The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
After enduring a three-game losing streak, the Caps have righted themselves in their last pair – victories over Pittsburgh and Boston. But now they get to go on the road while folks party in D.C. over the inauguration of a new President. First up are the New York Islanders, a team that is less playing a hockey season than is serving a prison sentence…
“I wish I could tell you that the Islanders fought the good fight, and the other teams let them be. I wish I could tell you that - but last place is no fairy-tale world. They never said who did it, but we all knew. Things went on like that for awhile – last place life consists of routine, and then more routine. Every so often, the Islanders would show up with fresh ways to lose a game. The other teams kept at them - sometimes they were able to fight 'em off, sometimes not. And that's how it went for the Islanders - that was their routine.”
Red? Red Redding? I thought you were in Mexico.
Yeah, whatever… I guess you can sympathize with the Islanders these days. Must be tough to go play for a team in that position…
"The first night's the toughest, no doubt about it. They march you in naked as the day you were born, skin burning and half blind from that delousing shit they throw on you, and when they give you that stupid blue and orange uniform with the goofy piping... and you sit in front of that locker... that's when you know it's for real. A whole career blown away in the blink of an eye. Nothing left but all the time in the world to think about it."
I wonder if losing doesn’t get to be a habit. The Islanders have done a lot of it lately…
“That locker room is funny. First you hate it, then you get used to it. Enough time passes, you get so you depend on it. That's institutionalized losing.”
I could never get like that.
“They send you there for life – uh, a three-year contract – and that's exactly what they take. The part that counts, anyway.”
Well, at least the Caps are entertaining these days. Have you had a chance to see them since you came up from say-what-a-key-hole?
“Zihuatanejo…I find I'm so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it's the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long winning streak whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it to the arena. I hope to see the Caps, and buy an overpriced beer. I hope the Caps are as good as they have been in my dreams. I hope.”
Well, if you get the feeling the Caps shouldn’t lose this game, you’re right…on paper. That the Caps are 33 points ahead of the Islanders in the standings is not a “Ripley’s: Believe It or Not” occurrence. The numbers suggest the chasm between the teams.
Let’s look at this another way – if the leading Islander…
...in points is Mark Streit, with 33, he’d only be fourth on the Caps.
...in goals is Bill Guerin, with 14, he’d only be fourth on the Caps.
...in assists are Streit and Doug Weight, with 25, they’d only be third on the Caps.
...in plus-minus is Andy Sutton, with +3, he’d only be tied for 11th on the Caps. Of course, Sutton is out after undergoing foot surgery. Among players who have played in at least 30 games, the leader is Richard Park at -3… he’d be tied for 26th on the Caps.
You getting the picture?
A long cold winter is settling in on Long Island. The Islanders have only won two games since Christmas, only three since Thanksgiving. Since beating Montreal in a shootout, 4-3, on the day before Thanksgiving, New York is 3-19-2. Exclusive of Gimmick goals, they have been outscored 93-56 in those 24 games. They have been held to fewer than three goals 14 times over that period. They’ve allowed more than four ten times.
In terms of stopping pucks, it has hardly mattered who has been in goal. Joey MacDonald is 2-14-2, Yann Danis is 0-4-0, and Rick DiPietro, who has been plagued by a series of injuries this year (knee, groin, knee again) is 1-1-0 in that 24-game slide. Wade Dublelewicz, who might have filled in as a backup, has managed to escape from Shawshan—uh, Long Island, having been claimed by Columbus on procedural waivers on Saturday. In Saturday’s 3-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils, Danis suited up and took the decision, and Peter Mannino dressed as the Islander backup. We’re thinking an emergency call has gone out to Billy Smith for the Monday afternoon tilt against the Caps.
As noted above, Mark Streit leads the Islanders in scoring. It might at first glance seem a bit odd that a defenseman should lead the team in scoring, but his 33 points is fourth among the league’s defensemen. On the other hand, Bill Guerin’s 32 points ranks only 66th in the league among forwards, so the problem isn’t Streit.
If there is an Islander who has had even a hint of success lately, it would be Streit. He went from November 22nd through January 8th without suffering consecutive scoreless games (4-17-21 in 23 games). However, he is scoreless in his last three, although going scoreless against the Rangers, Bruins, and Devils – three of the better defensive teams in the league – is not altogether unheard of. Streit is 3-8-11, -1 in 13 career games against the Caps with a pair of power play goals and game winner. He is 1-3-4, +1 in two games this year.
While we’re on the defense, Chris Campoli deserves mention. Campoli is in his fourth season with the club and is eighth on the team in scoring (5-9-14). He is also the highest scorer among home-grown Islanders, which speaks to a rather barren developmental system. If you look at the seven players ahead of Campoli on the scoring list, only three of them are under 30 (Trent Hunter, Mike Comrie, and Andy Hilbert), while two are well past 35 (Bill Guerin, Doug Weight). There are some promising kids on the roster – Kyle Okposo (5-8-13 in 38 games) and Josh Bailey (1-10-11 in 31 games), but their time is down the road a bit.
Once more, the Caps can renew acquaintances with Jon Sim, who might as well be named “Gretzky” for his work against the Caps. Sim is 12-8-20, +7 in 23 career games with the Caps, 46-40-86, -37 in 324 career games against everyone else. He hasn’t had a lot of success this year, going 6-2-8, -13 in 38 games and a healthy scratch as often as not lately (seven times in the last 17 games). The only goal he’s had since Thanksgiving is, yes…you guessed it, against the Caps. We’re guessing he’ll get a jersey for this game.
And then there is Brendan Witt. OK, he doesn’t score; he didn’t in Washington. He’s only 0-3-3 in 33 games. Such are the totals for a “defensive” defenseman. But, uh… where’s the defense? He ranks dead last among NHL defensemen in plus-minus (-27) and he is only third among defensemen on his own team in hits (66), trailing Mark Streit and Freddy Mayer, neither of whom would normally be considered bruisers. He hasn’t even been especially ornery. His 38 penalty minutes leave him on a pace for 79, far below his career average of 132 PIMs per 82 games.
Right now, the Islanders don’t resemble an NHL roster as much as they do a shopping list. Guys like Bill Guerin, Doug Weight, perhaps even Brendan Witt will likely be moved down the road for picks and prospects. There just isn’t a lot of hope left in this season for the Islanders, except that which might come from a ping-pong ball drawing.
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
New York: Bill Guerin
With two of the top six scorers on an offense-challenged team on injured reserve (Doug Weight, Andy Hilbert), the load falls to the captain. He’s had good success against the Caps over his career(23-11-34 in 46 games) and has been even more productive lately (4-4-8 in six games over this season and last). But on the other hand, Guerin has had only three goals in his last 18 games. If the former Guerin shows up, the Islanders have a chance. If the latter shows up, the competitive portion of the game might be over early.
Washington: Mike Green
Green has never scored a goal against the Islanders (0-3-3 in 11 career games), one of only two Eastern Conference teams he has failed to score on in his young career (Pittsburgh being the other). But he has a tendency so far this year to certain patterns in his scoring. He has had three occasions of scoring goals in consecutive games (and he has one in his last game, against Boston). He also has scored points in bunches – a six points in five games run to start the year, a ten points in six games stretch from November 10th through December 12th, a six points in four games streak from December 28th through January 3rd. He is at the moment in a six points in four games run. If he continues it, chance are the Caps will be successful in this one.
The Islanders have dropped two games to the Caps in two tries so far, but the second one – the only one on Long Island – was a 5-4 overtime affair that wasn’t settled until the last 11 seconds of the extra frame (Alex Ovechkin won it after Jon Sim – figures – tied it in regulation). The Caps can’t just toss their sticks on the ice and expect a win. On the other hand, there would be no excuse for losing to this team. We don’t think they will…
Caps 5 – Islanders 2