The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
It’s Friday on Fun Street and the next to last game of the regular season…
“The penultimate game…”
Cheerless, you remembered. And Fearless, you’re here, too. And what’s with the get-up?
‘Well, we heard that the Caps was restin’ guys this week, and we came a’runnin’ to offer our services.”
And what services would those be?
“Cuz, do you not remember those halcyon days of yore and our winter afternoons on the frozen river?”
I remember watching a lot of falling down by you two.
“T’weren’t fallin’ down… it was goin’ in t’my ‘butterfly.’”
You weren’t even a goalie, you doofus. Besides, it was more of a “dung beetle.”
“Or a turtle.”
Yeah, he did spend a lot of time turtling whenever Mickey McGonigle dropped the gloves.
“It’s Michelle, and it was only the one time."
“You mean ‘one time each game, don’t you Cheerless?”
So you guys want to offer your services to Coach Boudreau? What makes you think you can skate with the big boys?
“Well, I’ve been known as quite the scorer in my day…”
“Cuz, you ain’t scored since the senior prom.”
“And I suppose you can do better?”
“Nope, I’m a goalie. I have a glove hand that’s legendary in six counties.”
“Glitter gloves don’t count, cuz.”
Will you guys knock it off?! There’s a hockey game to play, and I don’t think Coach Boudreau has any use for a couple of guys who couldn’t lace their skates without a manual.
“Maybe yer right, cuz… hey Fearless, maybe the Oilers are lookin’ for somebody… race ya to the truck…”
While those two see if they can crack the Edmonton lineup, the Caps and Thrashers end their season series tonight. We just did this a week ago, a 2-1 Capitals win that ended a three-game losing streak. Starting with that game, these teams have gone in entirely different directions. The Caps have won four in a row, clinching the Presidents’ Trophy and beating two teams they might see in the playoffs (Boston and Pittsburgh), while the Thrashers have lost three in a row and were eliminated from the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Not much has changed for these teams, trend-wise, since we looked at the matchup a week ago. The overall numbers haven’t changed much, either…
These teams have met five times this year, and the Caps have won them all by a combined score of 24-11. Fourteen different Caps have goals in the season series, 21 have points. Clearly, Atlanta has had issues stopping the Caps, the 2-1 result a week ago notwithstanding.
The Caps’ leading points scorer in this season series is hardly a surprise – Alex Ovechkin (3-4-7 in five games). What is perhaps more noteworthy is that a number of Caps have compiled their season’s best scoring against one team in games against the Thrashers, or the Caps have received scoring from unlikely places (some players who are, in fact, not with the team these days).
- Jeff Schultz has treated the Thrashers like a happy meal this year – 1-4-5, plus-10 in the five games, including his biggest night of the season, a three point night on October 22nd that included this gem for his first goal of the season…
- Keith Aucoin, how skating with Hershey, recorded two of his nine points against the Thrashers (tied for his highest mark against any team this year).
- Chris Clark, now of Columbus, recorded one of his four goals for the Caps against the Thrashers.
- Alexandre Giroux, in Hershey these days, potted his only goal in the NHL this season against Atlanta.
- Semyon Varlamov recorded his only assist of the season against Atlanta.
- Brooks Laich has more assists against Atlanta (five) than he has against any other club, except Florida (also five, in one more game played).
The Caps’ special teams have performed rather well against Atlanta, too. In five games, the power play is 5-for-21 (23.8 percent), but that includes an 0-for-7 in the first meeting of these teams this season. Five-for-14 since can be described as “dominating” in any book. The penalty killers are 16-for-19 in the five games (84.2 percent) and have not allowed a power play goal on nine tries over the last three games.
Here is perhaps the oddest fact of all in this season’s series. Jose Theodore has yet to make an appearance against Atlanta. Semyon Varlamov got three chances, winning them all (3-0-0, 2.67, .908), while Michal Neuvirth got the other two (2-0-0, 1.51, .964). Theodore appears likely to get his first chance to improve on his 13-5-0, 2.67, .905 career mark against the Thrashers tonight.
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
Atlanta: Maxim Afinogenov
The season is over for top scorer Nik Antropov, who is being given the last two games off after skating through a number of injuries this year. That leaves it up to Afinogenov, as the Thrashers’ remaining top scorer, to try to lead the Thrashers offense against a team that has treated their goaltenders like a pinball machine. He is 2-1-3, minus-5 in five games against the Caps this year.
Washington: Matt Bradley
It’s about earning playing time among those competing on the third and fourth lines. Bradley has a chance to put his best foot forward tonight against a team he has had a lot of success against this year. Bradley is 2-2-4, plus-3 in five games against Atlanta. He also has goals in two of his last four games.
1. Get ‘em back, keep ‘em in. The Caps are either getting guys back into the lineup who were nursing injuries, or they are close to getting other guys back. The trick now is to keep them healthy. There isn’t anything more important than that in this game.
2. See Number 1
3. See Number 2
In the end, the Caps are tuning up, and the Thrashers might be tuning out. Atlanta could be expected to play for a measure of pride (no team wants to take the oh-fer for the entire season), and as a divisional opponent they might be expected to play with a certain edge. But that isn’t going to be nearly enough to stem the tide that will wash over them.
Caps 6 – Thrashers 2