Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 63: Islanders at Capitals, February 28th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals roll out their 2011-2012 team, version 2.0 Tuesday night against the New York Islanders. Oh, wait…they did not make any deals on Monday before the league trading deadline, so version 2.0 is pretty much the same as version 1.0. And it got us to the thinking about the science of trading and what the experts have to say about it. So we went to some of the best in the business, so to speak.

Louis Winthorpe III, did you take in the live updates on trades yesterday?

LW3: “I had the most absurd nightmare. I was watching for the Caps and no one liked them. They didn’t move any forwards, they didn’t move any defensemen, they kept the same roster, everyone hated them, and it was all because of this terrible, awful bald-headed man on television.”

You mean Pierre McGuire?

LW3: “Precisely.”

So what is your secret to trading, Mr. Winthorpe?

LW3: “Think big, think positive, never show any sign of weakness. Always go for the throat. Buy low, sell high. Fear? That's the other guy's problem. Nothing you have ever experienced will prepare you for the absolute carnage you are about to witness. Super Bowl, World Series - they don't know what pressure is. On Trading Deadline Day, it's either kill or be killed. You make no friends on the phones and you take no prisoners. One minute you're up a couple of all-star forwards and the next, boom, your team doesn’t go to the playoffs and they've taken away your parking space at Kettler. Are you with me?”

“Yeah, we got to KILL the mother… we got to KILL ‘em.”

Billy Ray Valentine, the legendary whiz kid of Duke and Duke. What advice do you have to offer the novice trader?

BRV: “You know, it occurs to me that the best way you hurt good teams is by turning them into bad teams.”

Can you give us an example?

BRV: “Okay, Rick Nash prices were dropping all morning, which means that everybody is waiting for it to hit rock bottom, so they can buy low…you know, like for a second round draft pick. Which means that the people who own the player are saying, ‘Hey, we're losing all our damn money, and the draft is around the corner, and I ain't gonna have no draft picks to get my team any prospects! And my wife ain't gonna f... my wife ain't gonna make love to me if I got no prospects!’ So they were panicking, they were screaming ‘SELL! SELL!’ to get out before the price keeps dropping. They were panicking out there, I could feel it.”

Interesting. Then there is the old school of trading. And here we have Randolph Duke to explain it to us.

RD: “Quite right. Now, what are players and draft picks? Players and draft picks are trading assets... like Columbus trading Kirk Muller to Dallas for Evgeny Petrochinin in 2001... like their trading a second round pick to Colorado for goalie Marc Denis in 2000, then re-signing him in 2000 and re-signing him again in 2002 and 2004… or drafting Rick Nash in 2002, which is used to make a Rick Nash trading frenzy in 2012. Clear so far?”


RD: “Good, Peerless! Now, some of teams are speculating that the price of players or draft picks will rise in the future. And we have other teams who are speculating that the price of players or draft picks will fall. Then they make their trades.”

Mortimer Duke: “Tell him the good part.”

RD: “The good part, Peerless, is that, no matter whether a team like the Caps makes a good trade or a bad trade, the team still gets to raise ticket prices.”


Well, while the dust of Trading Day settles, the Caps still have games to play, and they have one on Tuesday against the New York Islanders. The Islanders have spent the last month marking time. Starting with a 3-0 loss at Toronto on January 23rd, the Islanders are 7-7-2 in their last 16 games. The Islanders might be lucky to have come out of those 16 games with that record. They have been outscored by 47-32 in those games, allowing four or more goals six times in the process. Their power play has not been too bad – 17.7 percent (6-for-34) – but their penalty kill has been weak, killing off only 28 of 39 shorthanded situations (71.8 percent).

What is more, the Islanders have been unable to settle on a goaltender. In the 16 games, Evgeni Nabokov was 5-4-0, 2.25, .929, with one shutout. Al Montoya was 0-1-2, 3.64, .861. Kevin Poulin was 2-2-0, 3.00, .911. None could win consecutive games. The inconsitency has left the Islanders with only the faintest glimmer of hope of the playoffs, eight points behind eighth-place Winnipeg in the East. Here is how the teams stack up (before last night's play)…

 (click pic for larger image)

1. The Islanders have something of a reputation as a difficult team to play against, but they do seem to wilt as play goes on during games. In goals for/goals against by period, they are minus-6 in the first period, minus-14 in the second, and minus-18 in the third period.

2. And falling behind has been a problem for the Islanders. In 32 games in which they have allowed the first goal they have only seven wins. Only Carolina and Columbus have worse records when allowing the first goal.

3. The Islanders do not have an especially efficient penalty kill on the road – 82.7 percent (12th in the league going into last night's play) – but they do benefit from not having to deploy it much. No team has faced fewer shorthanded situations on the road than the Islanders (81), and only three teams have allowed fewer power play goals on the road than the 14 given up by the Islanders.

4. The Islanders are one of the least penalized teams in the league. They rank tied for 27th (with Nashville) for the fewest minor penalties in the league, and they rank 24th in major penalties taken. Only three teams have recorded fewer penalty minutes per game than the Islanders. Only four times in their last 32 games have they faced more than three shorthanded situations.

5. Only two teams in the league have more blocked shots on the road than the Islanders. Only one team has fewer giveaways. They rank ninth in takeaways on the road. They try to keep things simple and do the little things.

1. The Caps are trying to win their third game in a row. If they do so it will be the first time since January 11-15 when they completed a three-peat over Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, and Carolina (all at home). Coincidentally, that streak came to an end when the Islanders shut out the Caps at Verizon Center by a 3-0 score on January 17th.

2. Starting with that Islander shutout, the Caps come into this game with a 7-9-3 record in their last 19 games. Only four times in those 19 games have the Caps scored more than three goals. They won all four.

3. Starting well has been a problem for the Caps. In fact, the first 40 minutes have been a problem. The Caps are minus-12 in the first period of games so far this season (goals for/goals against) and minus-8 in the second period. They are plus-12 in the third period.

4. Even with the poor overall first 40 minutes, the Caps are eighth in the league in net plus-minus at home (plus-13). Of the seven teams ahead of them, all are currently playoff-eligible in their respective conferences.

5. Only four teams have fewer one-goal wins than the Caps, who have a total of 13. Only eight of those one-goal wins have come in regulation so far.

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

New York: PA Parenteau

Parenteau was thought to be an Islander on the move yesterday before the trading deadline, but he is still wearing the blue and orange. Good thing for the Islanders, too. He is 4-7-11, plus-2 in his last ten games. He has been a pain for the Caps, too. In seven career games he is 3-4-7, plus-3, including a pair of goals in that 3-0 Islanders shut out on January 17th.

Washington: Mike Knuble

Well, the big guy is still here. The Caps did not move him yesterday, even though that was thought to be a given from the custodial staff at Kettler Capitals Iceplex all the way to perhaps Knuble himself. Not only was he not moved, he skated with the top line at practice yesterday. With 20 games left, Knuble – between fourth line play and healthy scratches lately – has not had as much wear and tear on his body as perhaps many of his teammates. This can be his time, and given the Caps’ modest offense over the past few months, they could use his contributions. He has 11 goals and 27 points in 62 career games against the Islanders.


1. Score first. Again…duh. But only one team in the league – Columbus – has more losses in regulation when allowing the first goal than the Islanders (22). The Caps have 20 of their 31 wins when socring first.

2. Men at Work. If the Caps are not going to be the Greatest Show on Ice, they need to be Lunch Pails R Us. One shift at a time, one period at a time, one game at a time. They still have their fate in their own hands, but they need to exhibit the playoff work ethic from here on out.

3. This isn’t "Hoosiers." In the movie “Hoosiers,” Coach Norman Dale exhorts his team to pass four times before taking a shot. The Caps should not be so cute. Get pucks to the net, and maybe Knuble can find that old magic…or Brooks Laich…or Joel Ward…or Jason Chimera… You get the idea.

In the end, the rest of the season is not “the rest of the season,” it is game-by-game, brick-by-brick. The only two points the Caps can win are the ones available tonight. That has to be as far as the Caps look ahead from here on out…60 minutes at a time.

Capitals 3 – Islanders 2

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