One in a row. Now, the trick is to make sure it doesn’t become “two in a row.” The Caps will try to make that so – the not losing two in a row part – when they visit the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night. Vancouver has not been such a hospitable place for the Caps, who drag a 16-19-5-1 franchise record against the Canucks into Rogers Arena. Not that the Caps have had much success against this team anywhere recently; they have just one win in regulation in their last 13 games against the Canucks (3-9-1 overall).
The Canucks are suffering from what looks to be a “Stanley Cup Finals hangover.” And it got us to wondering what someone in their position might do to cure that hangover. We don’t mean those namby-pamby cures like drinking lots of water or taking six aspirin. Nosiree…for a heavy duty hangover that has lasted almost five months, you need extra-strength cures. Cures like…
- Menudo. No, not the boy band. Menudo as in soup. And not any old Campbell’s tomato variety. This one includes honeycomb tripe, pigs feet, onion, garlic, chiles, and hominy. You’re supposed to eat this first thing in the morning, no doubt before your eyes focus and you see that your eating the stomach lining of a cow. We’re thinking if you can keep it down, your hangover is cured.
- The Prairie Oyster. Tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce and a raw egg. Beats the Rocky Mountain kind, one supposes.
- “Soup for the Stomach”… a Korean concoction made up of pork spine or cow bones, coagulated ox blood, cabbage, and vegetables. At least it’s not soup made out of a stomach.
- Rabbit Dropping Tea. A favorite among cowboys of the American West. Don’t ask.
- Warm milk and soot. Chimney sweeps would use this one, but it also appeared in 19th century hospitals.
- Then there is the one that socialite Samuel Benedict thought up and had the staff of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel whip up more than a century ago…half an English muffin, ham, poached eggs, and Hollandaise sauce. That’s right, the “Eggs Benedict.”
- But perhaps nothing tops what the ancient Romans cooked up… deep fried canaries.
Bet you want to go drinking now, eh?
The Caps will try for their eighth win of the year against a team that is struggling in unexpected fashion. The Vancouver Canucks returned, for the most part, the team that went to a Stanley Cup final last year. Of the 22 skaters to take the ice so far this season and two goaltenders, 19 of them appeared in the playoffs last season. Nine of the Canucks’ top ten playoff scorers returned. But as we move closer to this contest, think on this. The Canucks are currently 4-5-1 through ten games. It is not as if they came screaming out of the gate last year on their way to the Stanley Cup finals. They started 5-3-2 in their first ten games last season. Here is how the two teams stack up so far this season…
(click on pic for larger image)
1. At the moment (going into Friday night’s games), only three teams have a larger shot differential per game than do the Canucks (+6.5). Last season, when the Canucks led the league in goals for and goals allowed, their shot differential was only 1.9 shots per game. Stranger still is that the Canucks are allowing the fifth fewest shots per game (26.8). Only twice in ten games have the Canucks allowed more than 30 shots on goal.
2. In ten games, Vancouver scored the first goal only twice. Five times they allowed the first goal of the game before the contest reached the ten minute mark. The Canucks are 2-5-1 in games in which they allowed the first goal.
3. The Canucks spend a lot of time working their special teams. They are fourth in the league in total power play time (7:03 per game) and only six teams have skated more minutes on the penalty kill (6:50 per game). They have done reasonably well on special teams (10th on the power play, 12th in penalty killing), but perhaps spending almost a quarter of the game on special teams has impact the rhythm of their five-on-five play – they are 27th in the league in 5-on-5 goals for and against ratio.
4. Vancouver is going to want to keep this close. They are 3-2-1 in one-goal games, but only 1-3 in games decided by more than one goal. And, they have the second-worst plus-minus at home this season (minus-4). Only four Canucks are on the plus-side of the ledger.
5. In four games at home only one Canuck has more than one goal (Daniel Sedin with three), although they do have eight with one apiece. Only three defensemen have recorded at least one point at home; Sami Salo and Alexander Edler split six points, and Keith Ballard has an assist.
1. Second period swoon… in eight games the Caps have 10 first period goals (tied for fourth) and 12 third period goals (sixth). In the second period they have a total of six (tied for 23rd). By the same token, the Caps have allowed only four second period goals; only two teams have allowed fewer in the middle frame.
2. Covering the matter of “zero”… No Capital skater is on the minus side of the plus-minus ledger (seven of 21 skaters taking the ice are plus-5 or better). Mathieu Perreault has skated a total of 62:46 in ice time and has been on the ice for no goals; he doesn’t have a giveaway, either. Of all the forwards having played in more than two games, none are without an assist. Alexander Semin is the only Cap having played more than two games who has yet to register a blocked shot.
3. No team has been shorthanded fewer times in the third period so far this season than the Caps (five times).
4. Washington has the fewest major penalties taken of any team in the NHL this season…one. That would be the one that Jay Beagle would like to forget.
5. Since the lockout, Tomas Vokoun is 6-3-1, 1.95, .941 against the Canucks, but he has regulation losses in his last two decisions.
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
Vancouver: Roberto Luongo
Roberto Luongo certainly has seen the Caps before. In 32 career appearances he is 17-10-3 with a 2.25 goals against average, a .929 save percentage, and two shutouts. Since joining the Canucks he is 4-1-0, 2.75, .898 against Washington, but the goals against and save percentage are inflated by a five goals on 25 shot performance in only 40 minutes in a 5-1 loss in Washington on October 13, 2008. He has had his troubles so far this season, with a 2-3-1, 3.45, .868 record, and in only one game has he allowed fewer than three goals. But Luongo has had consistent success against the Caps. If he falters, then Canuck fans will know he has problems.
Washington: Alexander Semin
Alexander Semin started the season on a good note – 2-3-5, plus-2 in his first five games. But in his last three he is 0-1-1, minus-1, and he has recorded only three shots on goal. While Marcus Johansson has been impressive in the early going on the second line, it is Semin who is expected to drive this line over the long haul. He does, however, have three goals in his last two games against the Canucks.
1. Thrive at Five-on-Five. The Caps have allowed the second fewest goals at 5-on-5 (nine), while only four teams have allowed more at full and even-strength than Vancouver (20). The Caps have also scored eight more goals at 5-on-5 than have the Canucks.
2. On the other hand… only four teams have had more power play opportunities at home than has Vancouver. Until the Edmonton game the Caps were stingy in allowing such opportunities. They have to get back to that.
3. First 40… The Caps have trailed at the second intermission in only one game so far this season. That would be the game they lost.
In the end, the Caps have been a team that has been able to avoid long losing streaks. Since that eight-gamer last December, only twice have the Caps lost two or more consecutive regular season games in regulation – a two-game streak in mid-January and a three-game streak in early February last season. Losing did not become habit forming. On the other side, the Canucks have had surprising difficulty mounting a consistent offense. Twice in their last five games they were shutout, and in two other games they managed only two goals in regulation time. But while the Canucks might have started the season in a post-Stanley Cup finals funk, the Caps will get their full and undivided attention. This could boil down to whether Luongo finds the game he has so often displayed against the Caps in the past. We’re betting he won’t.
Caps 4 – Canucks 3