Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Senators, February 11th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

It’s "The Day After" here at Peerless Central, and it feels like someone splashed a bottle of bad after shave on a shaving cut. It stings… and it stinks, too, that the Caps have seen their winning streak come to an end. But no time to dwell on that; it’s time to apply a styptic pencil to the cut and stop the bleeding. That comes in the form of a game tonight in Ottawa against the Senators, a team that saw its own 11-game winning streak end last Saturday against the hated Toronto Maple Leafs.

These are two teams that are, if not at the absolute peak of their respective games, then certainly in walking distance of it. These are two teams that will collide on the ice tonight like a pair of heavyweights, and we have a real heavyweight to help us with today’s take… The Champ, himself, George Foreman. George, thanks for stopping by…

“Glad to be here… can I grill you up something?”

No, I’m fine. Champ, these two teams are hot right now. Do you see any advantage?

“Well, let’s go to the tale of the tape for their respective hot streaks…

“You got the puncher and the counterpuncher, the bacon and the cheese on a hamburger, which tastes great off my grill…”

No doubt, but do you see an advantage for one or the other here?

“Well, the Caps’ offense has been really juicy these last four weeks, like a nice steak off my PowerGrill Grill.”

Juicy wouldn’t have been an adjective I would use, but it seems to work…

“Just like my G4 Next Grilleration grill that seals in the juices.”

But about the hockey game… The Caps have been led by Alex Ovechkin in goals during the streak (15), assists (17), points (32), plus-minus (plus-19). He’s been a jack-of-all trades as captain…

“A lot like my new 360 grill that grills, bakes, griddles, makes omelets, quesadillas, pizzas, pancakes…”

We get the point.

“Chops, steaks, burgers, seafood, vegetables… heck, I gotta go. I’m hungry!”

While the champ tests his new products, we have to say that this really is something of a prize fight kind of matchup, as those numbers above suggest. The Caps are the big puncher, capable of delivering a knockout blow early (as against the Maple Leafs and Islanders in this streak) or late (as against the Penguins twice and the Rangers).

On the other hand, the Senators have been the counterpuncher, taking a team’s best shot and not getting tagged, then winning by being opportunistic. The Caps have scored more than four goals nine times in their 14-0-1 run, the Senators have allowed more than four only once in their 12-1 run.

On the other hand, the Caps have allowed goals in this streak – four times more than three goals (including three of the last four games) – while the Senators have not had a lot of success in getting goals (five times with four or more goals in 13 games).

For Ottawa it starts in goal with a player who seems to have made a pact with the Devil. Brian Elliott is 10-1-0 in this Senator run, with a 1.59 GAA and a .948 save percentage. Only once in these last 11 games on his record has Elliott allowed more than two goals, and that was when he allowed four in 40 minutes in a 5-0 loss to Toronto, the only blemish on his and the Senators’ record since January 12th. Rather than be good, he’s been fortunate against the Caps. In three career games he is 2-0-0, 3.78, .880. That includes getting the win in a 4-3 overtime win against Washington on November 23rd.

Jason Spezza returned from a torn MCL on January 23rd against Boston. He’s been making up for lost time ever since. In eight games since his return he has goals in seven of them (8-2-10 overall), including three game-winners. Spezza is 6-13-19 in 21 career games against the Caps.

Daniel Alfredsson seems bent on making up for lost time, too. He returned to the lineup on January 16th against Montreal after suffering a shoulder injury. In 12 games since his return he is 7-9-16 with a pair of game-winning goals of his own. He’s been something of a Cap-killer in his career with a 31-24-55 points mark in 48 career games.

Alex Kovalev had been having a strange, struggling season with Ottawa until this run got started. Through January 3rd, Kovalev had a total of 11 goals in 39 games. But three of those came in a 4-2 win over Carolina on December 12th, and four of them came in a 7-4 win over Philadelphia on January 3rd. Other than that, there was a whole lot of nothing on Kovalev’s goal scoring resume this year. But since this 12-1-0 run started on January 14th, Kovalev is 4-8-12 and, yes, has a game-winner on his score sheet. In 60 career games against Washington, Kovalev is 17-29-46.

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Ottawa: Mike Fisher

Fisher has had success against the Caps in his career – 9-8-17 in 26 career games. He is 4-7-11 in the 13-game Ottawa run, including a game-winning goal against Montreal on Janauary 30th. He is without points in his last two games, though, and one might expect that Fisher will have to show up on the score sheet somewhere in this game for Ottawa to have enough offense to deal with the Caps.

Washington: Mike Green

Andy Tardy is something of the lost Capital in all the good fortune lately. Since December 18th, when he was held without a point in his second consecutive game, he has points in 18 of 21 games (8-16-24), including points in five straight. He is also a plus-16 over those 21 games. Against Ottawa he has had some success – 5-11-16 in 15 career games.


1. It’s over, but it ain’t over. OK, the streak is over. The easiest thing in the world for someone not in the room to say is, “let it go, focus on this game.” But that’s really the trick here, isn’t it. Remember, Ottawa won in its next game out (a 3-2 win over Calgary) after their 11-game winning streak was ended.

2. Formula 1. No, not the racing tour, the formula for winning. Depending on comebacks from third period deficits isn’t a long-term recipe for success, even if the Caps parlayed it into wins late in the streak. The Caps are still – by a wide margin – the top scoring team in the first period this year. This is the formula to which they must return.

3. Balance. There are some gaudy numbers among the Young Guns in the streak, but part of the reason for success was getting contributions from down the roster. Brooks Laich had six goals during the streak (not including the hat trick he had last night in the overtime loss). Eric Fehr had four goals. Jason Chimera had three goals. Tom Poti had a pair from the blue line. Getting that balance will keep the wins coming.

In the end, the Caps can’t forget that they are still in the midst of a 15-game points-earned streak. And they will have the attention tonight of a team that is also at the top of their game (or at least within walking distance of it). There is still business to take care of, and a hallmark of a good team is doing precisely that, taking care of business.

Caps 3 – Senators 1

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