Monday, January 14, 2008

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Senators, January 15th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The buzz surrounding the recent re-signing of Capitals’ star winger Alex Ovechkin is starting to die down a bit, but we managed to snare one of the great figures in legal representation to get his take on the whole deal. Let’s hear from Nathan Thurm…it’s a pleasure to have you here.

Nathan Thurm: “Why do you say that?”

Because it’s a pleasure to have you here.

NT: “I know that…why wouldn’t you think I know that?”

OK, well…last week the Caps re-signed Alex Ovechkin to a 13-year, $124 million contract extension. Some have called this contract a bad deal for the club and the player…

NT: “I didn’t say that.”

We didn’t say you did.

NT: “Why would you think that?”

We don’t…we’re just saying that some folks – mostly in larger hockey markets or Canada – believe that to be so.

NT: “I’m not Canadian…why would you think I’m Canadian?”

I didn’t say you were.

NT: “I know that…”

Mr. Thurm, some think that signing a player to such a large contract will prevent such a team from signing the other talent it needs to be competitive – for instance, in the Caps’ case that would mean Mike Green, among others.

NT: “Is that what they say?…or is that what you say? If that's what they say, I have no comment. If that's what you say, then I have no comment.”

There’s no need to be defensive about it…it’s just a hypothetical argument.

NT: “I know that…”

But on the matter of the Ovechkin deal, won’t such a large contract affect how the club will negotiate with players with restricted free agency status like Green or Eric Fehr or Shaone Morrisonn?

NT: “Of course it will…I know that. Why wouldn’t you think I know that?”

So, how will it affect those negotiations?

NT: “Who said it would?...Did I say that? Or did you say that?

You said that…

NT: “How can you say I said that?...”

Because you just did a moment ago…

NT: “I know that…Why wouldn't I know that? I'm quite aware of that! Is it me? Maybe it’s you…did you ever think of that?

Well, thanks for that…unique take on the Ovechkin contract, Mr. Thurm. As for the matter of the game at hand, it’s the Ottawa Senators coming to Verizon Center to close the season series with the Caps. Here is how the series has played out so far:

Games won: Caps 3 – Senators 0
Goals: Caps 18 – Senators 10
Scoring by period: Caps (6-7-5) – Senators (3-2-5)
Power Play: Caps 4/13 (30.8 percent) – Senators 2/13 (15.4 percent)

Capitals top scorers:

Ovechkin: 5-4-9, +5
Nylander: 3-3-6, +1
Kozlov: 2-3-5, +5
Green: 2-3-5, +4
Backstrom: 2-3-5, +4

Senators top scorers:

Alfredsson: 3-2-5, even
Fisher: 3-2-5, +1
Heatley: 0-4-4, -2

Ottawa has lost 11 games in regulation this season in 44 total games. They have not lost more than once in regulation to any team…except Washington. Whodathunkit?

It is in those 11 losses in regulation Ottawa has this season that the key to this game might be found. In those eleven losses, the Senators:

- have given up more than three goals seven times and not given up fewer than three in any of them…51 in all. You can’t count on “defending” them to a win (i.e., win low-scoring games…Ottawa has at least three goals in five of those losses), you have to score goals.

- have scored only four power play goals in 39 chances (10.3 percent).

- have killed off only 40 of 53 shorthanded situations (75.5 percent)

- have 15 goals from their big three (Alfredsson, Heatley, and Spezza), but only 13 from everyone else, and Mike Fisher has four of those (including a hat trick against the Caps)

- gave up the first goal in eight of the 11 losses, held a lead at the first intermission only twice

Get ‘em early, make sure you don’t get beat by their supporting cast (e.g., Antoine Vermette – who is the Senators’ sixth leading scorer – has only one goal in the 11 losses and doesn’t have a point in the three losses to the Caps), win the special teams battle, take advantage of their goaltenders. No sweat, eh?

This isn’t Cowboys versus Giants with all the attendant conversation about how a team that’s won twice has such a difficult time winning a third time against the same team. The Caps just seem to have either the confidence, the style, or both, that presents problems for Ottawa. In a sense, it’s not unlike the scene in the movie, “Miracle,” when coach Herb Brooks talks about the failures of the Americans to beat the Soviets…his solution was to throw their own game right back at them. The Caps have done that in the three games this year, winning with prolific and balanced scoring, forcing Ottawa on their heels to defend what amounts to themselves, if only for that night (the Caps might look like Ottawa against Ottawa, but they’ve looked like Charlestown against a lot of teams this year too…so don’t get too confident).

Ottawa hasn’t beaten the Caps with Dany Heatley this year, and they won’t have Heatley in the lineup for Tuesday’s game…and now that Martin Gerber has slipped a notch (1-2-0 in his last four appearances, and his no decision was in giving up three goals on eight shots to the Caps in a 6-3 loss), Ray Emery might get the nod. He’s had success recently – three straight wins – but he also has a losing record to the Caps for his career (3-4-0).

There isn’t any reason to think game four won’t resemble games one through three in this series…

Caps 6 – Senators 4