Monday, November 16, 2009
The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Rangers, November 17th
The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
We’re here to help the Caps take another bite of the apple as the boys head across the river to Manhattan to take on their second New York City area team in the past few days, the New York Rangers. It is the Caps’ first visit to Madison Square Garden this year. It is a place that has not been especially hospitable…
“You said “spit”…”
Let me guess… you must be…
"Hello. How are ya? I'm Arnold Horsha-a-ck"
Obviously. And where you are, there would be…
Well guys, you’re in for a treat. The Caps are in town to meet the Rangers, and it looks as though Alex Ovechkin is going to be returning to the lineup after missing a few games to injury.
“Uh, Mr. Peerless… Ovie has a note.”
I’m sure he does, Epstein. Hand it over.
“Dear Coach… Please excuse Alex from hockey games signed… ‘Ovie’s Mother.’”
That’s good Epstein. By the way, the ink is still wet on this note.
“Up yer nose with a rubber hose.”
Oh, Barbarino… I was wondering when you’d show up.
Well, the “what” is the Caps visiting the Rangers, where the home team has been a grouchy host in this decade. Since the 2000-2001 season, the Caps are 4-9-3 skating on the MSG ice in the regular season. Much like last year, the Rangers got out to a fast start to the season (7-1-0 in their first eight games this year, 10-2-1 in October last year). But since their fast start, the Rangers are 4-7-1 for an 11-8-1 overall record. And after winning their first three games of the season on home ice, the Rangers are 2-3-0 in their last five games at the Garden. The other numbers look like this (going into last night's action)…
So far, the signing of winger Marian Gaborik in the off season is looking like a great deal for the Rangers. Gaborik has goals in 11 of the 18 games he’s played in this year and points in 16 of those 18 games. Add in the six power play goals he has (tied for second in the league), and it is clear that he is the player to watch at the offensive end of the ice for the Blueshirts. In eight career games against the Caps, Gaborik is 2-1-3, minus-2. Both of those goals were scored in the Rangers’ 4-3 win over Washington on October 8th.
Gaborik has seven goals in his last nine games out of the 24 that the Rangers have scored. As far as the other scoring is concerned, the Rangers have gotten it from some odd places. And there are none, perhaps, odder than off the sticks of P.A. Parenteau and Dane Byers. Both players notched their first NHL goal in their respective first games with the Rangers – Parenteau in a 3-1 loss to the Islanders on October 28th and Byers in a 3-2 loss to Minnesota on October 31st. Byers has been since reassigned to Hartford in the AHL.
One guy who hasn’t been scoring is everyone’s Mr. Congeniality, Sean Avery. The Ranger winger is without a point in his last eight games, leaving him stuck at 2-4-6 in 15 games this year. He’s been very productive against the Caps, though. In seven career regular season games he is 5-2-7. Given that this is likely to be the game in which Alex Ovechkin returns, it would be of no surprise if Avery tries to engage in his own brand of mischief if he is matched against Ovechkin’s line.
When the Rangers got off to their hot start for the season, no Ranger was hotter than their 2008 first round draft pick, Michael Del Zotto. The defenseman started the year 4-8-12, plus-4 in his first dozen games. Well, he’s cooled off some since that start, going 0-3-3, minus-5 in his last eight games. Part of the problem at the offensive end is that he is not getting pucks to the net. In his first nine games he had 13 shots on goal. Since then, he has six shots on goal in 11 games, four of them coming in a single game (a 3-1 loss to Calgary in which he did not record a point).
One player who has made some improvements from last year is defenseman Wade Redden. One of the favorite targets of Ranger fans last year when he finished with his lowest point total in a decade and the lowest plus-minus of his career, he has morphed into more of a reliable (compared to last year) defenseman who can keep opponents off the board and contribute the occasional point. He is not now, and perhaps won’t be again, the solid top-pair two-way defenseman who will give a club 22-24 minutes a night and 40-50 points. He is on a pace to finish with the lowest average ice time in a decade (he is averaging 19:22 a game) and his lowest point total of his career (a pace of 4-16-20). But he is also on a pace to finish plus-16, which would be quite an improvement over last year’s finish of minus-5.
This will be an opportunity for the Capitals to renew acquaintances with Henrik Lundqvist, who in his last ten games has had “the little girl with the curl” about him. When he’s been good, he’s been very good – a shutout of the Bruins, 35 saves on 36 shots against Ottawa. But when he hasn’t been very good, he’s been bad more often than we’ve come to expect – five goals on 31 shots against Montreal, four in 26 against Atlanta. Overall in his last ten, he is 3-5-1 (one no-decision), 2.77, .908, and a shutout. Against the Caps he is 9-3-3 in regular season games for his career, 2.80, .904, and a shutout.
Oh, and we would be remiss if we didn’t provide this public service announcement in honor of Ranger coach John “Splash” Tortorella. Good Housekeeping offers this rating of BPA-free reusable water bottles that can take dozens of tosses, yet remain “green-friendly.” Think about one of them when you’re in the mood to plunk the odd fan that gets on your nerves, or your significant other.
1. Good Streak, Bad Streak. The Caps haven’t lost consecutive games in regulation since losing on October 8th and 12th. The Caps, starting with this game, will be playing three of four on the road, but they are against beatable teams (Rangers, Canadiens, Maple Leafs, Senators).
2. “Kill-kill-kill!” The Rangers had three power play goals in seven opportunities against Edmonton on November 5th. Pretty impressive. But in nine other games in their last ten, the Rangers are 3-for-30 on the power play. They do, however, have the second best home power play in the league (30.6 percent). The Caps need to keep the Rangers from making this a special teams game.
3. “Play your game… Play your game.” That was the mantra repeated over and over by USA coach Herb Brooks in the dying moments of the 1980 Olympic Games semi-final against the Soviet Union. Well, it applies here to Alex Ovechkin, who might be inclined to bolt like a colt out of the barn in his first game back from injury, and on a big stage to boot. If he just plays his game, without resorting to the too-cute play or the too-big hit that is outside his normal sort of play, he’ll be fine.
Say, Vinnie… you got a pick in this one?
Caps 4 – Rangers 3