Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 58: Capitals at Lightning, February 18th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

No break for those who skate as the Washington Capitals, fresh off their 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers last night, head across the peninsula to face the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight in what could be a chance to leap-frog the Toronto Maple Leafs into eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

This will be the fourth meeting of the year between the…

“Cuz! You ‘bout ready for breakfast?”

In a minute, Cheerless, we’re busy here…

“Don’t be harsh, cousin, he’s proud of his culinary skills.”

Sure, sure…as we were saying, this will be the fourth meeting of the year between the clubs, the Caps having won twice – a 6-5 Gimmick win on October 10th and a 4-3 win on January 13th, both wins coming at Verizon Center. Tampa Bay won the third meeting, a 4-3 overtime win on January 31st in Tampa.

“Cuz, where do you keep the saffron?”

The what?

“He has something special planned.”

Right… Tonight’s opponent, the Tampa Bay Lightning, is struggling and is now in “seller” mode as the trading deadline approaches. Already, forward Dominic Moore was sent to San Jose for draft picks, and defenseman Pavel Kubina is being held off the ice as the team works out a deal for him.  Here is how the teams compare, numbers-wise:

(click pic for larger image)

“Where are the quail eggs?”

The what?!

“Just give him brown eggs, he won’t know the difference?”

Has he been DVR’ing episodes of Food Network, Fearless?

“Yes, he’s inspired.”

Just don’t let him burn the place down. Now, can we take five?

“I can’t…breakfast don’t make itself.”

Not that..oh, never mind.

1. As for the Lightning still with a future, Steven Stamkos must have gotten everything he wanted for Christmas. Since then he has 19 goals in 23 games, a 68-goal pace. He is also a minus-5 over that span, so there is what Stamkos gives the team and what the team takes away at the other end.

2. One thing Stamkos hasn’t been able to do with as much frequency is score all those goals on the power play. Since Christmas, three of his 19 goals have come on the power play. It is not as if the team around him has plugged the hole. The Lightning are 8-for-63 (12.7 percent) in those games.

3. If their power play has been poor, their penalty kill has been equally frustrating. In those last 19 games, the Lightning have allowed 15 power play goals in 71 shorthanded situations (78.9 percent). They have allowed a power play goal in each of their last three games heading into tonight’s contest.

4. No team in the league has more three-or-more goal losses than does Tampa Bay (14, tied with Dallas). Only one team has more two-goal losses. There isn’t much drama in Lightning losses.

5. Here’s your odd number for this game: three. Only three teams have allowed more power play goals at home than Tampa Bay. That is not surprising seeing as how Tampa Bay’s defense, well, sucks. But those three teams happen to be Philadelphia, San Jose, and Ottawa.

1. Abraham Lincoln once said, “No man stands so tall as when they stoop to help a child.” Well, no hockey player stands taller than when he helps a teammate score a goal. Nicklas Backstrom has missed 19 games. He still leads the Caps in assists (29). Guys, help each other out more.

2. Marcus Johansson has a 16.7 shooting percentage over his last 12 games. Unfortunately, he has only 12 shots in those 12 games, so that works out to two goals.

3. As bad as the Caps have been on the road, they might be coming out of that funk. In their last eight road games, they are 3-3-2 and allowed only 19 goals (2.38/game). They also killed off 22 of 26 shorthanded situations (84.6 percent).

4. The power play on the road? That’s another story. In their last eight road games the Caps are 2-for-27 (7.4 percent). The two power play goals came in two of the three road wins in that span (a 3-0 win at Montreal on January 18th and last night’s 2-1 win over Florida).

5. The 41 shots on goal last night came on the heels of a 42-shot effort against San Jose in their previous game. It was the first time the Caps recorded more than 40 shots on goal in consecutive games since getting 42 against Chicago last March 13th (a 4-3 overtime win) and 41 against Montreal last March 15th (a 4-2 win). Since the lockout, the Caps have not had three consecutive games with at least 40 shots on goal.

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Tampa Bay: Mathieu Garon

In four of the last five games the Lighting allowed at least four goals. Mathieu Garon was the goalie of record in four of those games (1-2-1, 3.01, .904). He appears to be getting the start tonight. In eight career games against the Caps he is 3-1-1, 2.62, .903, with one shutout. Not spectacular numbers, but he does have the only Tampa Bay win over Washington this season.

Washington: Dennis Wideman

Dennis Wideman is fourth among all NHL defensemen in total scoring this season. He also would appear to be most likely to take over the assist lead on the Caps from Nicklas Backstrom (he has 28, one behind the injured center). He is also without a point in his last three games, two of which the Caps lost, and in which the Caps scored a total of only seven goals. A little more help from the blue line could mean a lot in the bigger scheme of things.


1. Stomp ‘em flat. In 57 games this season, Tampa Bay has scored the first goal of the game 29 times, but has taken a lead into the first intermission only 14 times. That’s what happens when you allow the highest total of first period goals (61). The Caps have not been an especially adept team at scoring early – only 39 first period goals in 57 games (tied for 23rd with Columbus). This is the team against which they can reverse that trend.

2. Then stand on their throats. The Lightning are playing for pride and next year. They traded a dependable checking forward, are holding a minutes eating defenseman out of the lineup, and they are starting a journeyman goalie behind what is already a weak defensive team. Peel the weak team from the herd and stand on their throats.

3. There is even, and there is “even.” No team has allowed more 5-on-5 goals this season than Tampa Bay. The Caps, who had been drifting downward through the league standings at 5-on-5 goals for and against, unable to maintain a 1.00 ratio of goals for to goals against, are back above the 1.00 threshold (1.01) and are tied for tenth in the league. They need to take advantage in this area against a very weak – and weakened – team.

In the end, there is the potential for a letdown in the game following a big contest, especially when it comes only 24 hours later. That might be the more formidable opponent than the team the Caps are facing on the ice. One would expect that the Lightning appreciate the opportunity to play spoiler, especially against a divisional opponent they have had success against in the past (playoffs, anyone?). That is the combination that could spell trouble for the Caps – their own letdown and that spoiler mentality among their opponents. That makes this as much a “character” game as anything. Guess we get a peek at how much they have.

“Come’n git it!”

What the $#@% is that?

“You ain’t ever had Possum Frittata?”

Capitals 4 – Lightning 1

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