The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
It’s Turkey Week. No, we’re not referring to the Caps’ 1-2-2 record in their last five games. We’re referring to that most American of holidays, Thanksgiving, where families gather around the table to give thanks for the NFL Network. And The Peerless is no different. We’ll be gathering around the table with our cousins to share in this year’s bounty, which, as you might imagine, is a little different than what you might usually find on a Turkey Day table.
“Why, I’m hurt cuz.”
Cheerless... I thought you’d be getting ready for Thanksgiving.
“I was, but that dang fool Fearless decided he was going to cook dinner, and he told me t’git out and take my can o’ turkey Spam with me.”
You weren’t planning on having turkey Spam, were you?
“Well, not by itself, cuz. I got more taste than that. Git it? Taste?...”
Yeah, I get it. So, what did you have planned to go with the, uh... entree?
“Well, there’s sweet-taters fried up in raccoon fat with marshmallow fluff. And then there’s sugar-baked groundhog with maple surrp. Oh, an’ there’s critter-stuffed taters with turnips.”
“Yeah, we always has a surprise dish for the kids. An’ we got kettle cooked owl mush with pickled biscuits, an’ fer dessert, sugar-baked woodpecker pudding with oiled-up huckleberry…”
I’m amazed that Feerless would be able to improve on that…
“That’s what I said, but he said we needed to have a so-fisteecated Thanksgiving."
And what’s his idea of a menu?
“Git this… free range turkey medallions with pomegranate glaze. Whut in tarnation is that? Free range? Shoot, we got free range turkeys out in back. We call ‘em ‘buzzards.’”
Well that doesn’t sound so bad.
“Oh, and what’s with ‘wood-fired’ roasted baby turnips with rosemary and fennel fronds?... wood fired? Ain’t that how we cook all our meals? Out back on a wood fire? And what the $#@% is a ‘frond?!’”
“And can somebody tell me what ‘brined tofu and razor clam dressing’ is?”
You still got that can of turkey Spam?
Before we sit down with a can opener and a fork to celebrate the holiday, there is hockey yet to be played. And tonight it will be the Caps and the Buffalo Sabres in the annual Turkey Day Eve game at Verizon Center. The Caps come home limping, 1-2-2 in their last five games. It’s not as if the Sabres are lighting up the league either, as they visit DC having lost their last three games (0-2-1), giving up six goals to Florida and five to Ottawa in doing so. This could be a contest of the resistible force meeting the moveable object. The overall numbers for the two teams look like this…
What has been remarkable about the Sabres’ three game slide is that Ryan Miller has been in goal for two of them, giving up seven goals on 49 shots. Still, he tops the NHL leader board in goals against average (1.97) and is second in save percentage (.931). It is a reflection of the amazing start he’s had that he could have a slip in the last two games and maintain such a lofty ranking. He got there by virtue of the fact that in 17 appearances this year he has allowed more than two goals only four times, and he has given up more than three goals only twice. He is 9-3-0, 2.64 in 13 career appearances against the Caps and has allowed two or fewer goals seven times.
Buffalo has struggled with offense lately. The Sabres have not scored more than three goals in a game since October 28th, a span of 11 games and counting. In those games, the Sabres are 5-5-1, cooling off considerable from their 7-1-1 start and putting more pressure on their goaltending. They have been outscored 33-23 in those 11 games.
Thomas Vanek started the season as if he was going to blast past his career high in goals (43 in 2006-2007). He had four in his first five games. Then he went nine games with only one goal to show for it. He does, however, have two in his last four games, but there are a couple of other numbers that are a bit odd and not too flattering. First, Vanek doesn’t have an even-strength goal since October 21st (that was the last in his four-in-five run). Yet he remains the Sabres’ top goal scorer (seven). Second, he is minus-8 in his last five games, a product of being on the ice for 10 of the 17 goals allowed by Buffalo in those five games. In 16 career games against the Caps, he is 6-5-11.
Vanek might not be the forward causing the greatest concern. After arriving in Buffalo in 2002-2003 from Edmonton, Jochen Hecht was a reliable, if not flashy producer for the Sabres. In his first five seasons in Buffalo, he was 84-141-225 in 328 games (21-35-56 per 82 games). But last year, he was 12-15-27 in 70 games and finished on the minus side of the ledger for the first time as a Sabre (minus-9). This year, he is only 2-2-4, minus-2 in 20 games, with one point in November (a goal in a 3-1 win over Edmonton on November 11th).
On defense, the story is Tyler Myers. The 12th overall pick in the 2008 draft has played in all 20 games for the Sabres and is tied for sixth on the team in scoring (tops among defensemen). Like many of the Sabres, he has slowed down some recently (0-1-1, minus-3 in his last six games). He remains a rock on the blue line, though, ranking second among defensemen in ice time and having logged more than 20 minutes in 14 straight games dating back to October 21st. He is also tops in goals among Buffalo blueliners, tied with Henrik Tallinder for the top spot in assists, tops in hits, tied for the top spot in blocked shots, and is the tallest defenseman in the league not named “Chara” (6’8”). He is certainly holding his own with 2008 defenseman classmates Drew Doughty, Zach Bogosian, and Luke Schenn (and yes, John Carlson is a member of that class).
1. Turkeys belong on the dinner table. The Caps not only have struggled with results – that 1-2-2 record in their last five games – they’ve played badly in important stretches of games. There have been too many turkeys in this run. They allowed five unanswered goals to New Jersey after getting out to a 2-0 lead. They lost at home to an offensively-challenged Montreal team. They lost to arguably the worst team and the worst goaltender in the league at the time in the Toronto Maple Leafs and Vesa Toskala. They gagged on a 3-1 third period lead in losing to Ottawa, 4-3 in overtime. The Caps probably don’t even want to see turkey on Thursday. They’ve had enough. Certainly their fans have.
2. Young gun misfires. Alex Ovechkin… 2-1-3 in his last six games. Nicklas Backstrom… 0-1-1 in his last six games. Caps… 2-2-2 in their last six games. See a connection? With the Caps nursing injuries down the roster, these two need to break out of what, for them, passes for a slump.
3. Third period smarts. Three times in the last four games the Caps have taken three minor penalties in the third period. In 24 games they have taken 41 minors (of 94 total) in the third period. Hey, here’s a thought. STOP IT!
If the Caps can put the Sabres on their heels and make them take chances, if Nick and Alex can get some points, if the Caps grow a brain in the third period, they should take home two points. C’mon guys, save the turkey for Thursday.
Caps 4 – Sabres 2
* We’ll be out for a few days to let the turkey – the Thanksgiving turkey, that is – digest. Have a happy and safe holiday, and we’ll see you in a few days.