The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
And today we have a special treat. I don’t know how many readers of this space have sent me e-mails asking, “Peerless, how do you crank out these posts day after day after day…”
“after day after day after…”
Well, you get the point. The secret to grinding this stuff out is good scotch and lots of fiber. Just kidding. Actually, like many other blogs these days, we have a crack staff of professionals that make yours truly look good. And we thought it was long past time that you met them…
First we have our research interns. These young fellows spend countless hours poring over statistics, trends, models (and those young ladies really are troopers, too) to make sure that we have the latest, most up-to-date numbers to feed our readers’ insatiable hunger for… well, numbers.
Then there is our copy staff. They are a talented bunch, but sometimes they take their editing responsibilities a little too seriously. Just yesterday, one of them came up to me (well, up to about my knees) and said, “oompa loompa doompadee doo, I've got better subject for you. Oompa loompa doompadee dee, if you are wise you'll listen to me.” And you know, he was right. That post about the letter “P” before the Phoenix game really was lame.
Then there are the quality control guys. These are the guys who make sure that everything is spelled right, formatted correctly, and is generally pleasing to the eye. These guys came up with that thermometer idea, which come to think of it is the last idea they had.
And then there is our webmaster. We’d still be doing this on a typewriter but for this guy.
And it all comes together on a night like this, a well-oiled (thanks to that good scotch) machine, just like the Washington Capitals (just kidding, kids, we drink only fresh wholesome milk and eat green vegetables… are hops a vegetable?). And tonight, the well-oiled machine that is the Washington Capitals host the Florida Panthers on Fun Street.
Yes, the Caps have had a spectacular January (11-2-0). Yes, the Caps have pounded the opposition (62-32 in 13 games this month). Yes, the Caps have captured the imagination of a hockey-mad world.
But it isn’t as if the Panthers are the Washington Generals to the Caps’ Harlem Globetrotters here, either. Florida is 7-3-2 for the month and has outscored their opposition by 29-19 in 12 games. Florida hasn’t allowed more than two goals in their last seven games, since a 5-4 Gimmick loss to… well, to the Caps. It is one of only two games this month in which the Panthers have allowed more than two goals (the other a 3-2 loss at Toronto on January 5th). Here are the overall numbers...
The author of those stingy efforts lately is goaltender Tomas Vokoun, who has every decision for the Panthers this month. He is probably the hottest goalie in the NHL with a 1.41 GAA for January, a .958 save percentage, and three shut outs. He hasn’t had nearly that level of success against the Caps this year, holding at the moment a 0-1-1 record (3.43, .885) against Washington. He allowed four goals in regulation, then allowed three goals in a six round skills competition in the 5-4 Gimmick loss two weeks ago.
The other side of that coin is that the Panthers are having a Devil (or a Wild) time trying to score goals. Whatever, they’re not exactly a Flame or Lightning on ice. They have only 29 goals in 12 games this month, and six of those came in the first game of the month, a 6-2 win over Pittsburgh.
Compounding the problem is the loss of Nathan Horton who has been out since fracturing his leg in a 2-1 Gimmick loss to the Islanders a week ago. Horton, the Panthers’ leading scorer for the season, is expected to miss at least a month. Add to that the fact that David Booth hasn’t dressed since being concussed on a hit by the Flyers’ Mike Richards in a 5-1 loss to Philadelphia on October 24th. The Panthers are hopeful that Booth will be able to return to the ice before the Olympic break, but his absence for this game just underscores the offensive void left in the Panther lineup.
That means that the scoring load falls to second leading scorer Stephen Weiss – no goals in his last six games and only one in his last 14. And to third leading scorer Steven Reinprecht – no goals in his last 11 games and only two in his last 20. And to fourth leading scorer Michael Frolik – no goals in his last seven games, one in his last 12.
See a pattern?
By comparison, Rostislav Olesz is on fire. He has five goals in his last nine games, but even here there is a problem. He hasn’t lit the lamp in his last five games.
Even on the blue line things have dried up. Bryan McCabe, who leads the Panthers’ defense in scoring, doesn’t have a point in his last seven games and has only an assist in his last 10. Dennis Seidenberg not only does not have a goal this month, he doesn’t have one since Hallowe'en. And it goes on – Jordan Leopold, no goals in his last 11 games. Keith Ballard, none in his last 12.
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
Florida: Cory Stillman
If Florida is going to win, you would have to think Stillman has to be on the score sheet. He is 12-23-35 in 40 career games against the Caps, including a goal and an assist in three games this year. And, he has four goals in his last seven games. If Stillman can’t find his way onto the score sheet, Vokoun might have to pitch a shutout to win, and that seems unlikely in the extreme given the Caps’ offensive production this month.
Washington: Jason Chimera
Chimera hasn’t had a lot of experience against the Panthers, but he has had success in his limited exposure. He is 3-1-4 in four career games against the Caps, including what was his first multi-point game as a Cap (1-1-2) in the 5-4 win on January 13th. He is 3-5-8, plus-5 in his last ten games with the Caps.
1. No napping. Florida is going to try to slow this game down to a walk. It will be the local, not the Acela, going from zone to zone. If the Caps fall into that trap (so to speak) and get caught napping, Florida might get the sneaky goal somewhere along the way to give Tomas Vokoun some much needed help.
2. Gatling Gun for Goals. Vokoun has faced 407 shots in 12 games this month (33.9 per game). He doesn’t seem to have suffered under the assault (3-1-2 in games in which he saw at least 35 shots in January). But the Caps have been rather efficient in scoring (14.2 percent shooting percentage for the month). If the Caps succeed at that rate and the Panthers allow the shots on goal they’ve allowed this month, it will be another “wings” night for the fans.
3. Familiarity Breeds Contempt. You could sew it on a sampler, but it applies here. The Caps are 4-0-0 against the Panthers so far this season, outscoring Florida 21-11 in the four games. It isn’t beyond imagining that the Caps might take the Panthers a bit lightly (see: “Tampa Bay,” January 12th, a 7-4 loss). Given that the Caps have scored 11 goals in the third period in the four games, it might be worth noting if they bearing down in the last 20 minutes.
In the end, the only thing that can beat the Caps here is themselves. J-S Giguere played spectacularly at times for Anaheim in Wednesday’s game against the Caps and still was lit up for three goals in 2:30 in the third period in a 5-1 loss. Tomas Vokoun might have to do better, given the offensive troubles his team has. The Caps have shown no particular inclination to see an end to this run they are on, and we’re thinking “chicken parts.”
Caps 5 – Panthers 2
Oh, I almost forgot the marketing team...
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