Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Avalanche, February 20th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Peerless isn’t quite sure if it was the lack of sleep from the late game on Wednesday, or the double cheese, anchovy, and pineapple pizza, but he fell asleep watching C-SPAN and doesn’t quite know if this was real, or if it was a dream…

“The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Virginia…”

Madame Speakah, I ri-i-i-ise on this occasion to speak on the matter of the ee-conomic stim-yuh-lus bill that is before the chamber. We have been dee-bating this measure for several days, and we find owah-selves in great disagreement on the mattuh of what would be the propah stim-yuh-lus for our beloved nation in this time of grave need.

Mah friends from the othuh side of the aisle have proposed one set of measures, and mah colleagues on this side of the aisle have proposed a-nuthuh. We have failed to reconcile owah differences, and find owah-selves at this crossroads.

Madame Speakah, we could dissolve into petty disagreements, or we can ri-i-i-ise to the occasion for which the Amurican people have entrusted us. It is with that humble purpose in mahnd, Madame Speakah, that I propose and submit a substitute for the bill undah consideration.

Ah buh-leeve that the stimulus I offer will provide the kind of stim-yuh-lus that all Amuricans can support, that mah friends across the aisle can get behind, and that mah colleagues on this side of the aisle can defend. This is a tried and true solution that has stimulated for going on four years and has shown even greatuh capacity to perform and to stimulate.

Madame Speakah, the stim-yuh-lus I propose has performed in an unprecedented fashion, even when things are flat on their back. Can we accept any less, Madame Speakuh? The Amurican people will not – they cannot -- stand by and wait when such a promising stim-yuh-lus package that offers strength and speed is available to us.

Our approach must be – it will be – successful, as it must sustain us through a difficult winter and a challenging spring. I thank the members of both sides of the aisle that have supported this package and humbly ask that they support the only stimulus I think this city and this nation needs…

OK, no more anchovies.

The Caps face the Colorado Avalanche in what will be the penultimate game against the Western Conference this season. Two words… “Thank God.” If there is a blemish, a blot, a zit the size of Ecuador on their record, it is having gone 7-9-0 against Western Conference teams this year, including losing seven of their last nine against Western Conference foes. This can, and in fact, should be different. While Colorado is only seven points behind Edmonton for eighth in the West, they have five teams over which they must climb to challenge the Oilers. Their numbers don’t suggest anything other than a team not having its best year:

edit: if you've read closely, that should be 79 points for the Caps...musta been the anchovies...yeah, that's it.

Colorado is a club that has had a difficult time of it in the 2009 portion of the season. Since January 1st, they are 8-13-0, and since cobbling together a three-game winning streak that ended on January 10th, they are 5-11. Over those last 21 games…

-- They’ve been outscored by a 73-55 margin (3.48 – 2.62).

-- They’ve lost six games by three or more goals

-- They have one win by a three or more goal margin

-- Power play: 14-for-78 (17.7%)

-- Penalty kill: 53-for-71 (74.6%)

-- They have not won a game in regulation on the road since Janaury 6th (0-5-1).

-- In those six games, they’ve been outscored, 24-13.

This is a team that’s struggling, despite still being in the playoff chase.

Ryan Smyth leads the Avalanche in scoring (19-27-46), and he’s done his part lately in trying to keep the Avs competitive (7-13-20 in his last 19 games).

What he’s not getting is help. Colorado has been without the services of centers Joe Sakic and Paul Stastny for a combined 67 games this year. Stastny is officially day-to-day, but seems unlikely to dress for this one. Sakic, who is recuperating from back surgery, only says that "I definitely want to be back sometime near the end of the year." Sometime won’t be tonight.

Since Stastny and John-Michael Liles (wrist) are both out – those being the fourth and fifth leading scorers for the Avalanche – more of a burden will fall on the shoulders of Milan Hejduk and Wojtek Wolski to provide some offense.

Hejduk had a nice four-game run from January 29th through February 5th, going 5-1-6 over that span. But since then, he is 1-3-4 in six games, although he has points in his last two games. Hejduk, in his tenth season with Colorado, is 3-3-6 in ten career games against the Caps.

Wolski represents the other end of the age spectrum (22) and is in his third full season with the Avalanche. He’s also been in something of a slump. Since netting goals in three consecutive games ending on January 10th, he is 1-8-9 in 16 games, that goal coming in the Avs last game, against Ottawa last Tuesday.

What Colorado had had is stability on the blue line. Despite J-M Liles being out for this one, it is a squad that has dressed only eight defensemen this year, and five of them have played 55 games or more. Liles is the leading scorer of that group, but they have spread scoring around. Jordan Leopold, who seems to be getting a lot of attention on the trade rumor circuit, is 6-13-19, and Ruslan Salei is 4-14-18. By way of comparison, no Caps defenseman not named for a color has more points.

The trouble is, though, no Avs defenseman who has played in those 55 or more games is on the plus side of the ledger. Brett Clark is even, and Salei and Leopold follow behind at minus-6.

Colorado did not think Jose Theodore was the answer in goal, and have turned the nets over to Peter Budaj and the oft-travelled (Boston-Providence-Boston-Providence-Boston-Providence-Boston-Finland-Boston-Providence-Toronto-Colorado) Andrew Raycroft. Neither appears to be a threat to the legacy of Patrick Roy.

Budaj has the marginally better numbers (16 wins to 11, 2.95 to 3.05 GAA, .898 to .895 save percentage, and the only shutout for the Avs this year), but it seems a distinction without a difference.

Hard to say who gets the call here. Budaj earned the decision in the first four games of February, going 2-2-0. Raycroft has been the goalie of record in three of the last four, going 2-1-0, but giving up ten goals in the process (3.25 GAA).

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Colorado: Budaj/Raycroft

Whoever gets the call tonight is going to face a Caps team that has not been especially explosive at home lately (ten goals in three games), but that seems on the verge of breaking out. They had a lot of opportunities against Montreal on Wednesday, and that wasn’t including Alex Ovechkin’s theatrics. Colorado’s goalie will be expected to hold the fort early. The Caps don’t lose often when scoring first, and Colorado has had a devil of a time on the road lately. This is a game for the goalie to step up for the visitors.

Washington: Jose Theodore

We could write something here, but Adrian Dater has already covered it in the Denver Post.

This is another struggling team, just as Montreal was on Wednesday. The difference is, Montreal was a good team playing badly. Colorado is a middle-of-the-road team (and beat up at that) playing badly. So, of course, the Caps will probably play down to their level. But the Caps have too much talent and depth to let this get too far out of hand. Theodore seems likely to allow the odd goal or two, if for no other reason that it seems he’s going to be so amped up for this game. In the end, though…

Caps 4 – Avalanche 3

Oh, and not to leave a guy out

Who's this guy?

19-64-83, +26, three game-winning goals, seven 3+ point games

...Nicklas Backstrom, over his last 82 games.


...imagine that.

Sitting on a porch in Canada...a long time from now

"Grandpa! Grandpa!! Tell us the story of 'Old Blue,' again!!"

Ah, you kids…haven’t your heard that story enough?

“We love that story, Grandpa!”

Well, ok. It was back in the year of ought-nine, back when folks actually had to hold these gizmos to talk to folks, not like those implant-phones with ultra-def sound you kids have today. I was just a young guy having fun and playing for the Caps down in Washington. We were in Ottawa, ‘bout the time the folks in the States were getting a new President.

Anyway, we’d just lost a game to the Senators. I had a tough game, musta had six or seven shots…couldn’t buy a goal, and we lost by one. We weren’t feeling too happy, and we had to go to Boston. And they were really good. They had this defenseman – Zdeno Chara – bigger’n that tree over there…


Oh yeah, and we’re figurin’, ‘this is gonna be a tough one in their rink. But I got a goal right off the bat, and we thought we might get outta there with a win. But those Bruins, they were a tough bunch o’ SOB’s, and they beat us in overtime.

But then we went back home to Washington…

“I thought this was home, Grandpa?”

Well, it is, but back then, I lived in Washington. Nice city, but not as nice as this. Anyway, the Detroit Red Wings came to town.

“The Red Wings? We were just watching them on the holovision. I think Chris Chelios had the winning goal.”

He-he-he…yeah, he’s still pretty amazing, isn’t he? But he didn’t play the time we played ‘em. Probably just as well. But we had a good game that day, and I had another goal. We won that one. Then, Ottawa came to visit us, and we beat them, too. And I had another goal. And all the while, I’m thinking, I’ve had this stick for three games, haven’t put a chip in it, not a smudge, nothing…an old black and blue Easton Stealth I taped up special. I said, “you ‘n’ me, Blue, we’re gonna have some fun.”

So then, I got a goal against the Devils and another one against the Kings. Then, I got two against the Florida Panthers…

“Don’t they play in Rio de Janeiro, now, Grandpa?”

Yeah, they do. I think they made the move not long after Alex Ovechkin became commissioner of the league. Anyway, I had those two goals against Florida, and Ol’ Blue is still going strong. It was like that bat in that old baseball movie. What was that bat called?


That’s it…So then we go to New York to play the Rangers.

“The team that buys all the free agents.”

That’s the one…and Ol’ Blue doesn’t let me down. We got a goal together in the second period to take the lead. Then, when the Rangers went out in front, I got another one just before the second period ended. We lost that one in one of those infernal shootouts.


Yeah, that eight-ways from stupid thing Bettman dreamt up where guys go back and forth with penalty shots to decide a winner…

“Wasn’t Bettman the one who was ‘Elmo the Clown’ on a TV show in Wisconsin? We see those reruns after school. They’re stupid.”

It was Ohio, I think. That’s where Toledo is, isn’t it? And yes, they’re stupid. Anyway, me an’ Ol’ Blue…we had those two goals in New York, and wouldn’t you know it? We tied some sort of record – consecutive games with a goal. So then, we got to go to Florida with our dads.

“You mean Great-Grandpa?”

Yup. He and a bunch of other dads came with us down to Florida so they could watch us play for a couple of games. And we had a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“Don’t you mean the Yokohama Lightning?”

Well, they played in Tampa back then. Anyway, we’re playing the Lightning, and I’m really nervous.

“You, Grandpa?”

Sure. I could set a record, my dad is in the stands. I was shakin’ like those flaps o’ skin under your Grandma’s arms.


Shh…don’t tell her I said that. I was nervous, but once I jumped over the boards with Ol’ Blue in my hands, I settled down pretty quick. We got three goals in the first period. Let’s see…Alexander Semin got one. And then Alex got one. And then Tom Poti got…no, it was Shaone Morrisonn. That’s right. Ol’ Shaone didn’t get a lot of ‘em, but you remembered ‘em. It was one o’ those seeing eye things that just snuck around everybody and past the goalie.

But I didn’t have any goals, and I’m thinkin’ maybe tonight’s just not the night. But then they got a penalty, and I jumped out to skate on the power play. Not long into it, Semin’s in the corner doing his thing, and he slides the puck over to me coming down the middle. I don’t waste a second – I just shoot. But my ol’ buddy Matt Pettinger – he used to play with us on the Caps – he goes down to block the shot. And the puck pops right up over him. I’m right there, waiting for the puck to come down… waiting, waiting, waiting… Finally the thing comes down, and I just shoot it. Somehow, it snuck past a defenseman and under the goalie. I had that record… well, we did. Me an’ Ol’ Blue. And the guys came over and congratulated me. Alex jumped into me – almost knocked me into July. He was always doing that. But then the coach told the boys on the bench to come out and share with us. You know? They had to get special permission to do that. It was really nice.

“And Great Grandpa was there?”

Yeah, he was up in the stands with the other dads, and they were all congratulating him. It was all I could do to keep from havin’ a cry there, right on the ice.



“Whatever happened to Ol’ Blue?”

Well, I’ll tell ya. When guys like me set a record like that – it could be hockey, or baseball, or ultimate holovision games – there is usually some hall of fame that comes around and wants the puck or the ball or the stick. Sure enough, I got asked to give the stick I scored all those goals with – Ol’ Blue – to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

“And did you?”

Well, I'll tell ya...I didn’t want to, because, well… first of all, I thought there might be a few more adventures and goals left for Ol’ Blue an’ me. And, the stick was pretty special. I was kinda hopin’ to keep it. But after a day or two, we decided to send a stick up to the Hall of Fame.

“Wait…Grandpa? You said, ‘a stick.’”

Yes, I did.

“Do you mean that stick you use to play with us is…”

Yup. Me an’ Ol’ Blue. I never could see clear to part ways with it. And don’t ever plan to…

"We like that story, Grandpa…”

I do, too, kids.