One in a row! Nature has returned to its righteous state, the sun seems brighter, the air fresher, the beer colder. Right?
Hell no! We’re Caps fans!! Caps fans live their days in a constant state of dread, in fear that the Caps not only will lose – that’s a given – but will do so in the most embarrassing and ignominious way possible.
Yeah, cuz…ignominious. Means discreditable.
“Oh, like when you write blogs like this?”
Funny. But anyway, for you Caps fans, your ol’ Doc Peerless has just the thing. Tired of losing? Thinking this will be just another winter of despair? Sick of enduring the barbs of friends, coworkers, and Penguin fans?
That’s right, “Fukitol!”
When you’ve seen the Caps blow a 3-1 third period lead to lose to a crummy team in a shootout….
When another Cap has gone down to a “lower body injury” and will miss the next eight weeks…
When a defenseman gets caught up ice doing spin-o-ramas and the other guys end up on a three-on-one that ends with a goalie in a pretzel in the back of his own net with the puck under him…
When you’re trudging out of Verizon Center at the end of a bad night…
And it works for hockey players, too. If you find you can’t get to your locker because there are eight cameras counting your nose hairs for the benefit of a TV viewing public…
If the local radio stations only talk about you as the punch line of a joke…
If this week’s HBO theme is Evgeni Malkin getting five points, not your ending a long losing streak…
If fans turn on you like a junkyard dog at the first sign of trouble…
That’s right, Caps and Caps fans, if everything and everyone around you think this season will be just like the others, ending in sadness and unfulfilled promise; if every word you hear on TV or read in print says, “you suck!”; if every shred of commentary you see is an answer to the question, “what’s wrong with the Caps?” Then take a big ol’ honking “FUKITOL” pill, and just show ‘em what’s what.
And the first opportunity to do that and make this a winning “streak” comes tonight against the New Jersey Devils, who pasted the Caps 5-0 back on November 22nd in what would be goalie Braden Holtby’s last appearance before being returned to Hershey.
That big win hardly seems to have been a tonic for the Devils, who are 3-8-0 since that win. Two of those wins came via the Gimmick. The Devils are redefining the term “suck” right before our eyes (the new over-the-counter item “Suckitol” has not yet been approved for sale). Here are the overall numbers for the woeful Devils…
This team can kill penalties, but otherwise all they have been able to do is kill their own playoff chances…oh, and beat the Caps (need a “Fukitol,” cuz?). Since they did beat the Caps four weeks ago, the Devils have been outscored 31-15. Fifteen goals in 11 games. Only six of those goals have come at even strength. An even strength goal every other game? The depth of their offensive problems are difficult to contemplate…
-- No Devil is on a pace for as many as 60 points (Patrik Elias: 57).
-- No Devil is on a pace for as many as 25 goals (Jason Arnott: 23)
-- No Devil is on a pace to record more than ten power play goals (Elias, Ilya Kovalchuk: 10)
-- Nine Devils are worse than a minus-10; two are on a pace to finish worse than a minus-50 (Kovalchuk, Andy Greene: minus-54)
-- Only three Devils have more than five goals (Elias, Kovalchuk, Arnott); only one has more than five even strength goals (Arnott: 7)
You will note that Jason Arnott is featured prominently as a leader in Devils scoring, such as it is. He is currently their leading goal scorer. But he has only one goal in his last 11 games (that would be one since he had a pair against the Caps on November 22nd).
But there are signs of life amid the wreckage. Patrik Elias leads the club in points, and he is 3-5-8 in his last eight games. It is worth noting that all three goals he has were scored on the power play. Meanwhile, Ilya Kovachuk – second in goals and points for the Devils – is 4-4-8 in his last seven games and has a five-game points streak coming into this game. Three of those four goals he has were scored on the power play.
Special teams is where the Devils have been able to survive, if not flourish. Over the past seven games they are 9-for-26 on the power play (34.6 percent), while killing off 21 of 23 shorthanded situations (91.3 percent). That plus-7 on special teams means that the Devils are otherwise a minus-19. This is a brutal team (and not in the good sense of the word) at even strength.
The Devils do not have a defenseman on the plus side of the ledger, and the only one who is “even” has played in only four games and is on injured reserve (Mark Fraser). Andy Greene is dead last in the NHL in plus-minus (actually tied with teammate Ilya Kovalchuk at minus-21), and the veteran they picked up via free agency, Henrik Tallinder, is minus-17 (751st among 756 skaters). Tallinder has had two “plus” games since Halloween (20 games), and Greene has had four such games over the same period. These two happen to be the only two defensemen having played in all 32 games so far for the Devils, a team that already has employed 12 defensemen to try to stop the bleeding.
In goal, Marty’s back. Martin Brodeur has appeared in the last five games for New Jersey, going 1-4, 3.18, .892, and one shutout. The combination of New Jersey’s lost season and Brodeur’s uneven play (when not injured) has sparked some talk of Brodeur perhaps being moved, which would qualify as an earthquake in the history of this franchise.
The Peerless’ Player to Ponder
New Jersey: Martin Brodeur
Even last year, when the Caps were piling up points and scoring goals as if every night was an arcade game, Brodeur was 3-1-0, 2.45, .923 against Washington. This is entirely consistent with his career success against the Caps (he is 36-14-4, 2.21, .911, with six shutouts against the Caps). But he was toasted for five goals on 20 shots and was pulled after 40 minutes in the first meeting of these teams this season (the Caps’ home opener). It could be a measure of the direction of the two parties – the Caps and Brodeur – how Brodeur fares tonight against a team that has had trouble scoring and against which he has generally fared well.
Washington: Alex Ovechkin
With Alexander Semin and Eric Fehr doubtful, two players who can (at least in theory) put the puck in the net will not likely be available. That puts more pressure on the Captain to end a skid that has seen him register only two goals in his last 17 games. In fact, since going 1-2-3, plus-4 against Tampa Bay on Veterans Day, Ovechkin is 3-12-15, even, in 19 games (a 13-52-65 scoring pace). Ovechkin recorded one of his two multi-goal games of the season against Brodeur and the Devils in the first meeting of the clubs this season. He needs to step up in a similar fashion in this one.
1. 5-on-5. The Caps are not the best 5-on-5 club in the league like they were last season, but the Devils are allowing more than twice as many goals as they are scoring at 5-on-5, easily the worst such record in the league. The Caps have to win this battle.
2. Limit Devil Advantages. The only way the Devils can seem to score these days is on the power play. The Caps have done a reasonable job limiting opponents’ power play opportunities lately. Do that tonight, and the Devils shouldn’t be lighting the lamp often.
3. Fukitol! Losing streak? Fukitol. Got a win last time out? Fukitol! Folks think it won’t last? Fukitol! Just go out and take your Fukitol and play the game.
In the end, this is not a competitive game, but we’ve said this before. Still, the Devils are uncommonly bad, and having won the last meeting of these teams has not transformed them into the Devils of old. This game is likely to turn on whether Marty can conjure up his inner Cap-killer. If he can’t, it will be a short, happy evening for the locals.
Caps 5 – Devils 1