The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
Tonight, the Caps go back on the road for their penultimate road contest of the season.
Yeah, cuz, it means “next to last.”
“Then why don’t you just say, ‘next to last’?”
Just trying to throw some spice in here, Cheerless. The Caps are playing Columbus, you know…. Might be the most boring team in the league.
“Don’t mind him, he struggles with words like ‘cat’ and ‘dog.”
“I just don’t see what a ‘pen’ has to do with it… you guys use these new fangled keyboards for everything these days.”
No, it comes from the word “penult”… the next to last syllable of a word.
Or “paene ultima,” from the Latin for “almost the last.”
“’Ultima?’... I think my last car was an ‘Ultima’… comes from the Latin for ‘ripped me off.’”
Guys?... We have a game tonight. Columbus?
“What’s that, cuz, Latin for ‘jiminy crickets, we suck?’”
Cheerless might be on to something there. Tonight’s foe, the Columbus Blue Jackets, started the season in fine fashion, going 12-6-2 in their first 20 games. But after knocking off Dallas, 4-1, to reach that record, the Jackets fell hard and fast out of the playoff picture. Since Game 20, Columbus has had, in order, losing streaks of five, three, nine, four, three, and five on their way to a 20-27-11 record. The overall numbers look like this...
Columbus has managed to stop the bleeding – far too late, of course – going 7-3-2 in their last 12 games since their last losing streak of consequence. In those 11 games they have outscored their opponents 40-34, and they scored four or more goals five times in the process. Not exactly “Hitchcockian,” but coach Ken Hitchcock – known for his tight checking, low scoring style of play – was relieved of duties on February 3rd in favor of Claude Noel.
One thing the Jackets have not had in this 12-game run is a potent power play. After lighting up Anaheim for three power play goals on six opportunities on March 9th, Columbus is 5-for-41 since (12.2 percent), although they do have goals with the man advantage in four of their last five games.
The penalty killers are 37-for-45 in this 7-3-2 run (82.2 percent). While respectable, they have allowed a power play goal in four of the last five games in which they had a shorthanded situation to kill off.
Rick Nash came out of the Olympic Games in a bit of a funk – his three-game streak without a point was his longest such streak of the year. But he might have been feeling the effects of a lower body injury that would then keep him out of the lineup for four games. Since returning to the lineup against Minnesota on March 19th, he is 5-3-8, plus-5 in eight games. Nash has played against the Caps seven times in his career and has seven goals to show for it. That number includes a 1-2-3 performance in a 5-4 overtime win against the Caps on November 1st.
What Rick Nash produces on the right wing, the Jackets hope for on the left from Kristian Huselius. And he certainly has been providing it of late. In has points in eight of his last ten games on his way to a 6-10-16, plus-7 scoring line. He has not been especially productive against the Caps, though. He was held without a point in the game on November 1st, and he is 5-4-9 in 20 career games against Washington.
It was R.J. Umberger who scored the overtime winner against the Caps last November, and he is coming into this game on a hot streak: 2-7-9 in his last nine games, with a point in eight of those games (6-6-12 in 15 career games against the Caps).
In goal, number one netminder Steve Mason jammed his shoulder while making a save in a 3-2 loss to Detroit on Thursday. If he cannot go (and Aaron Portzline at the Columbus Dispatch thinks it unlikely), then the goaltending duties will fall to Mathieu Garon, who is 3-0-1 in this latest 7-3-1 run for Columbus. He has a 2.23 goals against and .922 save percentage to go along with the win-loss record. He has had similar effectiveness against the Caps in his career: 2-1-1, 2.23 in five career appearances.
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
Columbus: Nathan Paetsch
Paetsch (a former Capitals draft pick) was the player coming over from Buffalo when Raffi Torres was sent to the Sabres (the Jackets also received a second round draft pick). With Kris Russell likely out of the lineup, Paetsch would appear to get a sweater. He has played in only eight of the 14 games Columbus has played since the trading deadline. In those games he has not yet registered a point and is minus-5 in an average of 10:25 in ice time. If he is on the ice, the Jackets might be especially vulnerable.
Washington: Jose Theodore
Since losing to Tampa Bay on January 12th, Theodore is 17-0-3 in 20 decisions. But in his last seven appearances he has a GAA of 3.27 and a save percentage of .899, including an early night against Calgary when he allowed three goals on ten shots in barely ten minutes of work. These are not necessarily the sort of numbers one would like to see from the number one goaltender heading into the playoffs. The high goals-allowed total actually goes back to early February. In 13 games played since February 4th, Theodore has allowed three or more goals ten times (four or more four times). Columbus is not an especially potent team on offense and is 22nd in first period goals. This sets up for Theodore as a night to get back in a groove.
What keys? It comes down to this. Columbus is neither a “desperate team” looking for a playoff spot, nor can the play a “spoiler” role, seeing as how the Caps have clinched their division, the Eastern Conference, and can clinch the league title with three more points. And, the guy who got two goals in the last seven minutes of the first meeting of these teams (Raffi Torres) is in Buffalo. The only way the Caps lose this game is if: a) they get lost getting to the arena, or b) they just don’t show up figuratively.
Caps 4 – Blue Jackets 3