The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!
Well, Alex Ovechkin is on the shelf for two games for his shove to Chicago’s Brian Campbell on Sunday. Colin Campbell, the NHL’s Vice President of Silly Walks deemed the play “reckless” on Ovechkin’s part. Frankly, we think that the whole review of player penalties for purposes of fines and suspensions is shrouded in too much mystery. It’s not as if we’re electing a Pope here. Everyone would be better served if the process was conducted in the open. When you add in the fact that suspending Ovechkin makes him unavailable to play against the Florida Panthers this evening – a club that employs Campbell’s son, Gregory – it might have been better if the process had been conducted by a respected independent jurist. We’re thinking (and we think you’re thinking it, too)… Yup, Judge Judy. Here is how it might have gone…
Announcer: You are about to enter the courtroom of Judge Judy. The people are real. The cases are real. The rulings are final. This is her courtroom. This is Judge Judy.
The Bailiff: Order, all rise.
Announcer: The National Hockey League is considering the case of Brian Campbell versus Alex Ovechkin in which the latter is accused of committing the penalty of “boarding,” resulting in injuries to Mr. Campbell that will end his participation in further National Hockey League games this season.
The Bailiff: Be seated! Your honor, this is case number 101. Campbell vs. Ovechkin. All parties have been sworn in.
Judge Judy: All right, lets get down to business here. Now, Mr Campbell, you contend you were – what it the term – “boarded” by Mr. Ovechkin, is that right?
Campbell: ohhhhhhhhhhhhh…. ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
Judge Judy: I’ll take your moans as a ‘yes.’
Campbell: --gurgle, gurgle--
Judge Judy: So, Mr. Ovechkin, you are responsible for this man's injuries, is that correct?
Ovechkin: It was not a hard hit. I just pushed him. It's just a moment in the game.
Campbell: OHHHHHHHHHHHHH…. Uhhhh…
Judge Judy: Hey! Hey! Bup, bup! Hey! Listen bo-jangles, you do not want me to come over there!
The Bailiff: You do not want that.
Judge Judy: Now continue, sir.
Ovechkin: I don't think it has to be five minutes or something like that. I just felt bad. That's it.
Niklas Hjalmarsson: I thought it was a late hit. That's the kind of situation you really hurt yourself. I hope they take a good look at that hit and suspend him for a couple of games.
Judge Judy: You do not want me to come over there, sir. Okay? Interrupt again, and you'll be dancing with the nutcracker [taps gavel on gavel platform]. Yeah, just put them right here they'll fit. All right, now Mr. Ovechkin, sir, I’m getting the impression you do not respect your fellow competitors.
Ovechkin: I respect everybody. We respect everybody here in the locker room and outside, but over there, we play for our team, and we make some hard hits, and sometimes, you get hurt. That's a hockey game.
Judge Judy: Oh, I gotta see this.
The Bailiff: She got to see this [runs clip of hit].
Ovechkin: See? It was not a hard hit. I just pushed him.
Judge Judy: Sir, I’m the one wearing the black robe here… that means I’ll be the judge of that.
Ovechkin: But Judge…
Judge Judy: Do not ‘Judge” me, sir… I’ll ‘Judge” you…. Get it? Burt, write that down…
The Bailiff: “I’ll… judge… you. Got it, your honor.”
Campbell: OHHHHHH….ohhhhhh…. OHHHHHHHHHHH!!!
Ovechkin: “sounds like Crosby when someone skates by…”
Judge Judy: Okay, sir, bup bup!! No. The club is closing, sir! The club is full. All right, I'm ready to rule!
The Bailiff: oh, the good part!
Judge Judy: Mr. Ovechkin, you may not be aware of this, but I was quite the hockey player when I was a teenager [pulls partial denture out of mouth]. Mff…muhh.. mffmfff [puts partial back in] What I was trying to say was, no one is gonna pull the visor over these eyes, got it? I'm the boss, Applesauce.
Judge Judy: Are you in pain, Mr. Campbell?
Judge Judy: "ohhhhhhhhhhhhh" is not an answer! What kind of training did you need to do "ohhhhhhhhhhh"?
Bruce Boudreau: See? See?
Judge Judy: Hey, hey! Bup, bup! Sir, sir! Okay, okay I'm gonna tell you to shut that wood chopping accident you call a mouth! … The court rules in favor of the plaintiff! Mr. Ovechkin, you are sentenced to two games without pay, although frankly why this ever came to my court, I’ll never know.
Well, the Judge – and Colin Campbell – have ruled and the Caps have to make do without their captain tonight when they face the Panthers in Sunrise. The Panthers come into this game watching their slim playoff hopes slipping away, despite a respectable 4-2-0 record since the Olympic break. With 15 games to play, the Panthers find themselves in 12th place in the East, five points behind eighth-place Boston with one game in hand. Overall, their numbers compare to those of the Caps as follows…
David Booth was flattened by a Mike Richards open-ice hit in a 5-1 loss to the Flyers on October 24th. The concussion he suffered in that game kept him out of the lineup until January 31st. He struggled after that return, going 0-2-2, minus-2 in seven games. But since the break he has come alive. In six games he is 2-5-7, plus-3, including a four-point night against those same Flyers in a 7-4 win on March 3rd. It was a game in which he settled a score, too, taking a five minute fighting major with Richards in the first period of that game. If the Panthers are going to win this game – if fact, make any further progress toward a playoff spot – Booth has to be a big part of it. He has yet to face the Caps this year, but last year he was 2-3-5 in five games.
The reason Booth’s return to the lineup and return to effectiveness is so important is that Nathan Horton remains out of the lineup. He is still recuperating from a broken leg, suffered January 21st against the Islanders. While he did return to the ice to practice with the team on Monday, he is not expected to return to the lineup until the end of the week at the earliest.
So, more of the burden falls to players like Michael Frolik. The second-year forward has four goals in his last five games and is now the Panthers third-leading overall scorer behind Horton and Stephen Weiss. It is another welcome spark for the Panthers, since Frolik had been ice cold going into the Olympic break (0-4-4 in his last 15 games going into the break). He is 2-1-3 in five games against the Caps this year, but is also a minus-4 in doing it. Things seem to happen when he’s on the ice for the Panthers, both good and bad.
Bryan McCabe leads the defense in scoring (8-27-35), and he is 1-8-9 in the six games since the break, including a four-point night (1-3-4) against the Flyers in the March 3rd game. He has three helpers in five games against the Caps this year, but he, too, has been on the wrong side of the plus-minus ledger in those games (minus-3).
If it’s Florida, it must mean Tomas Vokoun. It’s Vokoun pretty much every night. He’s been in the nets in 26 of the last 27 games for Florida this season (as well as backstopping the Czechs at the Olympics), his only night off coming in the first game back from the break. Playing in the Panthers’ last five games, he is 4-1-0, 2.35, .938. While he’s been sharp lately, he hasn’t been against the Caps. In three appearances this year he is 0-2-1, 3.62, .891, although holding the Caps to less than their average goal scoring production can't be said to be bad goaltending.
The Peerless Players to Ponder:
Florida: Stephen Weiss
Weiss has had success against the Caps this year (3-2-5) in five games. But Weiss is another player who has been on the ice for a fair number of goals against (he is minus-4 in those five games). He is currently on a four game streak without a point, and if the Panthers are to make a dent in the standings, he has to play to the leading scorer level he occupies with this team.
Washington: Mike Knuble
With Ovechkin out, more of the scoring burden falls to players like Knuble. Not that he’s suffered in that area against this team. In four games against the Panthers this year, Knuble is 4-4-8, plus-4. Florida might be just the tonic for Knuble, who is 2-1-3 in seven games since the break.
1. Play your game… play your game. The Caps did just that when Ovechkin was tossed in the game on Sunday. But tonight, they have had a couple of days to think about it, and they’ve known since late yesterday that they would play without their captain. It’s not like the Caps don’t have other weapons. If they play their game, they have more than enough talent to be successful.
2. Make ‘em pay. Florida’s penalty killing is almost as woeful as the Caps. They rank 24th overall in that statistic, and they have the 27th-ranked home penalty kill. Only Edmonton and Atlanta have allowed more power play goals at home than the 28 the Panthers have allowed in 32 games.
3. Ready…aim… oh, shoot, just fire! Florida allows more shots per game than any team in the league – 34.0/game. That is absolutely lethal against a team like Washington… so long as the Caps don’t decide to dazzle the fans with a pointless passing exhibition. Shoot the puck.
In the end, here are the numbers that are relevant -- the Caps have outscored the Panthers by 28 goals in the first period, 30 goals in the second, and 37 goals in the third period. If the Caps lose this game, it is not because Alex Oveckhin is in the press box.
Caps 5 – Panthers 2
with thanks as we borrow from Judge Judy's own words and the fine writers of Saturday Night Live, not to mention real quotes from the players...well, except the "ohhhh" part form Mr. Campbell... and Ovechkin's crack about Crosby.