Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Sabres, December 23rd

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

‘Twas the night before the night before Christmas, and all through Washington, we can now focus on the Caps. The Nats are in their slumber until the end of February. The Wizards, well, suck. And the Redskins let the horse out of the barn because their “swinging gate” was left open a long, long time ago. And tonight, it’s the Buffalo Sabres lending to the yuletide cheer of the Capitals' season.

This is the third of four meetings between the Caps and Sabres, the most recent meeting coming on December 9th (a 3-0 Sabres win). Since then the Sabres are 5-1-1 in seven games, outscoring their opponents by a combined 18-13. Clearly, they are not doing it with offense. It’s been the case all year, as the overall numbers show…

How they have been doing it is goaltending. We can’t just insert the name “Ryan Miller” in here, because Patrick Lalime has two decisions in the last seven games. And although he is 1-0-1 in those decisions, his GAA of 0.97 and save percentage of .969 have been excellent.

But it is almost certainly going to be Ryan Miller for the Sabres in goal in this head-into-the-holiday matchup. He is 1-1-0 against the Caps this year (1.01, .966, one shutout). His shutout came in the December 9th meeting between the clubs, and since then he is 4-1-0, 2.19, .935. Miller comes into this game having not allowed more than three goals in a game in his last 14 appearances (dating back to November 18th) and has allowed more than two only twice in those 14 games.

Miller has had to be on top of his game this year, as this is not an especially potent Sabres team. They have no 30-point scorer (the Caps have three, and they’d have a fourth if Alexander Semin hadn’t missed nine games). They have no player with more than ten goals (the Caps have four). They have no player with 20 assists (the Caps have two, and they’d probably have a third if Alex Ovechkin hadn’t missed eight games).

In the last seven games for the Sabres, Jochen Hecht has given signs of rising from his season-long slumber. He is the Sabres’ leading scorer over that span (1-5-6, with points in four of his last six games). In 26 career games against the Caps, Hecht is 8-10-18, although he is without a point in either game played between the teams this season.

Derek Roy is the top goal-getter in the seven games since the Caps and Sabres met (three, with Patrick Kaleta) and second leading point scorer (3-2-5). He does have a pair of assists against the Caps this year to bring his career scoring mark against the Caps to 9-9-18 in 20 games.

Tyler Myers not only continues to impress as a rookie on the blue line, he now has to be given some consideration as being among the most impressive defensemen in the league, regardless of years played. He is 0-4-4 in the seven games since last seeing the Caps, but what is impressive is the time (and the related responsibility) he’s getting. In those seven games he hasn’t had less than 22:24 in ice time and has averaged 25:13 in that span.


1. Get out early. These teams are similar in this respect – they get out to early leads. The Caps have scored first in 25 of 36 games, the Sabres in 21 of 35. But while the Caps are something of a come-from-behind team when they do suffer the infrequent first goal scored by the opponent (a league-best 7-2-2 record), the Sabres predictably lose more often then they win (like 26 other teams in the league).

2. Leave fancy at the door. This is the first game back home for the Caps after a long road trip and only their third game at Verizon Center so far in December. There might be the tendency here to be feeling all happy and full of holiday cheer, wanting to decorate the rink with a bunch of fancy plays and slick passing. Leave it at the door. Just pound pucks at Miller and go chasing for rebounds like a starvin’ man on a Christmas ham.

3. Jose, Joy of Caps Desiring. OK, bad music pun there (for you Bach fans). Jose Theodore is the key element here for the Caps. Both games between these teams ended in shutouts (Caps winning 3-0 on the day after Thanksgiving, the Sabres winning 2-0 on December 9th). It was Theodore who took the loss in the most recent meeting, allowing three goals on 25 shots, although he probably didn’t play as poorly as the 88 percent save percentage might suggest. But Miller isn’t allowing any softies these days, and Theodore has to be equal to the task, at least with respect to allowing any iffy goals. If he stops all the ones he should stop, the Caps probably have enough fire power to solve Miller a sufficient number of times.

And with that, we leave you to your holiday cheer and with a verse or two for the boys…

Twas the night before Christmas, when all ‘round the rink
Not a creature was stirring, you could hear yourself think.
The stockings were hung by the lockers with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The Cappies were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of Stanley Cups danced in their heads.
With Gabby in warmups, and wearing a cap,
They’d just settled in for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the ice there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the tunnel I flew like a flash,
Knocked over some sticks and fell with a crash.

The lights in the arena on the new sheet of ice
Gave the lustre of mid-day, it was oh, very nice.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Brendan! now, Eric! now, Nicklas and Poti!
On, Gordo! On, Greenie! on, Clarkie and Ovie!
To the top of the glass! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As players that before the wild Hurricanes fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the roof-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the slate
The prancing and pawing of each little skate.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the stairs St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like Don Cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the stairs he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

Caps 3 – Sabres 2


The Peerless said...

Well, it's Neuvirth tonight, so scratch all that stuff about Theodore....

Anonymous said...

I wish the Caps had Buffalo's stellar goals against/game average, but I think you mixed 'em up there!

Anonymous said...

So if Santa has a nose like Don Cherry's does that mean he can sniff out those pesky Europeans and mark them on the naughty side of the ledger? I'd hate to think what would happen if Santa got not just Cherry's nose but also his big mouth!

The Peerless said...

@ Anonymous the First...right you are, and we've corrected that error. And yes, we wish the Caps had that G/G-against, too.