Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Hurricanes, March 25th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

No rest for the weary. The Caps have to follow up their thrilling 4-3 Gimmick win over Pittsburgh last night by traveling to Carolina to take on the Hurricanes for the third time in 15 days. If you want a look at the Hurricanes, go here and here.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

If the Hurricanes were not a divisional opponent, you could almost feel for them. After a ghastly start to the year (10-23-7 on New Year’s Eve), they righted the ship and worked hard to go 18-8-1 in their next 27 games. But it was too big a hole to dig out of, and the Hurricanes might be forgiven for playing out the string now that they are all but eliminated and going with backup goaltenders in starter Cam Ward’s absence with a back injury. But since beating Pittsburgh to complete that 18-8-1 run, Carolina is 2-3-1 and has gone to extra time in three of their last four games (winning two). They are still working hard, but the chips are not falling favorably. The overall numbers look like this…

The Hurricanes have been especially annoying to the Caps this year. Washington has played the Hurricanes five times this year and has a 3-1-1 record. Four of the games were settled by one goal (the Caps winning three), and three of those went to overtime (the Caps winning two). Despite the disparity in the teams’ records, it has been a year-long dogfight.

In the five-game season series, the Hurricanes are led in scoring by Eric Staal (4-6-10, plus-3). He had half of those points (2-3-5) in a 6-3 Carolina win on December 28th. Jussi Jokinen is second in scoring for Carolina in the season series (2-5-7, plus-4). The two assists he had in the last meeting of these two clubs (a 4-3 overtime win a week ago) are his only points in his last seven games. He hasn’t had a goal since lighting the lamp against the Caps on March 10th.

One player who will be missing for this is the ‘Canes’ third-leading scorer in this series – Tuomo Ruutu (2-3-5 in five games) is done for the year after sustaining a shoulder injury in a fight against Colorado’s Darcy Tucker. No other Hurricane has more than one goal in this series so far, but nine players do have that one goal apiece. They can get some input from any number of places.

Goalie Cam Ward is close to returning to the lineup, but it looks as if it will be another week before he takes the ice. Given that head Coach Paul Maurice has more or less alternated Manny Legace and Justin Peters in goal since Ward went out, this game would be Peters’ turn. Peters got the win in the 4-3- overtime decision over the Caps a week ago, stopping 25 of 28 shots. The odd part about Peters’ record is that each of his last three wins came in overtime.

The Caps are a different story in the series thus far. Of the 17 goals they have in five games, 10 of them have been recorded by three players. None of them are named “Ovechkin.” Mike Green leads the team with four, while Alexander Semin and Eric Fehr have three apiece. Ovechkin, in fact, has not turned the red light on this season against the Hurricanes, but he does have seven assists. Nicklas Backstrom leads the Caps in overall scoring in the season series against Carolina (2-6-8 in five games).

With Jose Theodore getting the decision in last night’s Gimmick win over the Penguins, and having played in consecutive games, it could mean that Semyon Varlamov will get the nod from head Coach Bruce Boudreau to man the nets. Varlamov lost his only decision against Carolina this season, the 4-3 overtime loss a week ago. It is his only career appearance to date against the Hurricanes.

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Carolina: Ray Whitney

Whitney had trouble getting his footing after the Olympic break, going 1-2-3 in his first eight games. But he is 1-2-3 in his last four, including the game-winning overtime goal against the Caps a week ago. Fun fact… according to the Carolina media guide, Ray likes square dancing in the off-season. Yee-haw.

Washington: Matt Bradley

Back in January, one might have thought Bradley a shoo-in to notch ten goals this season. He recorded his eighth marker on January 19th against Detroit. He is still stuck on eight, having failed to light the lamp in his last 22 games.


1. Forget last night. Hard to do… a 65-minute game followed by the trick shot competition. It makes this a very quick turnaround, both physically and mentally. If the Caps don’t put last night’s game out of their minds, they could find this game unpleasant.

2. Push the play. The Caps have the top power play in the league, but they do not get enough chances to show it off. Only once in the last 11 games have they enjoyed as many as five opportunities. In those last 11 games the Caps are humming along at 27.0 percent, but that is 10 goals on only 37 opportunities. It could be a chore against the Hurricanes, who have endured the 12th fewest number of shorthanded situations at home.

3. Score first. Only Edmonton has fewer wins (six) when allowing the first goal than Carolina (seven). And no team has fewer wins than Carolina when trailing at the first intermission (two).

In the end, we know that this won’t be easy. Carolina has skill (despite their record), and they don’t fear the Caps. Plus, the Caps are on the road for the second half of a back-to-back the night after playing a big game. We’ve seen this movie before, and it ends with a one-goal decision.

Caps 4 – Hurricanes 3

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