Tonight, the Caps finish up their back-to-back tilts with a visit to The Confluence and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Last night, the Caps played a team that has trouble on the road. Tampa Bay went into the game with a 3-12-1 record on the road and left DC 3-13-1 record. As for tonight’s opponents, Bettman’s Darlings are similar in different ways. They can’t win in their division. They are 4-10-1 in the Atlantic Division, 14-6-1 against everyone else, which is not a good sign for the visitors.
But speaking of signs, we have a special guest with us who – in an exclusive Peerless Prognosticator interview – will dispel one of the great codebreaking stories of our time. We welcome Robert Langdon, professor of religious iconology and symbology at Harvard University and famous for his research into the “DaVinci Code.” Dr. Langdon, welcome.
“It’s a pleasure to be here.”
Let’s get right to it. You are prepared tonight to reverse perhaps your most famous contribution to symbology and religious studies.
“That’s correct. After conducting some painstaking research into the topic, it appears that we were entirely wrong about the ‘DaVinci Code.’”
That’s not all, is it?
“No, it’s not. It turns out that the entire story has nothing to do with Leonardo DaVinci, that in fact, the ‘code’ is rooted in hockey."
“Exactly…all that crap about DaVinci and Mary Magdalene…utter nonsense.”
And the Holy Grail?
“Well, we’ll get to that…you probably remember all that blather about an upside down V – which appears as a pyramid – is a stylized phallic symbol called the ‘blade’…"
Well, what is it?
“It is a symbolic representation for hockey…it shows up everywhere..'DaHockey Code,' so to speak. Look here...
…the five hole…the foundation of the shooter…all come back to that shape. And then there is the perfect symmetry of hockey…the forehand and the backhand…"
Amazing…I noticed that you employed an image of Sidney Crosby in your example. Coincidence?
“Not at all. You will notice that Crosby wears the number ’87.’ The legend has it that this number was chosen to reflect his date of birth – August 7, 1987…8/7/87…but the meaning is much deeper than that…”
Doc, you’re scaring me here.
“No, really…add the numbers…8 + 7 = 15, the product of 3 and 5, the first odd prime numbers greater than 1…15 is also the sum of the first three odd prime numbers greater than 1 – 3, 5, and 7 -- a trinity. And compare that to the characters in the Son of God’s name – eleven characters. 3, 5, 7, 11…a prime sequence. Crosby leads to the Christ. They even have the same number of characters in their names…”
“No, wait…they even sound alike…Crosby…Christ. Only through him can you find Him! No, wait!...WAIT!! THERE’S MORE!!!... THERE’S MORE!!!... PRAISE SIDNEY!!!”
OK, so what about the game? Well, hockey fans might remember – it having been pounded into their heads as if with a ball-peen hammer – that Sidney and the Crosbettes had a triumphal whirlwind tour of western Canada three weeks ago. They won all three games in Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver; two of them via Bettman’s Gimmick (it bears noting that the object of attention was 0-3-3 and missed a penalty shot in that western swing).
But since that trip, the Penguins have stumbled. They are 3-4-0 in their seven games since returning the East coast, having been outscored 16-28. Special teams in these last seven games have been “special” in perhaps a definition not to the liking of Penguin fans. The power play is 5-for-33 (15.2 percent), while the penalty killers are struggling at 27-for-38 (71.1 percent), although they are 6-for-6 in their last two games.
As one would expect, Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are the key players here – 2-6-8, -3; and 3-2-5, -4, respectively, over the last seven. They’ll be a focus of attention. But there are two other players of note here for Caps fans to watch…Petr Sykora (not that one, the other one) is 5-14-19 in 31 career games against Washington. He might be an “under-the-radar” player in this game. Then there is Tyler Kennedy. A recent call-up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Kennedy was 6-4-10, +2 in his first 19 games. But he’s hit a bit of a wall since going 1-2-3, +2, against the Islanders on December 15th. In four games since, he is without a point and is -1.
In goal, well, does it really matter? Neither Dany Sabourin nor Ty Conklin have made Pens fans forget Marc-Andre Fleury (injured). Over the last seven games, Sabourin is 1-4-0, 3.87, .866. Conklin is 2-0-0 (both wins coming against Boston), 3.72, .895. One would not expect a Penguin goalie to emerge among the top three stars of this game.
The Caps got off the three-game winless streak with a 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning last night. The game was significant for two reasons. First, it made the Caps 8-5-3 under Bruce Boudreau. If they can continue at that pace for the rest of the season, they would project to 85 points. In and of itself, that’s not saying a lot, since 92 points was the lowest among playoff contestants in the East last year. But Carolina, currently leading in the Southeast, is on an 88-point pace for the year. It isn’t as if anyone has run away and hidden in the division.
Which brings us to the second point of significance – the Caps are now above .500 in the Southeast (8-7-2) and have the second-best intradivisional record in the division (behind Atlanta). They are 5-1-1 in the Southeast under Boudreau.
We would be remiss if we didn’t include a “tale o’ the tape” for Crosby and Alex Ovechkin…
Points: Crosby 48/Ovechkin 42
Goals: Ovechkin 25/Crosby 16
Assists: Crosby 32/Ovechkin 17
Plus-Minus: Crosby +3/Ovechkin +1
Game-Winning goals: Ovechkin 3/Crosby 2
Power Play points: Crosby 20/Ovechkin 14
Power Play goals: Ovechkin 11/Crosby 4
Power Play assists: Crosby 16/Ovechkin 3
Hits: Ovechkin 99/Crosby 34
Takeaways: Ovechkin 36/Crosby 18
Giveaways: Crosby 27/Ovechkin 47
Blocked Shots: Ovechkin 25/Crosby 24
Both of these teams have 12 points in their last ten games, and neither (as of this morning) is a playoff team. The difference is that Pittsburgh owns this series in the Ovechkin/Crosby era – they are 8-1 over the last two-plus years, but that is a bit misleading. The Penguins are 5-0 in one goal games (including a shootout win) and have won the last three games by that margin. It is the story of the last decade in this series – the Caps are just good enough to lose close.
Brent Johnson is likely to get the start in goal for the Caps, and he has good numbers (if bad luck) against the Penguins – 2-4-0, 2.13, .902 in his career. He lost the only meeting of the clubs so far this year, 2-1. On the other side of the coin, Ovechkin has points in 20 of his last 22 games (16-10-26).
The Caps did their part last night to get this holiday week off to a good start. They’ll keep the good times rolling tonight…
Caps 5 – Penguins 3