Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 35: Rangers at Capitals, December 28th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

Today – December 28th – is the fourth day of Christmas, and that being the case...what the…uh, Cheerless, what do you have there?

“Four colly birds.”

Four what?

“Colly birds, like in the song.”

Isn’t that “four calling birds?”

“Nope…somebody screwed up when they made up the words to that song – I’m guessin’ it was Fearless – it’s ‘colly’ birds. Blackbirds…it has somethin’ to do with coal. Y’know… black… coal… coal mine… colliery… colly. It’s pretty simple.”

Well, you’d know simple. So, are you giving those to your “true love?”

“Hell no! I’m gonna find 20 more and bake ‘em in a pie!”

Merry Christmas, cousin…

Well, tonight the Caps celebrate the fourth day of Christmas by hosting the New York Rangers in the second meeting of the teams this season. In the first one the Rangers, as they have frequently lately in the regular season, pasted the Caps, dropping them by a 6-3 score. That one ended in a manner not suggested by the early going, as the teams played to a scoreless first period. But the Rangers scored three goals in the second period in a span of 4:22, and the competitive portion of the contest was over.

The Caps will try to make things more competitive this time around, but they will be facing a team that has won five games in a row. Not only that, the Blueshirts have allowed more than two goals only once in their last ten games. For a team like the Caps trying to find its offensive rhythm, this is a tough opponent to try to find it against. For the season, here is how the teams compare to one another:

(click pic for larger image)

The Rangers are a formidable bunch that is highly ranked in most team statistical categories. But they are considerably less formidable away from home, especially when it comes to the matter of special teams, where instead of being truly “special,” they are merely pretty good or, in the case of their power play, pretty bad.

1. In the first six years since the lockout, the Rangers were an underrated defensive team. Three times they finished fourth in goals allowed per game, and on one other occasion – last season – they finished fifth. That is largely the product of having a world-class goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist. So far this season they have turned it up a notch, ranking second in goals allowed per game (2.03). Twenty-four times in 34 games they have allowed two or fewer goals, and their 2.17 goals allowed per game on the road is third best in the league.

2. John Tortorella has found Marian Gaborik’s “on” switch. He has goals in 11 of his last 16 games over which he has a total of 13 goals (a 67-goal pace). He is shooting at a 33.3 percent pace (13-for-39) in those 16 games. Only twice has he had as many as four shots in a game over this run. He is, at the moment, the very definition of “sniper.”

3. Little things…the Rangers rank third in the league in hits recorded on the road, seventh in blocked shots, and 11th in takeaways.

4. If the Rangers score first, they win. Only Chicago has fewer losses when scoring first (an overtime loss) than New York (two, one in regulation and one in extra time).

5. The Rangers are on a five-game winning streak, but it has been accomplished without much in the way of contributions on offense from Brad Richards. The most sought-after player in the 2011 free agent class is 1-0-1 in those five games (although he is a plus-3). He has not lacked for trying though, that one goal coming on 17 shots in the five games.

1. The Caps have not been especially hot or cold under Dale Hunter thus far. Two losses, a win, a loss, two wins, loss, win, loss, win, Gimmick loss, and a loss to go 5-6-1.

2. The Caps have lost four straight regular season games to the Blueshirts, giving up 20 goals (not including a Gimmick game-winner) in the process. In the last 12 playoff games the Caps have played against the Rangers they allowed a total of 19 goals and shut them out three times.  We will take the former to get the latter.

3. The Caps have a middle-of-the-road power play (at best) overall, but they are third in the NHL in power play efficiency at home (22.6 percent). The trouble is, the Caps rank only 22nd in total power play opportunities at home and 20th in home power play opportunities-per-game.

4. The Caps are minus-8 (goals scored to goals allowed) in the first period, minus-9 in the second period. But they are plus-8 in the third and plus-5 in overtime.

5. No team has scored more four-on-four goals than the Caps (seven). Of course, that is probably a product of going 5-0 in overtime games when the teams are 4-on-4.

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

New York: Ryan Callahan

Sure, Marian Gaborik gets a lot of goals. Brad Richards gets a lot of points. They are one-two on the Rangers power play scoring list. But Ryan Callahan leads the team in power play goals (six). He is tied for eighth in the league in that statistic. Starting with a three-assist night against the Caps on November 25th, Callahan is 5-10-15 in his last 16 games. He is on a pace (31-31-62) to shatter his personal bests in goals (23), assists (25), and points (48) set last season. He is 7-6-13 in 15 career games against the Caps.

Washington: Jason Chimera

Jason Chimera might have saved the Caps season, at least for a while, last spring when he scored a goal in the second overtime of Game 4 to give the Caps a 4-3 win. The Caps, who were down 3-0 in that game before coming back to win, could have returned to DC tied 2-2 in games, but Chimera’s heroics sent the Caps home up 3-1, and they would clinch in Game 5. This season Chimera is on a pace to finish with a career high 31 goals. Of the 13 goals he has so far, five of them have come in nine games against Atlantic Division opponents. OK, four of them have come against New Jersey, but he does have three in 12 career games against the Rangers.


1. Kill ‘em all. Since the seven-game winning streak to open the season ended, the Caps are 2-8-1 in games in which they allow a power play goal. The Rangers are 14-1-2 when they score one. Not hard to figure out where the fault line on this game lies.

2. Shoot, don’t get shot at. The Rangers are 11-2-0 when outshooting their opponents, the best such record in the league. The Caps are 6-10-2 when they are outshot. Only five teams have a lower winning percentage in such games.

3. Keep it close. The Caps have the seventh best record in the league in one-goal games. Meanwhile, the Rangers are only 6-2-4 in such games. They are 16-6 when the games are decided by two or more goals.

In the end, the Rangers have the best record in the East, and it is not a fluke. They have 11 wins at home, 11 wins on the road. What they are, though, is streaky. They have a seven-game winning streak and two five-game winning streaks (including the one they bring into this game). But the Rangers have avoided the long losing streak. Since losing their first three games of the season (0-1-2) they are 22-7-2 and have not had a losing streak longer than two games. They are 11-4-0 in their last 15 road games. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist is 4-2-1, 1.42, .951 with a shutout in his last seven games. The Rangers are coming to town humming on all their cylinders.

On the other hand, the Caps can’t seem to get their machine to turn over with any consistency. They are 3-3-0 in six home games under Dale Hunter. What they have been able to do, however, in those seven home games is to play pretty good defense. In five of the six games the Caps allowed two or fewer goals. But scoring only 14 goals in those six games has kept the Caps from winning an extra game or two (two of the losses came by 2-1 scores), thereby keeping them on the wrong side of the playoff-eligible divide. This is not going to be a high-scoring game, the Rangers’ propensities for laying the lumber lately to the Caps notwithstanding.

Capitals 2 – Rangers 1

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