Tonight, the Caps get to measure themselves and their recent good fortune against the gold standard (regular season version) of the NHL – the Detroit Red Wings. It is the kind of challenge that requires a warrior attitude, and we have the pleasure of having with us three famous warriors, each of whom faced great odds against success…gentlemen, introductions…
William Wallace is seven feet tall!
“Yes, I've heard. Kills men by the hundreds. And if HE were here, he'd consume the Red Wings with fireballs from his eyes, and bolts of lightning from his arse.”
Haggis does that to a person…
“My name is Gladiator…”
“My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.”
“I am Spartacus!”
OK, so, now that we have the introductions, what advice would you give to the Caps tonight as they make their way into the Colisseum…er, Joe Louis Arena?
“It is like I told my fellow slaves on the floor of Joe Louis…er, the Colisseum, ‘Whatever comes out of these gates, we've got a better chance of survival if we work together. Do you understand? If we stay together we survive.’ If the Caps stay together, they win.”
“I’d tell the boys the same thing I told my fellow Scotsmen on the field of battle…’I see a whole army of my country men, here, in defiance of tyranny. You've come to fight as free men, and free men you are. What will you do with that freedom? Will you fight?...fight and you may die. Run, and you'll live... at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin' to trade all the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take... OUR FREEDOM!’…well, two points, anyway.”
“I am Spartacus!”
OK…let’s get to it…how does a team like the Caps beat a team like the Red Wings?
“Well, it’s not unlike what we faced a while ago in
“I knew a man once who said, ‘Death smiles at us all. All a man can do is smile back.’"
You ever seen a hockey player smile, Maximus?
“I am Spartacus!”
Uh…yeah. So what do you think of the Caps’ chances tonight?...hey guys, this isn’t funny…stop laughing, will ya?...I mean it!
Well, this isn’t a laughing matter. The Red Wings are good…good in that regular season way that makes everyone think they are the best team since, well, the last Red Wings team that put up gaudy statistics in the regular season…statistics like these:
Wins: 23 (1st in the league)
Points: 49 (1st)
Goals-per-game: 3.41 (2nd)
Goals-against-per-game: 2.19 (1st)
5-on-5 goal ratio: 1.62 (1st)
Power Play: 23.3% (T-3rd)
Penalty Killing: 86.6% (6th)
Faceoff Wins: 54.8% (1st)
The Red Wings have only two players who have played more than ten games who are on the minus side of the ledger this year (the Caps have only three such players on the plus side). But here is an odd one. No team has given up more shorthanded goals than the Red Wings.
And, if that’s not enough, the Red Wings are riding a ten game points-earned streak (8-0-2). They’ve outscored their opponents, 38-18, and they’ve scored at least five goals in a game four times. Their power play has hummed along at a 27.3 percent clip (12-for-44), while the penalty killers have rubbed out 50 of 53 shorthanded situations (94.3 percent). And if the Caps aspire to be a puck-possession squad, the Red Wings are perhaps the best example of such a specie. One indicator…in this ten-game points-earned streak, the Red Wings have outshot their opponents 367-242. Outshooting opponents by more than a dozen shots a game is no small factor in the Red Wings’ success
As they have for much of the year, Pavel Datsyuk (9-8-17, +5) and Henrik Zetterberg (7-6-13, +4) are leading the way in the ten-game points-earned streak.
But here is your obscure nugget of information to take with you. The last Southeast team to defeat the Red Wings on
On November 24, 2003.
A lot of that is the weird scheduling the NHL employs, but it is what it is. And what it is, is a golden opportunity to make a statement, that the 7-4-1 run the Caps are on is no fluke, that they can compete – and win – on Hockeytown ice.
Caps 5 – Red Wings 4
…although it occurs to The Peerless…each of those three warriors we were talking to were killed by their enemies.