Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Peerless Prognsoticator is ON THE AIR!! -- Caps vs. Senators, November 8th

Sometimes, a prognostication doesn't do it...from time to time, we feel the need to invoke the General to inspire the troops...

Had the General marched into the Capitals' locker room, he might have amended his words along the following lines...

Now, I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a hockey game by taking a penalty for his team. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard take a penalty for his team. Men, all this stuff you’ve heard about the Caps not wanting to fight, wanting to stay out of the contest, is a lot of horse dung. Caps traditionally love to fight. All real Caps love the sting of battle. When you were kids, you all admired the champion marble shooter, the fastest runner, the big league ball player, the toughest boxer. Caps fans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Caps play to win all the time. I wouldn’t give a hoot in hell for a man who lost...and laughed. That’s why Caps have never lost and will never lose a game. Because the very thought of losing is hateful to Capitals.

Now... hockey club is a team. It lives, eats, sleeps, checks as a team. This individuality stuff is a bunch of crap. The bilious bastards who wrote that stuff about individuality for ESPN don’t know anything more about real hockey games than they do about fornicating.

We have the finest food and equipment, the best spirit and the best men in the world. You know, by God I actually pity those poor bastards we’re going up against. By God, I do. We’re not just going to check the bastards, we’re going to cut out their living guts and use them to tape the blades of our sticks. We’re going to hit those lousy Senator bastards by the bushel.

Now, some of you boys, I know, are wondering whether or not you'll chicken out under fire. Don't worry about it. I can assure you that you will all do your duty. The Senators are the enemy. Wade into them. Spill their blood. Check them into the boards. When you put your hand into a bunch of goo that a moment before was your best friend's face, you'll know what to do.

Now there’s another thing I want you to remember. I don’t want to get any messages saying that we are holding our position. We’re not holding anything. Let Ottawa do that. We are advancing constantly and we’re not interested in holding onto anything except the enemy. We're going to hold onto him by the nose and we're going to kick him in the ass. We're going to kick the hell out of him all the time and we're gonna go through him like crap through a goose.

There’s one thing that you men will be able to say when you get back home. And you may thank God for it. Thirty years from now when you’re sitting around your fireside with your grandson on your knee and he asks you what did you do in the great National Hockey League, you won’t have to say, "Well, I shoveled shit in DC."

Alright now, you sons-of-bitches, you know how I feel. Oh...and I will be proud to lead you wonderful guys into battle – anytime, anywhere.

That’s all.

Caps 5 - Senators 4.

It went to...overtime?

Was it really that close? Absent a television feed, it was hard to know...

It is either a measure of just how bad Atlanta is, or how tenacious the Caps were to stay in it (after their all-too-patterned “hot start, followed by nap time” style), but the numbers in the 2-1 overtime loss to the Thrashers don’t tell a pretty story for the Caps…

Blocked shots. Once more, the Caps registered double digits in attempts blocked – 13 (Atlanta had only four attempts blocked). That’s actually an improvement; since registering 30 of that specie against the Rangers, they have gone 25-20-13. Hey, it’s progress, but here is the comparison to watch as the Caps travel to Ottawa on Thursday. Anton Volchenkov (surprise, surprise) leads the NHL in blocked shots with 66. Alexander Ovechkin has had 57 shots blocked thus far. Tomorrow night, Volchenkov might get 20 himself.

Turnovers. The Caps lost this battle, 23-16. Atlanta had 16 takeaways to eight for the Caps. Guess they just wanted the puck more.

Faceoffs. The Caps – seventh in the league, even after last night’s game – lost that battle 28-21 to a club that this morning still finds itself 22nd in the league. Guess Atlanta just wanted the puck more…well, Bobby Holik, anyway. He accounted for the entire difference, going 15-7 in draws.

Hits. OK, we’ve been here before – it’s a subjective measure. But the Caps had nine to the Thrashers’ 13. Who led the Caps?...the new kid, Chris Bourque…he had two. That’s not his problem, that’s everyone else’s.

How did this game go to overtime? Well, if Ilya Kovalchuk plays more than 9:02 (having departed with back spasms), chances are, it wouldn’t, despite what seemed to be a fine effort on the part of Caps goalie Brent Johnson. But looking at the numbers (and as JP suggests over at Japers’ Rink, Alex Ovechkin’s were among the worst you’re likely to see from him), it seemed to be the tale of a bad team against a frustrated one.

Just so we're clear, the bad team won.

One point is better than none, and about the best that can be said for it is that it slows the bleeding. But to the folks at the NHL and Versus…thank you for that exclusivity deal on telecasts. The Peerless might have removed his eyes with a grapefruit spoon had he watched this one.

What's that? Uh -- Playoffs?...

...don't talk about -- playoffs? You kidding me? Playoffs? I just hope we can win a game!"

So goes the famous quote, delivered in a high-pitched, whiny voice by Jim Mora, then coach of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, after a loss to the San Francisco 49ers in 2001.

So, we'll talk about playoffs.

After the Hurricanes game, we noted that no Caps team had ever lost ten of their first 15 games and made the playoffs. Last night, the Caps avoided by the blade of their skatey-skate-skates having tumbled into that ditch, losing 2-1 to the Atlanta Thrashers in overtime to finish their first 15 games 5-9-1.

Truth be told, the Caps have made the playoffs with as bad a record or worse in their first 15 games. In 1994-1995, they made the playoffs with a 3-9-3 record (nine points) in their first 15, and in 2000-2001 they did it with a record of 3-7-4-1 (11 points). In fact, of the 18 times the Caps have made the playoffs, they did so having endured a sub-.500 record in their first 15 games nine times.

But here is the hole they’ve dug for themselves – if 92 points is the threshold for the playoffs this year (it was in the East last year), then the Caps would have to play ten games above .500 for the season. Right now, they are four games under. So, over the last 67 games, they have to play 14 games over .500 to make the dance. If they were to match the eighth-place record of the Islanders of last year (40-30-12), that would mean going 35-21-11.

Do the Caps have it in them?