Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Lightning, April 3rd

Ever watch the movie, “Field of Dreams?” In it, there is an exchange between our hero, “John Kinsella” and his partner-of-sorts, “Terrence Mann,” that goes like this…

Kinsella: "There comes a time when all the cosmic tumblers have clicked into place...and the universe opens itself up for a few seconds to show you what's possible."

To this, Mann responds incredulously...

“Oh my God…you’re from the sixties!”

Well, that’s what immediately came to mind when the final horn sounded last night in the Penguins 4-2 win over the Flyers. The cosmic tumblers have clicked into place, making it possible for the Caps to seize a top-eight spot with a win tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

We’re just not of a mind that it’s “destiny” or “cosmic tumblers,” or any of that sixties or new-age crap. The Caps still have to go out and win the damned game.

And that brings us to today’s lesson…the difference between “expect” and “assume.”

The Peerless “expects” the Caps to win…why?

Well, the Caps are better…

…but not so much that there isn’t danger in this game. Tampa has – over the course of the season – had the better special teams play, and that could be a factor of no advantage to the Caps. But that brings us to the recent play of these teams. Let’s look at the last ten…

Again…the Caps have the better record – by far – but not so much that the path isn’t dangerous. Tampa Bay has had – again – the superior special teams play.

There is also the mysterious case of Vincent Lecavalier. Last summer, Lecavalier had an arthroscopic procedure on his wrist to clean up some “loose ends.” Well, maybe – as an article in the St. Petersburg Times by Damian Cristodero suggests – there is more. Certainly his numbers suggest something wrong. Looking at Lecavalier’s production by month…

…he had almost 28 percent of his points (through March) in November, after which he was 24-28-52, -23 through March 31st. Clearly, something is wrong for his production to have dropped off so markedly. But even with that, however, there is danger in this game. Lecavalier has had a fine career record against the Caps – 24-27-51, -4 in 51 games, and he’s 4-7-11, -2 in seven games this year. He is still a dangerous commodity.

Speaking of this year, there is still the matter of the diminutive one – Martin St. Louis…3-5-8, +1, in seven games. And, Jeff Halpern is 10-8-18, +4 in 17 games since joining the Lightning. Tampa might be wounded, but they certainly aren’t dead.

As much as, if not more so, than the game against the Hurricanes on Tuesday, the Caps have to stay out of the penalty box. If they do that, it is reasonable to “expect” a win.

Just don’t get into the idea of “assuming” a win. Teams out of the playoff hunt still play for pride and an opportunity to play “spoiler,” and that kind of motivation should never be taken lightly. If you assume…that Tampa will come in unmotivated, tired (after losing to Carolina last night, 6-2), hampered by playing another road game (they are 11-22-6 on the road)…that the Caps are somehow destined to win, that they need merely show up, that Ovechkin will score, that Huet will repel all the shots, that the grinders will grind, the checkers check, the defenders defend…well, that’s the stuff of which disappointments are made.

It’ll be another scarlet tsunami at Verizon Center tonight, no doubt, and the Caps have come too far to let things slip away now. A win would vault them into no worse than seventh place (ahead of Boston, by virtue of having more wins), and into sixth (ahead of Ottawa, by virtue of having taken the season series) if the Senators lose in regulation at Toronto this evening. Those are the stakes – mighty high indeed -- but the Caps have earned their shot at it. We expect them to take advantage…

Caps 5 – Lightning 2

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