Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Maple Leafs, March 5th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

It is Day One after Trading Day, and even though the dust hasn’t yet settled on all those teams blowing up their rosters, we’re back to the business of the regular season. And speaking of “business,” we thought we’d look at what some successful traders from that realm had to say on the matter of trading…

First, we have Victor Sperandeo, known on Wall Street as “Trader Vic.” Trader…uh, Vic…uh…whatever…are there any parallels in stock trading that you can share with those of us who observed the carnage that was yesterday’s NHL Trading Day?

“The key to trading success is emotional discipline. If intelligence were the key, there would be a lot more people making money trading.”

So, you’re telling us that “staying the course” might be better than being the smartest kid in the room?

“Whoa, whoa, whoa… trading provides one of the last great frontiers of opportunity in our economy. It is one of the very few ways in which an individual can start with a relatively small bankroll and actually become a multimillionaire. Of course, only a handful of individuals succeed in turning this feat, but at least the opportunity exists.”

And you are…

“Jack Schwager, author of the ‘Wizards’ book series”

Well, what about yesterday…the Caps were mentioned as potential destinations for Derek Morris, Bill Guerin, and others. Why didn’t anything happen? Gary Bielfeldt, you were big in Treasury bond trading, you have any thoughts on trades?

“Having thought out your objective and having a strategy for getting out in case the market trend changes, you greatly increase the potential for staying in your winning positions. The traits of a successful trader: The most important is discipline - I am sure everyone says that. Second, you have to have patience; if you have a good trade on, you have to be able to stay with it. Third, you need courage to go into the market, and courage comes from adequate capitalization. Fourth, you must have a willingness to lose; that is also related to adequate capitalization. Fifth, you need a strong desire to win. You have to have the attitude that if a trade loses, you can handle it without any problem and come back to do the next trade. You can't let a losing trade get to you emotionally. If a trade doesn't look right, I get out and take a small loss.”

So, you think what the Caps would have had to pay didn’t “look right?”

“If you can't take a small loss, sooner or later you will take the mother of all losses. There are old traders and there are bold traders, but there are very few old, bold traders.”

You’re Ed Seykota…a commodities trader, right?


Mother of all losses…kind of like trading three prospects and cash for the big prize that doesn’t pan out?

“Yeah, on the Street, we call that ‘getting Jagr’d.’”

Brrrrughhh….a chill just went down our spine. Let’s get to the game, shall we?

It would be easy to underestimate the tonight’s opponent, the Toronto Maple Leafs...

- Since January 1st, they are 10-10-6.
- Since January 1st, they’ve been outscored 94-76
- Since January 1st, they’ve had two losing streaks (including extra time) of four games
- From January 1st through February 21st, they were 0-0-6 in one-goal games

- Since February 1st, they are 6-3-5
- Since February 1st, they’ve been outscored 46-42
- Since February 1st, they’ve had a four game winning streak
- Since February 21st, they are 4-0-1 in one goal games (all decisions in extra time)

But if you look at their numbers, you could imagine that this is an opponent tailor-made for the Caps as they try to get out of their home funk…

Toronto gives up a lot of goals…the Caps score a lot of goals. Toronto has a worse penalty-killing record than the Caps (whodathunkit?)…the Caps have the league’s second-ranked power play. The Caps have question marks in goal (or so say the collected NHL pundtocracy), Toronto will be starting Martin Gerber or Curtis Joseph.

Let’s look at that goalie situation for a moment. Gerber, plucked from the waiver wire from Ottawa yesterday, hasn’t played in an NHL game since January 8th. He hasn’t won an NHL game in 2009. Joseph has appeared in 12 games this year. In only six of them has he played in all 60 minutes. He has one win in 2009. Combined, the two are 6-15-2, 3.19, .885 this year.

OK, maybe they'll start Justin Pogge.

If the Caps can’t light this team up and light them up like Vegas at midnight, then the Caps really do have problems.

As for the skaters, Jason Blake has points in his last three games (0-4-4), but he has only one goal in his last eight games. But while he compiled a 10-6-16, +2 record in 24 career games against the Caps as a member of the New York Islanders, in two years with the Leafs he is 0-1-1, -5 in six games against Washington.

Blake had better find some of his old Islander magic, because the Leafs’ second leading scorer – Nik Antropov – is now a Ranger. And their fourth leading scorer – Dominic Moore – is a Sabre. And their sixth leading scorer – Niklas Hagman – is day to day after getting his bell rung by Brendan Witt a week ago. That is 52 goals and 124 points that could be missing from the Leafs’ lineup this evening.

One could say that this is an opportunity for guys like Matt Stajan and Alexei Ponikarovsky, and Mikhail Grabovski to step up. As a group, the trio is 0-6-6, -2 in their last five games. Stajan doesn’t have a goal in his last five games, Ponikarovsky in his last eight, and Grabovski in his last 14. As a group, they have a total of four goals since February 1st.

Defensemen? Well, the Leafs do get some offensive production out of the group. Five of them have at least ten points, although one of them – Tomas Kaberle – could miss this contest with an injured hand. If there is one defenseman here to pay attention to, it might be Ian White. He is the only Leafs defenseman who has played in more than 30 games who has more than ten points (8-14-22) and is on the plus side of the ledger (plus-10 in 53 games).

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Toronto: Luke Schenn

Schenn was injured in a game against Washington on December 6th and missed a month. In 25 games since returning from his injury, he is 1-3-4, -9. That minus-9 has been compiled over his last 11 games. He is the rock upon which the future of the Toronto defense will be built, and he will be a good one. But he seems to be struggling now, even while he has played in fewer than 22 minutes in any game only three times since February 1st. He’s getting his trial by fire, and that trial should continue tonight…if the Caps show up.

Washington: Brooks Laich

“I’m a guy who [tries to do everything] too, you know, when we’re not winning, we’re not playing well…I want to do so much to help the team, and sometimes you overplay rather than just keeping it simple.” That was Laich after Tuesday’s stink bomb of a game against Carolina. The syntax might have been awkward at the beginning of that statement, but it worked out in the end. That’s what we’re looking for tonight…the week might have started out ugly, with losses to Florida and Carolina, but the Caps have a chance to right things – or at least start to – by getting a win here. Laich has four goals in 14 career games against the Leafs, and he has two in his last six games overall. The Caps could use some secondary scoring, and Laich is as good a source as any to supply it.

The Caps are taking on the NHL equivalent of a cripple right now. Toronto has moved assets for futures as GM Brian Burke tries to remake the Leafs in his own image of a winning hockey team. Those days are down the road for the team that always seems to think it is a move or two away from a Cup. The Caps have an opponent served up on a platter for the purposes of getting the bad taste out of their mouths of the first two courses served up this week. If not now, when?

Caps 6 – Leafs 3

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