And, the Flyers are 3-4-0 on the road. Although Brent Johnson would seem to be the pick in goal tonight, given the pattern so far this year, his record against the Flyers is not pleasant to consider: 2-5-0, 4.78, .852.

Olaf Kolzig’s won-lost record isn’t really any better (12-18-3), but his GAA is respectable (2.63), and his save percentage is very good (.912). However, he did have that incident involving his knee last night, and while he finished the game soundly, one doesn’t know what might have transpired overnight. Nevertheless, the Caps have shown an ability to skate with just about anybody, and this is one of those “olde tyme” rivalry games that will get the blood up.

Caps 4 – Flyers 3.

A NO point night -- Caps vs. Rangers, November 1st

"He play unbelievable tonight. He win the game for the Rangers."

That’s it, in a nutshell. It is Alex Ovechkin’s succinct summary of last night’s 2-0 win by the New York Rangers over the Caps. “He” refers to Henrik Lundqvist, who stopped all 31 shots he faced en route to his third shutout of the year. There have been some outstanding performances this year in goal so far – Pascal Leclaire’s four shutouts, Martin Biron’s leading the Flyers back to dominance, Martin Gerber filling in more than admirably for Ray Emery in Ottawa – but no one has played better on a bigger stage with less of a margin for error than Lundqvist. And given that he is a two-time Vezina Trophy finalist already in his young career, he is no fluke. At the moment, he stands at the top of the goaltending heap.

The Capitals did not suffer for opportunities – they “outattempted” the Rangers 70-45 (the Caps had 30 attempts blocked and nine missed shots in addition to the 31 shots they got through to Lundqvist). Ovechkin had 14 attempts on his own, and Viktor Kozlov was credited with eight shots on goal. Even Nicklas Backstrom got in on the attack with a season-high three shots on goal.

But in the beginning (when the Caps were the better of the two teams), in the middle (when Michael Nylander was stuffed on the best chance of the night for the Caps), and at the end (when the Rangers were hanging onto a lead), it was Lundqvist that was the story of the game.

Except for that, it’s hard to find fault with the Caps’ effort, or even their “production.” Despite missing Alexander Semin, Chris Clark, and Tom Poti, the Caps threw everything but the skate sharpener at Lundqvist. Not even four power play chances – and eight shots on goal – could serve as a vehicle to solve the Rangers’ goalie.

In a game this close, it came down to a mistake. It wasn’t of the defensive breakdown variety that leaves a man open or a net untended – it was the simultaneous minor penalties taken by John Erskine and Brian Sutherby that gave the Rangers a full two-minute 5-on-3 midway in the third period. The Rangers used that advantage to net the insurance goal that Lundqvist made stand up, even when the Caps would have a four-minute power play later in the third period.

If you look at the numbers alone, they reflect a tight, hard-fought game. The Caps won the shots battle (31-28), the Rangers won on hits (42-29)…the Caps had fewer giveaways (eight versus 13), the Rangers had more takeaways (11-10). But there is one number that screams off the score sheet that reflects what a different team the Rangers have become – “30.” Sure, it’s Lundqvist’s jersey number, but it is also the number of blocked shots the Rangers were credited with – fourteen skaters were credited with at least one. The Rangers have turned into the defensive team that Jaromir Jagr seemed to despise when it was the style in Washington during his days here…quite an irony. We’ll see how long this lasts.

The Caps are at the stage of the game where they are “competitive” in just about every game they play (they’ve suffered two blowouts this year, which is the difference in a 5-7-0 record). Now, they have to find a way to win these games on a consistent basis. Lundqvist was the difference this night – he can fairly lay claim to being the best goaltender in the league at the moment – but teams with great aspirations find ways to beat those guys, too. Last night, the Caps could not. Come the spring?...we’ll see.