Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Game 1: Caps vs. Rangers

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

We’re finally here. A clean sheet of ice, everybody starting off 0-0, and hope in the air in 16 cities across North America. You’ve read the blogs, you’ve perused the pundits on line. Everyone has weighed in with their take on round one as we head into tonight’s action.

Well, not quite everyone. We still haven’t heard from two of the sharpest hockey minds around. Cheerless? Fearless? You guys ready to make your picks?

"Who’s playin’?"

Cheerless, where have you been? Caps…Rangers…playoffs.

"Oh, I thought you were talkin’ about the draft lottery. How ‘bout them Islanders? I got ‘em takin’ Blake Griffin with that first pick. He’s just the forward they need."

"Cuz, he’s a basketball player."

"So? It’s the Islanders we’re talkin’ about."

Guys?...The game tonight? Who are the keys to the game…Fearless?

"I’m looking at Scott Gomez. In each of the last four years, he’s averaged at least a point a game in the playoffs. And in his last 30 playoff games, he has 13 goals. If the Rangers can get that kind of production out of him, they have a pretty good chance in this series."


"Markus Naslund. Since March 1st, he’s only got seven points – four goals, three assists – and he had to get a point in each of his last three games to finish with that many. He had a couple of pretty good playoff runs with Vancouver, but last year he had only five points in 12 games. They’re not payin’ him four million bucks to be Chad LaRose."

What about the defense? We’re reading a lot about Marc Staal and Dan Girardi against Alex Ovechkin. Fearless, you think that will benefit the Rangers?

“I’m more interested in who the Rangers match against the Laich-Fedorov-Semin line. Guess we’re going to find out if Derek Morris is all that.”

“Hey, cuz…did you know Dan Girardi is -14? Worst on the team?”

“Cheerless, Colton Orr is -15.”

“Yeah, like he’s getting a sweater.”

“He’s played in all 82 games this year.”


“It just seems like he hasn’t because he only gets six-and-a-half minutes a game. 532 minutes for the year.”

“About a game and a half’s worth for Mike Green.”

Guys? What about the coaches. John Tortorella has a Stanley Cup on his resume.

"Yeah, and he’s also 8-14 in the other three years he’s been in the playoffs. I’m not seeing anyone named 'Lecavalier' wearing a blue jersey."

“Or ‘St. Louis.’”

“Do they make Ranger jersey’s in toddler sizes?”

OK, OK. How about the goalies? The Rangers have the clear edge here, right?

"You know? For all the talk about Jose Theodore being this and that and the 2009 equivalent of Michel Belhumeur, he did win 32 games in 57 appearances this year. And, he has a better career playoff save percentage than the other guy (.914 to .907)."

"You’re reachin’ cuz…Henrik Lundqvist had a pretty brutal rookie playoff experience, but he’s been solid the last two years."

"Yeah, and he’s still barely got a better save percentage compared to Theodore’s career number (.917 - .914)."

"Well cuz, here are a couple o’ lines about the goalies against playoff teams in the East for you…

Goalie 1: 14-3-4, 2.61, .912
Goalie 2: 15-14-1, 2.90, .903

…Which is which? "

Cheerless, for a drooling idiot, you're not bad with numbers.

"Thanks, cuz....HEY!"

OK, guys...There’s still that whole “can the Rangers stop Ovechkin” thing…well, can they?

"That might not be the Russian for the Rangers to be concerned about. You have to figure that Ovechkin is going to get his points somehow. But the wild card might be Sergei Fedorov. He played in only one game against the Rangers this year, but he is 10-25-35, +21, in 27 career games against New York."

"Hey cuz…the Russians seem to like playing the Rangers. Ovechkin, Semin, Fedorov, and Viktor Kozlov have 101 career games among them, and they are 33-58-91, +25 against the Rangers with six game winners, eight power play goals, and four shorties."

OK guys, who do you have? Fearless?

"The Caps score more, their goalie has been better against top-flight competition this year, they’re deeper. They win."


"Shoot, cuz, even I can’t get all depressed about this one. They have the best player. They probably have the best four skaters in this series – Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom, and Mike ‘Goal a Game’ Green (he’s got three in three games against the Rangers this year)."

There are two parallel schools of thought about this series among those who think the Rangers will win. First, Jose Theodore is a slug. The fact is, he has been at times this year, but not generally against the better teams, like those he’ll face in the playoffs. The other is that the Rangers have so utterly transformed themselves – picking up Nik Antropov, Derek Morris, and Sean Avery on the ice and John Tortorella behind the bench – that the Rangers are a much more formidable team. Well, gee…if those players were so sure fire all stars, how is it they got traded? And as a side bar, does this word association cause you to blow a gasket?...”Nik Antropov” … “saviour.”

We think the pundits have relied on something of a herd mentality in evaluating the goalies. This “inconsistency” meme that has dogged Theodore needs to be evaluated in terms of how he’s actually played against talented teams. And his record is better than Lundqvist’s this year against those teams – better GAA, better save percentage, and most important, better win-loss record.

The Rangers could win this series. Stranger things have happened (the 2002-2003 Red Wings – a 110 point team – were swept out of the first round by Anaheim, for example). But the Caps have the best player (like Cheerless said, probably the best four skaters), they have a goalie getting less credit than he merits, and frankly we think they have the better coach.

On paper, this isn’t a close series. It won’t be on the ice, either. And it starts tonight…

Caps 4 – Rangers 2

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