Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Your Top Hockey Stories for 2008!

The Peerless has looked deep-deep-deep into his crystal ball (which looks suspiciously like the bottom of a beer mug) and divined the top-ten hockey stories you'll see in 2008…

10. The NHL and Reebok will announce that all teams will introduce alternate jerseys for the 2008-2009 season. SpongeBob SquarePants will be retained as a consultant to address moisture issues.

9. Jim Balsillie will forego efforts to buy an existing National Hockey League team in favor of another route. He will “purchase” the beer league team of “Cap’n Tuck’s Bar and Grill” in Hartford, CT, rename them the “Whalers,” them move them to Hamilton, Ontario. A Cap’n Tuck’s team spokesman is quoted as saying, “we don’t care, as long as they have beer.”

8. A ground-breaking investigative report will reveal that Martin St. Louis has been taking performance enhancing substances. When it is pointed out that St. Louis is three-feet, seven-inches tall and weighs 17 pounds, it will be pointed out that the story said he “took” them, not that he actually ingested them.

7. The National Hockey League, on the heels of their wild success in the “AMP Energy® NHL Winter Classic,” announce that they have reached a deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins to forego construction of a new arena in favor of playing all home games at Heinz Field.

6. The Ottawa Senators finish first in the Eastern Conference with 115 points. The remaining 14 teams finish the regular season tied. The league announces a round robin playoff scheme to determine the other seven playoff teams that will end on June 17, 2012.

5. The National Hockey League announces that it has achieved its largest attendance figure in history. The press release does not include the revelation that the figures included mascots, ushers, concession workers, media, studio personnel in communication with media, people walking within 100 meters of the arena during play, and foam fingers as body parts of attendees.

4. Sidney Crosby drops his last name, and in the tradition of “Ichiro” Suzuki, “Madonna” Louise Ciccone, and “Prince” Rogers Nelson, shall hence forth be known only by his first name. It sounds just as stupid.

3. Archaeologists in western Canada discover evidence of a super-species of hockey player heretofore unknown in the East. They name it “Jarome Iginla.”

2. The league announces that it will create another trophy, the Sidney Trophy, to be awarded annually to Sidney (formerly, “Sidney Crosby”) so as to further increase the volume of hardware he wins.

…and the number one hockey story of 2008…

The National Hockey League announces that it is changing its name. Henceforth, it shall be known as “NASCAR.”

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Senators, January 1, 2008

Happy 2008 everyone!

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR to ring in the new year…

And we’re joined by 2007, who had a pretty grim year, if you’re a Caps fan. 2007…welcome.

“Not so loud…it was a long night.”

Out late last night, eh?

“Are you kidding?...as soon as that ball hit bottom in Times Square, my cheeks were hitting the nearest bar stool for some serious ‘celebrating.’”

Well, 2007 – can I call you “two?”…


Two, in a word, how would you describe the year?


Need a minute?

“No…that’s the word, ‘ugh.’”

Can you explain?…

“Jeez, were you awake?! – oh man, have I got a headache – the Caps were 27-43-12 in 2007…66 points. No...better if you slept through that.”

It wasn’t all bad…

“Yeah, you’re right…that Ovechkin kid had a good year…51-40-91 in 82 games. And Alexander Semin had 27 goals in 64 games. And Chris Clark had 21 goals in 54 games…that’s a 32-goal pace.”

And the Caps opened a new rink this year…

“Yeah, Kettler is a sweet facility…gotta give the club credit for putting that one together.”

Altogether, it was a mixed bag…

“Geez, Matt Pettinger was a mixed bag all by himself…he had a nice start to the 2006-2007 season, but you could kind of see his problems in the 2007-2008 season starting to show up in the 2007 portion of last season…he had ten goals in the first 31 games of last season, but after January 1st he was only 6-9-15 in 33 games. Add that to what he’s done so far this season, and he was 8-12-20 in 70 games in 2007.”

What about free agents?

“Aw, that crap is overrated. Think a guy like Todd Bertuzzi is worth a $4 million cap hit for six goals in 27 games? And the Rangers went double-dipping for centers that combined don’t have as many goals as Brad Boyes.”

Well, they have combined for 45 assists…

“Yeah, and that’s worth more than $14 million in cap hit?...all those signings seem to have done is make it more difficult to sign the guy they have to sign – Henrik Lundqvist.”

OK, so what about the Caps free agents?

“Nylander…Poti…Kozlov…an acronym for ‘kinda zero volt pylon.’”

C’mon, they’re not as bad as all that.

“Nylander and Kozlov have a total of 12 goals. Shoot, it wasn’t a stretch to think they’d each have that many by now, and if it wasn’t for Tampa Bay, Nylander’s -15 would make the back page of the plus-minus rankings.”

Well, the team had what a lot of folks think was a pretty good draft last June.

“Yeah, that Alzner kid is a hoot…and he’s going to be a fine hockey player.”

And let’s not forget about the kids down on the farm…Hershey had another good year.

“Another Calder final…if it wasn’t for Hamilton’s goalie playing like his last name was ‘Roy,’ they might have had another Calder Cup, but 45-25-7 wasn’t a bad 2007.”

What else struck you about 2007?

“One goal games…the Caps were 5-6-7 in the first part of 2007, and they’re 7-8-5 so far this season. 12-14-12…geez, that last number looks awful, too, especially since they won only five games that went to an extra session in 2007…5-12 in extra session games?...gotta do better.”

There’s a good flip side to that, though, isn’t there?

“Yeah, they don’t get blown out as much. They had 13 losses by three or more goals from January 1st through the end of last season…only seven so far this year. They compete most every night.”

Like against Ottawa?

“Yeah, how ‘bout that? Two wins in regulation…no one else has done that to the Senators this year…now, if they could only beat Pittsburgh.”

You would bring that up…

“ahh…just kidding. I liked that game against the Red Wings, too. No fear in the boys going into Joe Louis Arena…gotta like that.”

You got any advice for our readers for 2008?

“yeah…buy a ticket and go see a Caps game, for cryin’ out loud! These kids are gonna get better.”

Well, we have a game today… one that is played indoors. Since these teams played just a couple of days ago, there isn’t a lot to add to what we talked about last time. What we have is subplot…

Ottawa was supposed to be “ready” to play on Saturday night and had eight goals hung on them...will they be “really ready” on Tuesday afternoon?

Martin Gerber hadn’t given up more than three goals in a game in the entire month of December (6-2-0, 2.19, .931) and then channeled Martin Short as Ed Grimley, giving up seven goals on 29 shots.

Donald Brashear played Chris Neil’s skull like a bongo, but after allegedly declining an offer from Brian McGrattan for a spin around the ice…what is the over-under (in seconds from the drop of the puck) on a kerfuffle breaking out?

Alexander Ovechkin had two career hat tricks before his four-goal outburst on Saturday. In each of those first two hat tricks, Ovechkin followed it up with another three point game in the very next game he played (the first of which was the occurrence of “The Goal”). Think he can make it a three-peat?

Olaf Kolzig is the guy for the next several weeks as Brent Johnson recuperates from a knee injury (he’s the guy, anyway, but is less likely to be spelled here and there while Johnson is out). Giving up six goals – four in the third period – was not the sort of performance that would give comfort to coaches and fans alike, even if several were of the “deflection” variety.

Ottawa has the best road record in the league (13-3-2)…the Caps are 12-6-3-1, all time, on New Year’s Day. Who blinks?

If you’ve read this space, you know the answer to that last question…

Caps 5 – Senators 4.

How is it...

...that a forward who is, among his Eastern Conference forward cohort:

- 7th in total scoring (48 points)
- 2nd in goals (30)

- 4th in ice time (22:58)
- 1st in power play goals (12)

- one off the lead in game-winning goals (4)
- 4th in hits (102)
- tied in blocked shots with Selke winner Rod Brind'Amour

- 6th in takeaways
- was named the NHL's first star for the week ending December 30th
- twice (in two years) been named as a first team all-NHL player

...is only fifth among forwards in Eastern Conference All-Star voting?

Vote for this guy...

...and bring a smile to the face of his mom...

photos: Associated Press, Tracy A. Woodward/The Washington Post