It’s Inauguration Weekend here in Fortress Washington, and tonight, there is a 100 percent chance that the Caps will be hosting the only team in front of them in the East, the Boston Bruins. Since the last time these teams met – a 3-1 Caps win on December 10th – both teams have been rocketing forward in the Eastern Conference. The Caps are 12-4-0 since that meeting, the Bruins 14-2-0. But which team is better? For that, we bring in the pair in despair, the twins of spin, two in the zoo…Mr. Tony and Mr. Mike…
Guys, the numbers look like this for these two teams:
Which team do you think is better at this stage of the season? Mr. Tony?
The Bruins are 100 percent better. More goals, fewer allowed, higher in the standings. Case closed.
What do you mean, case closed? The Caps are 35 percent better. Why? Ovechkin, 100 percent the best player in hockey.
Mike, look at the numbers. The Bruins have 14 – fourteen! – players in double digits in points, nine of them with more than 20. A dozen players have at least one power play goal and 16 – sixteen! – with at least one power play point. They have Chara, they have Savard – who has learned the joys of playing in his own end for a change, I might add – they have Kessel…and who is this Wideman kid?... leads the team in power play scoring. They don’t have a single player – not one! – who has played 30 games and is a minus player…not one!
Tony, don’t get lost in the numbers. Let’s leave the sorry, no-account Southeast Division out of this for a moment. Do you know that the Caps have a better record than the Bruins against other Eastern Conference teams? The Caps are 17-3-3 against Atlantic and Northeast teams, the Bruins are 15-3-4. And look at that 14-2 record the Bruins have since they lost to the Capitals. Who’d they beat? The beat Atlanta three times. You and I and three production guys could beat Atlanta. Toronto… Carolina… St. Louis… Ottawa. You see any playoff teams in there, Tony? The Caps went to Montreal and won with a goalie who hasn’t finished his first cup of coffee in North America yet – in his first game in the NHL! They’ve won 12 games with mostly a defense that had been playing in Hershey, for heaven’s sake.
OK…OK. Let’s look at them individually. Coming into this year, Marc Savard was minus-74 in 659 games. He’s plus-30 this year…plus-30! And he’s still on a pace for a career year in scoring with 99 points. And he’s 7-35-42, +10 in 32 games against the Caps in his career.
He only has four points in his last five games, Tony, and three of those came against the decrepit Senators. And he hasn’t had any of those points against the Caps this year, either.
I have two words for you…Zdeno Chara. Ovechkin is going to wear that guy like an overcoat. Yeah, Ovechkin might be the second strongest guy in the league for all I know, but Chara tops that list.
Tony, Ovechkin is 7-8-15 in 13 career games against Boston. He had a goal and an assist in the first meeting this year. Chara’s great… Ovechkin’s something more.
OK, Ovechkin’s a beast, even though Crosby’s better. But Boston has this secret weapon – David Krejci. Is that how you say his name? Might as well be “criminee.” As in, “criminee, where did this guy come from?” 48 points, second in both goals and assists on the team.
I’ll see you your David Krejci and raise you a Nicklas Backstrom. He’s got 48 points, too, and he’s jumpstarted Ovechkin’s game. The Caps were always wondering, what could Ovechkin do with a center who could get him the puck? Well, a Hart, Pearson, Ross, and Richard Trophy later, I think we’ve found out.
We can’t overlook Phil Kessel, here. Leads the team in goals with 24. Seven on the power play, four game winners, and he’s only got ten penalty minutes this year – scoring and discipline like that in a 21-year old?
OK, Kessel is a nice story, Tony, with his comeback from cancer to put up numbers like that. But let’s look at the guy drafted in that same slot – fifth overall – a year later…Karl Alzner. The Caps had him ticketed for a year in Hershey, this being his first year as a pro. But with all the injuries the Caps have had, he was called up into service and played his way into staying. He’s second among Caps defensemen who will play tonight in ice time. He’s plus-3, and he only earned his first penalty in the NHL this past week against Edmonton. He has two penalties this year, combined in Hershey and Washington, both for delay of game. Talk about discipline, this kid has it in buckets, and he’s only 20.
But Boston is doing it with guys hurt – Kessel, Andrew Ference, Patrice Bergeron, Marco Sturm…all out for this game. Aaron Ward and Milan Lucic are day to day. And they’re still winning.
You want to talk about injuries? Look at who the Caps have had to dress on the blue line… Bryan Helmer, Tyler Sloan, Sami Lepisto, Sean Collins, Alzner for heaven’s sake – all guys who have been or should be getting the bulk of their playing time in Hershey. The Caps have had to put Sergei Fedorov and even Brook Laich back there because of injuries. They have only one defenseman who has played in every game – Milan Jurcina. They only have one forward from either of their top two lines who has played in every game – Nicklas Backstrom.
Well, I don’t know that we’ve settled anything here. Let’s go to the big finish…Stat Boy?
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder:
Boston: Tim Thomas
Manny Fernandez got the start in the December 10th contest, taking the decision in a 3-1 loss. Thomas figures to get the start here – he’s been in goal for the last three games, all wins and all games in which he’s allowed only one goal. He’s had a superb record against the Caps in his career – 8-1-1, 2.42., .922. But the last time he visited Washington, he gave up seven goals on 24 shots in a 10-2 Capitals win. The Caps are averaging 3.41 goals-per-game at home. Thomas will need to be sharp.
Washington: Jose Theodore
He of the new mask didn’t play in the first game of this season series, either. His experience against the Bruins has been one of misfortune, given his statistics. Despite a respectable 2.59 GAA and .917 save percentage, his record against the B’s is only 8-12-2. Two of those wins were shutouts. He hasn’t faced Boston since October 2005, a 34-save 4-3 win when Theodore was wearing the bleu, blanc, et rouge of the Canadiens. After winning six straight decisions, he dropped a pair – to Columbus and to Edmonton – before righting himself somewhat in a 6-3 win over Pittsburgh. He’ll need to move his play to a higher level in this one.
So, who won between our “oddsmakers?” Pfft…who cares? You know how this comes out…
Caps 3 – Bruins 2