Monday, January 21, 2008

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Penguins, January 21st

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

It is Game 3 of the annual series between the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins…between the red-white-and-blue and the black-and-some-shade-of-gold…between Alexander the Great and Sidney Cros…


So sad, no Sid. The Penguin Prodigy was injured in a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning last Friday night, sustaining what is diagnosed as a “high ankle sprain.” The injury received more press than the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005 and has, The Peerless has learned, triggered Congressional hearings on the subject…

The Chairman…”The hearing will come to order…today we are investigating a possible criminal matter, what is perhaps a conspiracy of monstrous proportions. Last Friday, we suffered a critical blow to our homeland when Sidney Crosby was felled in a contest between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Tampa Bay Lightning. On behalf of the American people, I assure you that we will get to the bottom of the matter. Our first witness is Mr. Jim Garrison, formerly of the office of the District Attorney of Orleans Parrish, Louisiana…welcome, Mr. Garrison.”

Mr. Garrison: “Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”

The Chairman: “Mr. Garrison, you have been sworn, so let us proceed. I understand you have an important piece of film to show us…”

Mr. Garrison: “That is correct, Mr. Chairman…we have been provided a film shot by Mr. Abraham Zapruder, of Dallas, Texas, who happened to be visiting Pittsburgh on business.

"So what really happened that day? Let's just for a moment speculate, shall we? We have the Wanvig goal at 4:34…then, they don't shoot him – uh, check him -- coming up center ice, which is the easiest shot for a single shooter in the Book Depository – uh, single defender -- but they wait till he gets to the killing zone between three Lightning. Crosby makes the final turn toward the offensive zone, slowing down to some 11 miles per hour. The first check is misses completely... Frame 161, Crosby tries to slow down.

"Frame 193 - the second check hits Crosby in the arm from the front.

"Frame 225 - Crosby emerging from the check. He obviously has been hit, trying to lean into the play.

"Frame 238... This is the key shot that proves two checkers from the rear. This is 1.6 seconds after the third check, and we know no single checker can throw three hits in that time. A fan at the glass yells out, 'My God, they're going to kill us all.'

"The fifth and fatal shot - frame 313 - takes Crosby to the ice from the front...This is the key shot. Watch it again. Crosby's ankle is going back to his left. Hit from the front and right. Totally inconsistent with the check at the blue line. Again... back and to the left…back and to the left... back and to the left."

The Chairman: "Mr. Garrison, that is compelling evidence of a conspiracy against Sidney Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins, the National Hockey League, and all the freedoms and blessings we hold dear in this country. But why?...why, Mr. Garrison? Who is behind this heinous act?"

Mr. Garrison: "Well, isn't it obvious, Mr. Chairman?"

The Chairman: "Nothing is ever obvious to Congress, Mr. Garrison."

Mr. Garrison: "Mr. Chairman, there is only one party who could benefit, who -- by the very nature of the victim and the crime -- could further their interests. Mr. Chairman, I give you the mastermind of this fiendish act..."

Well, conspiracy nuts aside, there is a game to play tonight, and for the Penguins it will be what they hope is a coming out party for their Russian -- Evgeni Malkin -- against the Caps' Russian -- Alexander Ovechkin.

The attention to be fixed on Malkin will not be the only change for the Penguins in this matchup, as they have recalled three farmhands from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for the contest. This is in response to injuries to Colby Armstrong (hip) and Adam Hall (groin).

The Penguins, though, are the hottest team in the NHL at the moment, holding the best record in the Eastern Conference since Thanksgiving and a 10-1-1 record in their last dozen games. The particulars:

Record: 10-1-1
Goals for/against: 35-16
Power Play: 8/47 (17.0 percent)
Penalty killing: 34/38 (89.5 percent)

Although the loss of Crosby is and will be keenly felt, the story of the last dozen games is those 16 goals. Only twice have the Penguins allowed as many as three goals, and they have three shutouts in the process.

And that brings us to Ty Conklin. The 31-year old netminder came into this season with a 30-24-4-3 record in 76 career games, but he found himself manning the nets in Wilkes-Barre for the Baby Pens until Marc-Andre Fleury was injured (a high ankle sprain…still think there’s no conspiracy?). In this 12-game run, Conklin is 9-1-1, 1.43, .957 in what looks for all the world like the pay off in a deal with the Devil (or, “The Devil”…the one who wears #30).

The attention on Evgeni Malkin might be a new twist, but his performance lately merits the focus. In the last dozen games, Malkin is 11-3-14, +10, with a couple of hat tricks thrown in. That Malkin has almost a third of the Penguins’ goals in the last dozen games is important, but what might be equally important are the goals in these dozen that are not likely to be in the lineup – Colby Armstrong and Sidney Crosby have a total of seven of the 35 goals the Penguins have in this stretch.

But the most important player for the Penguins might not be Conklin or Malkin, but Jordan Staal. It is hardly a stretch to think of Malkin as a top-line center. He’d probably be the top line center on 25 clubs in the NHL. But now, it might fall to Jordan Staal to take Malkin’s place as the trusty sidekick to the top gun. Last year, Staal had 29 goals and was a +16…right now he’s on a pace to score nine goals with a -16. That’s what one might characterize as a “sophomore slump.” One of the things missing from his game is shorthanded goals. He had seven last year (leading the league in that measure), none so far this year.

These are the two of the best teams in the East since Thanksgiving – the Penguins are first in points, the Caps third since then. Both teams are contending with injuries – Crosby and Fleury the noteworthy ones for Pittsburgh; Chris Clark, Brian Pothier, and Michael Nylander for the Caps.

We’re going to get a measure of the younger guys on both clubs – these being two of the younger and deeper clubs in the NHL with respect to up and coming prospects. Staal, Kris Letang, Malkin, Ryan Whitney, and Tyler Kennedy lead the youth corps for the Penguins. The Alexes, Mike Green, Boyd Gordon, Nicklas Backstrom, Jeff Schultz, and Tomas Fleischmann from the under-25 brigade for the Caps.

The Caps are hot in their last dozen games as well: 8-2-2, with three wins over Ottawa, and they’ve scored at least four goals in seven of their last nine games. And in that span, Alexander Ovechkin has done his countryman Malkin one better, with 12 goals (12-7-19, +8). Alexander Semin completes the Russian double with 7-3-10, -4. The combined 19-10-29, +4, with three game-winning goals contends with the 13-9-22, +15, and two game-winners of the Malkin/Sergei Gonchar Russian duo.

We like the Alexes in this one in the contest between a couple of teams a couple of players short…

Caps 4 – Penguins 3


Smitty said...

Good news: Sabourin is expected to be in net tonight for the Penscum, not Conklin.

Hooks Orpik said...

smitty, Sabs had a 31 save shutout Saturday night so perhaps your optomism is a little premature...

The Peerless said...

It would be Sabourin's first appearance in his career against the Caps.

In Conklin's only career appearance against the Caps, he won (4-3) earlier this year.

Jordan said...

Did I read somewhere that Kennedy is going to be out hurt as well?

Hotdog88GT said...

Does not matter who is in net, guys. It never does. Caps must execute and not give up three goals after going up by three. During BB's reign that Caps have shown they can play when down a few goals. Made me wonder how the Caps would play with the lead - and it wasn't very good 'gainst the Kitties.

They've been playing great overall. It's a pleasure to watch their games these days. I hope they don't take the Crosbyless Dirty Birds less seriously.

usually frustrated caps fan said...

This will be a fun one to watch methinks.. you forgot to mention that las tloss was a 4-3 OT win for the Caps and the game that Brent Johnson was injured. I too like the Caps by one but wouldn't be surprised to see a lower scoring game like 3-2. LETS GO CAPS!!!

DC Sports Chick said...

LMAO! Great post!