Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sittin' at the End of the Bar

Stuff that caught our eye this morning...

- On New Year’s Eve, the St. Louis Blues were 14-20-3 and looking like they might be renting space in Lotteryville. Since then, the Blues are 23-10-6, have won five in a row to close March, and have climbed over Anaheim into eighth in the West.

- Bill Guerin gets pulled from the lineup in anticipation of a trade, then finally gets sent to Pittsburgh. The Islanders are 7-5-2 since and could pass Colorado for 29th place in the league (they are five points behind with seven to play).

- Speaking of Colorado…26th in league attendance? This was a team that sold out seasons not long ago. Since 2001, their ranking has gone: 10th, 10th, 10th, 10th, 11th (those five years all being 100 percent of capacity), 13th, 17th, 26th.

- Menawhile, Washington (14th) is the only team in the Southeast Division ranked higher than 20th in attendance. It is the only team playing to better than 85 percent capacity (96.8 percent).

- A Tale of Two Marches…Before St. Patrick’s Day: 7-7-14, -1 in eight games. After St. Patrick’s Day: 1-3-4, -5 in seven games. That would be Jarome Iginla.

- Has anyone put together a quieter scoring season than Nicklas Backstrom? Since February 1st, he is 9-21-30, +6 in 26 games. He’s failed to register a point in only five of those games.

- 75 games, 30-46-76, +22, seven game winning goals
75 games, 18-57-75, +19, six game winning goals
Yes, Daniel and Henrik Sedin are twins.

- Miikka Kiprusoff and Marty Turco each have played in 71 games. They are the only goalies with more than 4,000 minutes played this year. Kiprusoff is 43-21-5, but his GAA and save percentage are ordinary (2.85, .903). Turco doesn’t appear as if he’ll make the playoffs, and his GAA and save percentage are wallowing in the same region of the rankings as Kiprusoff (2.84, .897). Without looking it up, can you name their backup goalies? Are Curtis McElhinney and Tobias Stephan really that bad? Well, McElhinney hasn’t won a game this year (0-6-1), and Stephan has one win (1-3-1). We don’t like either team’s chances (should Dallas get into the playoffs) to last past the first round.

- Three of the top five, four of the top ten, five of the top 15, and six of the top 20 players in plus-minus hail from Boston. Meanwhile, Brendan Witt is last, at -31, although he was even for March.

- A guy with a $942,000 cap hit who has 32 goals in 65 games this year, 59 goals in his last 127 games, and who was named “Mule” by none other than Steve Yzerman is going to get a nice payday coming when he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer. And, he’s a center. And no, I don’t think Johan Franzen will be a Cap…but it’s nice to think about.

- Once upon a time, the Flyers’ Jeff Carter was leading Alex Ovechkin in the goal scoring race. Carter has nine goals in his last 29 games, only two against teams currently in the playoff mix (New Jersey, Washington).

- Chris Osgood shut out St. Louis to open the month. After that, the Red Wings allowed 37 goals in 12 games (3.08/game). The over/under on the Wings seems to be “two” for March. When allowing two or fewer, they were 7-1-0. When allowing three or more, they were 1-3-1. They also allowed five or more goals three times in their last 11 games of the month. Last year, they allowed five or more goals three time – total – in 30 games after February 1st. Something’s not right there.

The Good, the Bad, the March

March – when spring announces itself and playoff contenders emerge from a long winter’s hibernation --- has come and gone. The Caps had a fair month, all in all, with a 6-5-2 record. But within, there was the good, the bad, and…well, the ugly.

The Record:

The Good…The Caps finished March on a 6-2-2 run to propel them to the second spot in the Eastern conference. It helped that New Jersey’s run led by Martin Brodeur’s return has run its course, the Devils finishing the month 0-4-1 to remain one point behind Washington.

The Bad…[caution…we used this same sentence to lead off last month’s GBU] The Caps again showed a tendency to play down to the level of their opponent when not playing a top-notch team. The Caps were 3-3-1 against teams that today are not in the top eight of their respective conferences. Thank heavens for Tampa Bay, which the Caps defeated twice in the month, scoring ten goals in the process.

The Ugly…Four losses by at least three goals, two of them to potential playoff opponent Carolina and the other two to Southeast Division also rans Florida and Atlanta. All of a sudden, the Caps can’t compete in their own division (4-4-0 for the month, not what you’d expect of the runaway division leader).

Special Teams:

The Good…The power play was 26.1 percent for the month (12 for 46). The Caps had at least one power play goal in eight of 12 games. On the other side, the penalty killers faced fewer shorthanded situations per game (4.3) than was the case in February (5.4).

The Bad…While the power play was efficient, it might not have been “effective.” Why? Because the Caps enjoyed fewer power play opportunities per game (3.8) in March than they did in February (4.1). Perhaps this is a case of referees getting into the spring thing of putting their whistles in their pockets. We’ll see.

The Ugly…In that same vein, the Caps had only one game in March where they had more than four power play opportunities in a game, that being the last game of the month in which they had nine such opportunities. Again, thank heavens for Tampa Bay.

The Record II:

The Good…Once again, the Caps were road warriors of sorts. They were 4-2-1 on the road in March, including a shutout win in Florida.

The Bad…They lost their last two road games for the month (one of which was a Gimmick).

The ugly…0-3-1 at home to start the month in which they were outscored 16-8.

The Players – Goaltender Edition:

The Good…Jose Theodore ended the month 5-2-1, 2.33, .910, with one shutout.

The Bad…Theodore started the month 0-2-1, 3.79, .845

The Ugly…Theodore getting pulled twice, both times against Southeast Division opponents (March 1st against Florida and March 16th against Atlanta).

The Players – Skaters Edition:

The Good…The “Young Guns” – Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Mike Green – combined for 22 goals, 38 assists, ten power play goals, and three of the five game-winners for the month (the other win was in a Gimmick).

The Bad…The rest of the team had 11 goals among 23 skaters who dressed, and Brooks Laich had four of those.

The ugly…Only four players for the month were on the “plus” side of the ledger: Brooks Laich, Keith Aucoin, Shaone Morrisonn, and Quintin Laing. You’ll note that only two of those players played more than three games in March.

Hershey Call Up Edition…

The Good…Six skaters: Aucoin, Laing, Chris Bourque, Staffan Kronwall, Oskar Osala, and Jay Beagle were called up in March and dressed for games.

The Bad…They had a combined two points, both from Aucoin (assists).

The Ugly…Quintin Laing going down to a torn spleen, which ends his season.

Some other good, bads, and uglies…

The Good…Semyon Varlamov was 1-0-0, 2.07, .912 in two appearances.

The Bad… The play of the skaters in front of the goaltenders in too many games.

The Ugly…Michal Neuvirth allowed a penalty shot goal, two short-handed goals, a power play goal, and an even strength goal in a 5-2 loss to Carolina (the club played a gruesome game in front of him). Welcome to the NHL, kid.

The Good…Brooks Laich had a solid month – 4-6-10, +3, with a power play, shorthanded, and game winning goal on his record. He had only two “minus” games for the month.

The Bad…Eric Fehr was 7-4-11, +6, with a game winning goal in 13 games in February. March? That’s another story: 1-0-1, even in 13 games.

The Ugly…Tomas Fleischmann – 0-0-0, -4, in 13 games. And on top of it there is the bad luck, having a couple of goals disallowed and another changed from his record to that of Nicklas Backstrom. April can’t get here fast enough for young Mr. Fleischmann.

The Good…Shaone Morrisonn built on a pretty solid month of February by having another in March – just in time after struggling much of the year. In the last two months he is 2-6-8, +4.

The Bad…Tom Poti failed to register a single point in the month. In fact, he is 0-3-3 in 26 games in the 2009 portion of the year. While it’s true that the “offensive defenseman” and “power play” quarterback duties have fallen to Mike Green, the absence of any offense from the blue line is troubling.

The Ugly…Jeff Schultz seems to be hearing the boos. He was 0-0-0, -4 in 12 games for the month and was a healthy scratch in the last game of March.

The Good…The Caps have clinched a playoff spot

The Bad…Pittsburgh seems about to.

The Ugly…

Once again, thanks for coming, and don't forget to tip your waitress.