Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Red Wings, December 17th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

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…

“I am William Wallace.”

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…”

No, really?

“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.”

Hey, this is just a hockey blog, pal. And you, sir?

“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 Scotland…In the Year of our Lord 1314, patriots of Scotland - starving and outnumbered - charged the fields of Bannockburn. They fought like warrior poets; they fought like Scotsmen, and won their freedom. They need to fight like warrior-poets.”

“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

If Tampa Bay was a test of the Caps as a road team against a club with a sterling home record, this is the dissertation defense. Detroit is 14-2-1 at home this year; they haven’t lost a game in regulation at The Joe in a month (November 17, to Chicago, 5-3).

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 Detroit ice was…drum roll, please…the Washington Capitals.

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.


How would you -- the big star on Broadway -- like to have this line over the last two weeks while your team is going 1-4-1...

...six games goals assist

Not looking good for that option, Jags...

And what about the team that added to Jaromir Jagr's woes tonight?...Phoenix beat the Rangers, 5-1, to complete their successful back-to-back weekend in Newark and Manhattan. They won the two games by a combined 9-2. But tonight's odd number?...the Coyotes had one -- count 'em, one -- giveaway.

Sittin' at the end of the bar...

It’s a little known fact that…

-- In his last 50 games, Brad Richards is -24.

-- Jarome Iginla has eight goals in his last nine games

-- Bobby Holik, Alexei Zhitnik, Steve McCarthy…combined -49.

-- Mike Comrie, everyone’s start-of-the-year favorite with his 4-2-6, +3 in his first two games, is -16 in 29 games since.

-- Mike Ribiero might be the guy to take along if you’re going hunting…16 goals on 40 shots. Quite a sharpshooter.

-- Jeremy Roenick still leads the league in game-winning goals (5).

-- The Southeast Division is 37-48-7 against non-Southeast teams. Carolina is on a pace to win the division with 89 points. The last team to win a division with fewer points…Carolina in 1998-1999 (yeah, the Southeast).

-- You’ve heard that commercial, “He went to Jared?” Well, doing that in the NHL can get you bruised. Jared Boll leads the league in fighting majors. Without googling, do you know who he plays for?* And who on earth is Daniel Carcillo, and how is it that he leads the league in PIMs (145)?

-- Carcillo might win the “does not work or play well with others” award. He has 13 misconducts (nine 10-minute, 4 game).

-- Still on the matter of penalties, Chris Pronger, Corey Perry, and Ryan Getzlaf rank 3-4-5 in minors taken this year – 68 in all.

-- Familiarity breeds contempt…except in the Southeast – well, Tampa at least. It breeds points. Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, and Vaclav Prospal rank 1-2-4 in division scoring.

-- The Southeast is conspicuous in that statistic…nine of the top 15 divisional scorers are in the Southeast. Maybe they just can’t score against anyone else (see that record up above). Carolina doesn’t have any of them, and they lead the division…go figure.

-- On that division scoring thing, here is the odd one. Sidney Crosby – he who tied for fourth in overall scoring – is 17th in divisional scoring. He might not be so familiar with his opposition as they are with him in the Atlantic.

* Columbus

A TWO Point Night...Caps 3 - Lightning 2


The Peerless thought that might have been the score after one period.

Nevertheless, the Caps put the loss to Buffalo behind them with a scrappy one-goal win in a place where few visitors emerge victorious this year. Although there were fits and starts along the way, let’s keep in mind…

-- Tampa had the best home record in the Eastern Conference coming into this game (11-4-2)…they lost

-- The Lightning were the highest scoring team at home in the East (3.65 goals/game)…they finished with two.

-- Tampa Bay had the top home goal differential in the East – they weren’t just beating clubs, they were beating them badly…they lost by a goal.

-- The “big four” scorers for Tampa Bay – Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards, and Vaclav Prospal – were averaging 5.76 points a game, combined, at home…they finished with three.

-- Their power play was humming along at 25.3 percent at home…they finished 0-for-4.

-- Tampa Bay had only lost twice in regulation this year when scoring first, only once at home.

This game was huge for the Caps. Bruce Boudreau alluded to it after the Buffalo loss when he said, "I'll find out about a lot of guys [against the Lightning]. Is it a, 'Hang my head, woe-is-me crowd,' or a 'Let's be determined and turn it around again crowd?'"

What he got was a by-the-book road game to turn it around. Play tough, keep the home team in sight, don’t let them dictate the pace, take advantage of the opportunities you get, and play smart late.

And, the Caps didn’t let the loss against Buffalo eat into the progress they achieved with their three game winning streak. That’s the key – to keep from bleeding too much – and it has been how they got into the fix they’re in…stringing together too many consecutive losses.

Looking at the numbers, the obvious story is Brian Pothier. Given a seat by Bruce Boudreau for a couple of games, Pothier responded in a big way with the game-winning goal tonight. He also assisted on the David Steckel goal, but the big number might have been “zero,” as in “zero giveaways.” Against a team with as much fire power as the Lightning, playing smart with the puck – especially among the defense – is vital. For the night, the Caps had only eight giveaways, and only two by a defenseman.

And even though Brent Johnson gave up a pair of goals he might like to have back, in the end he only gave up a pair of goals on 25 shots. Tampa had scored two or fewer at home only five times in 16 home games coming into this contest.

And now, your obscure number for the night…


That was the least amount of time on ice spent at even strength for a Capital tonight…it belongs to Alexander Semin (yes, even Donald Brashear had more). Part of that is likely that the Caps were protecting a one-goal lead in the third period, but Semin did not skate a shift in the last 10:41 and had only three shifts in the third period. Injury?...or message? We’ll see.

But enough of that. The Caps are 7-4-1 in their last dozen games – a 103 point pace. But here’s the thing…the Caps have 50 games to play. If they earn points at the rate they’ve done so far under Bruce Boudreau, they’ll finish with 91 points. We’ll just leave you with that thought.