Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Blue Jackets, November 1st

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

It’s an early evening tilt today as the Caps host the Columbus Blue Jackets in what will be the home team’s third game in four days. The Caps just completed their first set of back-to-back games of the season by taking three of a possible four points with a win over... uh, with a win over Atlanta and an over time loss...uh... and overtime loss to the New York Island... can I help you?

“I’m sorry, sir, I was just happening to pass by, and I realized, you’re The Peerless Prognosticator, and I just had to say hello.”

Thanks, and you are...

“Columbo, sir. Lieutenant Columbo.”

Nice coat.

“Thank you, sir. Now, I see that you write a blog. Very nice, by the way. I could never do something like that. I’d get writer’s block. Did you ever have writer’s block, sir?”

Well, I’m having an attack right now...

“That’s too bad. I’d always be worrying that I didn’t have anything to write. I worry. I mean, little things bother me. I'm a worrier. I mean, little insignificant details I lose my appetite. I can't eat. My wife, she says to me, ‘you know, you can really be pain.’"

I can understand that.

“So, I take it you’re writing about the game today. Is that right, sir?”

Why, come to think of it, I am.

“And I’m guessing that you dreamt me up because my name sounds like the name of the team the Capitals are playing. Would I be right about that, sir?”

You’re smart.

“My wife says I'm the second smartest. She claims there are 80 guys tied for first. But back to the case, sir... I mean 'game'... Columbus is having some trouble these days, is that right, sir?”

Well, yes. They’ve lost five of their last six – one of those in a Gimmick – and they’ve given up at least four goals in five of six. They’re having trouble keeping their heads above water in the Central Division.

“Oh, I can’t swim, sir... I don’t even like a deep tub.”

Was there anything else, Lieutenant? I’m really pretty busy.

“Oh, I can see that, sir, with all your prognosticating and blogging to do. It must make you very, very busy. I won’t take up any more of your time.”

Thank you, Lieutenant.

“I’m sorry, sir, there are a couple of loose ends I'd like to tie up. Nothing important you understand...”

Yes, Lieutenant?

“The Capitals have sold out each of their first seven home games, is that right, sir?”

I’ll take your word for it.

“Do you think you can find a couple of tickets? It’s for the wife, sir. She’s had her heart set on seeing a hockey game for a long time, and I can’t think of anything better than a Caps game against Columbus... Columbus, Columbo... you understand, sir.”

I get it, Lieutenant, but I don’t think I can get you tickets. This one is probably sold out, too.

“I understand, sir...”

Is that all?

“Oh, there’s just one more thing...”

–sigh– Yes, Lieutenant?

“What’s with the bunny slippers... is that part of the official blogging uniform?”

Well, we all need inspiration, and the Caps could use some to get November off to a good start. The Caps might have been expected to suffer something of a letdown after playing four division winners from last year in their first seven games. But starting with a win in that seventh game against last year’s Pacific Division champion, San Jose, the Caps have earned points in seven straight games (6-0-1).

And as if they need any inspiration for today’s game against Columbus, it is that they have yet to score a goal on Columbus goaltender Steve Mason. Last year’s Calder Trophy winner as top rookie won both games against the Caps last year by identical 3-0 scores, stopping all 71 shots he faced. It’s not as if the Caps were the only victims of Mason shutouts – he had ten in the 2008-2009 season.

This year is a different story, though. Mason might be falling prey to the dreaded “sophomore slump.” He is 5-4-1, 3.48, .881 for the season, but he’s really had trouble in his last five starts – 1-3-1, 4.53, .833. Here is how the Blue Jackets compare to the Caps overall so far…

As far as the skaters are concerned, the word that comes to mind here is “young.” Of the 22 skaters dressing so far this year, the oldest – Samuel Pahlsson – won’t turn 32 until December. 10 are 25 or younger. And some of the youngest of this group are the most productive. It starts, of course, with Rick Nash (turned 25 last June). Nash leads the Blue Jackets in scoring and is tied for tenth in the league in goals scored. But the number to attach to Nash is “two.” He has scored two goals in each of two of his last four games, and he has two goals in each of three of the last four games he has played against Washington.

Jakub Voracek (turned 20 in August) is fourth on the team in scoring (4-4-8), following up a solid rookie campaign last year (9-29-38, plus-11 in 80 games). He got off to something of a slow start this year with only a pair of assists in his first five games, but he went 4-2-6, plus-5 in his next four games. He’s stumbled since, failing to register a point in his last three contests.

Derick Brassard (turned 22 in September) is fifth on the team in scoring (2-5-7). He had his season cut short last year with injuries, playing in only 31 games, but gives indications of being the sort of center who will be a fixture for years. If he has a problem this year, it is that he is minus-8 in 12 games (minus-5 in his last five), worst on the team. He has yet to register a point against the Caps (two games).

If there is a somewhat less pleasant surprise, it is Nikita Filatov (turned 19 last May). After netting four goals in eight games in his first taste of the NHL last season, he has one goal in eight games so far this season. He’s seen little ice time (9:51 being his high-water mark for minutes this year) and has been a scratch in four of the last eight Columbus games. He has no points in any of those games, and has gone scoreless since getting a goal against Vancouver in the second game of the season.

Among the defensemen, there are some odd numbers. First, all eight blueliners dressing for Columbus this year have registered at least one point. Then again, only one of five defensemen who have played in at least ten of the 12 games for Columbus are on the plus side of the ledger. Then again, Jan Hedja (who?) is plus-8 in five games, best among the defensemen. And while it has nothing to do with numbers, we just think it odd that defenseman Mike Commodore was born in Fort Saskatchewan… Alberta. That would be like being born in East Minneapolis… Ohio.

Here is your fun fact for Columbus to take to the rink. In eight seasons, the Blue Jackets are 21-32-13 on Sundays, and the worst year they’ve had on that day of the week was last year (1-5-1). OK, here is another... the Blue Jackets did not lose to a Southeast Division team in regulation last year. They have not yet played a Southeast Division team this season and in fact have played only one team from the Eastern Conference – a 4-3 Gimmick loss to Pittsburgh last Friday.

OK, let’s cut to the chase. The Caps are either going to score a lot, because Steve Mason hasn’t been very good, and the Caps should be looking for revenge. Or, the Caps aren’t going to score at all, because there is always one team that one goaltender owns. We thought it was Martin Brodeur that owned the Caps. Well, the Caps have scored on Brodeur, they haven’t scored on Mason.

If you’ve paid any attention to what we do here, you know which of these we think will happen…

Capitals 5 – Blue Jackets 2

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