Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Islanders, January 26th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Caps take to the road again this evening for a visit to the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum where they will take on the New York Islanders. The Caps are having a fine January, so good in fact that the club could set a franchise best month for wins if they win three of their last four games this month (their current best is 11-1-2 in January 2000). At 9-2-0 for January, the Caps are keeping pace with the Hershey Bears (10-1-0) and South Carolina Stingrays (6-2-2) in putting together a 25-5-2 month for the family of Capitals teams.

But first, the Caps must deal with the Islanders, a team they have played three times already this season. The first three games went to extra time, two of which ended in Caps’ favor – a 3-2 overtime win on October 24th on Long Island and a 5-4 Gimmick win in Washington on Veterans Day. The Caps lost a 4-3 overtime decision to the Islanders on October 30th. So now, it’s off to Long Island once more, where…

“Did you know that if you purchased a ticket that says 'Partially Obstructed View' on the face, then you should expect that your seat(s) will not have full view of the event and / or stage.”

Excuse me?

“Yeah, if you purchased an Islanders ticket that says 'Partially Obstructed View' on the face, then you should expect that your seat(s) will not have full view of the event and / or stage.”

Really?

“Says so right on the Nassau Coliseum website. Just thought you’d want to know. Oh, and there is no re-entry to the venue – all exits are final.”

Final?

“Oh, yeah, if you leave the arena, your exit is final.”

Final?

“That’s what the web site says… guess that’s why attendance is 29th in the league. Once folks see a game, they can’t ever come back.”

That’s pretty severe.

“But it’s easy to get out. The oval shape building comes equipped with sixty-seven pairs of existing doors, which can disperse a capacity crowd of 16,000 in seven to eight minutes. We can’t vouch for that, though.”

Why not?

“We haven’t been at capacity since Mike Bossy was here.”

But you’ve probably had capacity events there, since then, haven’t you?

“Well, we’re not so lucky in that regard… Nassau Coliseum holds the distinction of being the next facility Elvis Presley was scheduled to play on August 22, 1977 before his un-timely death a week earlier.”

Bummer.

“Yeah, and it probably wasn’t much fun for Elvis, either. It’s not all bad, though… Nassau Coliseum has won a number of top awards for arenas, including ‘Arena of the Year’ in 1995.”

Isn’t that the year there was a lockout in the NHL?

“Yeah… thank you for noticing. But it is an engineering marvel… Ten steel trusses, each 323 feet long and 25 feet deep, make the column-free interior possible, while 32 exterior concrete columns support the roof.”

Uh, pardon me, but why then are there obstructed view seats?

“Oh, that’d be the folks trying to get out blocking the view of folks who haven’t left their seats yet.”

You seem to have a rather cynical view of the Coliseum. Are you hoping the Islanders will move to another home?

“Well, yeah, you could say that.”

What’s your name, sir?


“Uh, I’d rather not say.”


I understand...




Well, for the time being Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum remains the home of the Islanders, and they’ve had some success at home, compiling a 14-9-2 record – a record better than perhaps their overall numbers would suggest…



Looking at those numbers, one might wonder how – considering that the Islanders are in the lowest third of the rankings in just about every measure – they could be a point out of a playoff spot (going into last night’s play).

Here’s a hint… the Islanders have earned 30 of their 54 points by dragging games past 60 minutes. No team in the NHL has more extra time wins than do the Islanders (11). Their record in regulation (12-21) is rather grim by comparison. The Islanders are 7-3-0 for January, though (4-0 in extra time), so they can’t be taken for granted.

OK, so they don’t rank highly in any statistical category, they struggle in regulation time decisions, but they do have an ability to squeeze out points by getting past 60 minutes. How? Well, one way to that result might be the balance the Islanders have. They certainly don’t have a player who will strike fear into the hearts of opponents with their offensive production, but they do have 17 players in double digits in points. Only three of them have more than 30 – Kyle Okposo, Matt Moulson, and rookie John Tavares. This trio also has 10 of the 17 game-winning goals the Islanders have this season.

Okposo (11-24-35) is 5-3-8 for January and had a six-game points streak earlier this month. He knows his place, too – on the ice. In his last 28 games, Okposo has incurred only two minor penalties. He does have a knack for rising to the occasion – his first NHL goal was scored against New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur, and he has more goals against the Devils (five) than he has against any other team. Against the Caps he is 3-1-4 in four career games.

Moulson leads the Islanders in goal-scoring (19) and is 4-2-6 for the month, including two game-winning goals (against Detroit on January 12th and against New Jersey on January 18th). He is another player who seems to know that his value is on the ice. He hasn’t been whistled for a penalty in any of his last 21 games. His career output against the Caps consists of the goal in three games he has played so far this season.

Tavares has had his struggles lately. Since putting together a modest three game scoring streak in early December (4-1-5), he is 2-3-5 in his last 20 games. Four of those points (1-3-4) have come in the last seven games. It’s not an avalanche of scoring, but he has shown signs of picking up his scoring pace. He has not found the back of the net in three games against Washington, but he has chipped in a pair of assists.

The Islanders are rather banged up on the blue line. Radek Martinek (knee) and Brendan Witt (calf) are out. It means more minutes for guys like Jack Hillen (20:57 in average TOI) and Andrew MacDonald (18:02), a defensive pair with a combined 45 games of NHL experience coming into this year. Hillen has displayed a scoring touch from the blue line lately. In his last seven games he is 1-5-6. He has yet to record a point in five games against the Caps, however.

MacDonald, who came into this season with only three games of NHL experience, has averaged more than 21 minutes of ice time a night this month. He has not yet skated a game against the Caps.

With Witt out, this is not an especially big defense the Islanders have, with the exception of Andy Sutton, who could return to action tonight after serving a two-game suspension for his hit on Pittsburgh’s Pascal Dupuis last week. It would be a welcome return for the Islanders. Not only would his 245 pounds be some welcome size on the blue line, he has scored more points against the Caps than he has against any other NHL opponent (8-8-16 in 36 career games).

In goal, this could be the first appearance by Rick DiPietro against the Caps since leading the Islanders to a 3-2 Gimmick win on February 20, 2008. He finally returned to the lineup after dealing with a variety of ailments that limited him to five appearances last season and none this year until stepping between the pipes on January 8th. In four games since his return he split four decisions with a 2.22 GAA and .917 save percentage, along with a shutout of the Devils on January 18th. He is 9-3-1, 1.98 in 16 career appearances against the Caps.

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

New York: Josh Bailey

With the Caps scoring as much as they have lately, a team is going to keep up only by getting some secondary support. Bailey is fifth on the club in scoring (12-13-25), but he had been on a nice run with a seven-game scoring streak (4-8-12) from December 29th through January 12th. Since then he is 1-0-1 in five games. The Islanders are likely to need him to re-light the fire to be successful in this one. He does not have a point in four career games against the Caps.

Washington: Nicklas Backstrom

Backstrom does not have an assist in any of his last four games, his longest such streak since a four-game streak this time last year. He ended that streak by putting up six helpers in his next four games. Last year, Backstrom was 2-3-5, plus-3 in four games against New York, but this year he is 0-2-2, minus-5 in three games. He was on the ice for five of the 11 goals the Islanders have scored in the season series so far.

Keys:

1. 1-2-3, score. In the six-game winning streak the Caps are riding, they have scored goals in 16 of 18 periods. They have 12 goals in the third period of those games, evidence of a willingness to keep their foot on the pedal. The Islanders do not have the depth of skill or talent the Caps have, but their record is evidence of a hard-work ethic that they use to make up such deficits. The Caps have to match that effort.

2. The Big Finish. In this six-game winning streak the Caps have outscored opponents by 12-3 in the third period. It is worth noting that in the Islanders’ last six games, the four wins they have were characterized by allowing only one third period goal. Given that these teams have played three games very close to the vest, the Caps need to impose their will in the third period.

3. Power play, plugged in. In those four wins the Islanders have in their last six games, they were 10-for-10 on the penalty kill. The Caps are 8-for-20 on the power play in their six-game winning streak. The Caps have had success against the Islanders’ penalty killers this year (4-for-13 – 30.8 percent – on the power play).

In the end, the formula for a win in this one for the Caps might look like this… a close-fought game for two periods, then converting a power play in the third period to put things away. Certainly the Caps would want to avoid extra time with this team, given that the Islanders are more successful there than in regulation time this year. The Islanders play enough of a “clog-the-lanes” sort of game to keep this from being a shootout (neither team has scored more than four goals in regulation this year in three games). So think of it as maybe a power play tally in the third and an empty netter…

Caps 3 – Islanders 1

3 comments:

Sam said...

Peerles, there are obstructed seats in the upper deck. I believe they're caused by the fact that the seats go back but the ceiling doesn't. So there's a low overhang that might make the folks in the last rows on one side of the ice miss the scoreboard and the far side of the boards.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comments, Peerless. We don't get much hockey coverage in the WashPost, a newspaper enamored by the Wizards, Redskins, and Nationals (losers all). I've learned that your hockey knowledge helps all to learn, especially about teams that we rarely see.

One point of contention with your analysis: given the offensive production of the Caps against the likes of Philly, Pens, Coyotes, etc, why do you think that they'll only score three goals?

The Peerless said...

I think the result will be a combination of the quality of competition (the Caps occasionally play to that level), the fact that the Caps have played against some high-end opponents lately and might be expected to hit a speed bump, and the Islanders' style of play, which tends to clog things up.