Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Thrashers, October 29th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

And tonight, the Caps take on the Atlanta Thrashers in the first of a back-to-back that will end tomorrow in Washington against the New York Islanders…

“Whoa. Déjà vu.”

“What did you just say?”

“Nothing. Just had a little déjà vu.”

“What did you see?”

“What happened?”

“The Caps played the Thrashers and Islanders last week and then another pair of games on the schedule that looked just like it.”

“How much like it? Was it the same pair of games?”

“It might have been. I'm not sure.”

“Switch! Apoc!”

What is it?

“A déjà vu is usually a glitch in the Matrix. It happens when they change something.”

“Oh my God... they cut the hard line, it's a trap, get out!!”

Uh, folks? It’s just a quirk in the schedule. The Caps play these teams more than once this year, and this is just how the second games against these two fall out. Tonight Atlanta, tomorrow the Islanders.

“Whoa, it happened again.”

No, you slack-jawed idiot! And why did everything turn this weird green color like the pixels on an old computer monitor?

Anyway, the Caps play the Thrashers in Atlanta a mere one week after they raced out to a 5-2 lead, then almost let it slip away in a 5-4 win that provided the third win in the five-game winning streak the Caps find themselves in. Here is how the numbers stack up...

Since last Thursday’s tilt, the Caps have added a pair of wins to their streak, while Atlanta sustained a 4-3 loss to San Jose in their only game since. But the loss on the scoreboard paled in comparison the larger loss for the Thrashers of Ilya Kovalchuk, who broke a bone in his foot sustained in the first period while blocking a shot. He is expected to miss four weeks.

Adding to that, Nik Antropov missed three straight practices as of Wednesday nursing a groin injury. He is expected to play against the Caps. Good thing for Atlanta – in the game last week he registered a pair of assists to bring his lifetime numbers against Washington to 7-12-19 in 26 career games. With Kovalchuk out, Antropov is now the Thrashers second leading scorer, but he is still looking for his first goal as a Thrasher, all seven of his points being assists.

Evander Kane – the fourth overall pick in last June’s draft – appears to be staying with the Thrashers for the remainder of the year. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he’s been told by the club to move out of the hotel in which he is staying and find more permanent accommodations (we wonder when Pittsburgh is sending Sidney Crosby back to Rimouski).

Speaking of accommodations, goalie Ondrej Pavelec was also green-lighted to check out and find new digs, which is a sign that either Kari Lehtonen is going to be out for a significantly longer period of time, or Lehtonen might be finding new accommodations of his own… in another city.

Pavelec got in 30 minutes of work in the San Jose game following his 32 minute effort against the Caps a week ago. As opposed to his having given up five goals on 14 shots in the game last Thursday, he stopped all 12 Sharks shots after replacing the ineffective Johan Hedberg. Pavelec did not figure in the decision.

With Kovalchuk out, the temptation is to say that Kane has to pick up more minutes (he’s averaging 13:53 a night as he gets his feet wet in the NHL) and more points (he is 3-2-5, tied for fifth in team scoring). But the Thrashers need more goal scoring from the likes of Antropov, Brian Little, Vyacheslav Kozlov, and Colby Armstrong, who combined have a total of one goal (Armstrong). On the power play, Zach Bogosian will be assuming Kovalchuk’s position on the point (again, according to the AJC). With Kovalchuk and his nine goals gone for the time being (of 28 scored by the Thrashers), Atlanta needs to spread the offense around.

One of the problems the Thrashers have had so far this year is the schedule. After beating Tampa Bay on opening night, they waited five days before taking the ice again (a 4-2 win over St. Louis). Then, after losing to Ottawa in their third game of the season, they waited six days before their next game, a 4-2 win over New Jersey. Tonight’s game against the Caps comes five days after losing to San Jose, 4-3. The Thrashers have had no chance to establish a playing rhythm of, say, a game every other day or so. That will end right quick, though. Atlanta has four back-to-backs in November, and they are on the road for both “sandwich games” – those surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday (at Detroit and at Carolina).

This is an odd game. First, there is the matter that in each of the two instances in which the Thrashers played after a long layoff, they registered 4-2 wins. Then there is the matter of the Thrasher goalies each playing about 60 minutes in their last two games (losses to Washington and San Jose), except those minutes were broken up in the odd way of both playing about 30 minutes each in each game. Pavelec was pulled against the Caps, Hedberg against the Sharks. Is the third time the charm?

Even though Atlanta has scored at least four goals in five of the eight games they have played, with Kovalchuk out it is hard to see a way to Atlanta getting to four goals. Four does seem to be a magic number for Caps goaltender Semyon Varlamov, should he get the call. He’s allowed four in three of his five appearances so far this season. He got the win last Thursday, and with this being the front end of a back-to-back, he could very well be tapped for this one.

On the other hand, the Caps have scored at least four goals in five of the 11 games they have played, including three of the five road games they’ve played. And there is this – the Caps trio of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alexander Semin skated together in the first three games and were a combined 9-15-24 (the team went 2-0-1). On Tuesday, the trio was reunited and combined to go 4-5-9 in a 4-2 win over Philadelphia. If they skate together tonight, and the Thrasher goalies continue to struggle at the start of games, the competitive portion of the evening could be over early, especially with Atlanta’s big threat – Ilya Kovalchuk – out of the lineup.

The Caps’ confounding tendency to let teams stick around in games will probably keep this from being an early evening, and if Varlamov’s own troubles make an appearance, this game could be a real adventure, not unlike last week’s game.


Caps 5 – Thrashers 3


Anonymous said...

Maybe doesn't quit beat out the original Star Wars (first movie I remember seeing in the theaters at age 4, and I don't remember much from that year), but damn Matrix is up there as one of the all time favorites.

SuzukiSandy said...

We're lucky we weren't playing the Colorado Avalanche or I'd be reading a whole bunch of "Mr. Anderson" jokes. Well done again, Peerless.

The Peerless said...

Our fans are our greatest source for material.

The Peerless said...

Who said you had fans, Prognosto-Boy?

Anonymous said...

A game like tonight scares me...With Kovalchuk out and no other scoring to speak of, it seems the Caps should make easy work of them. I do not think that will be the case. Rock the Red (Pill)!