Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 4/Eastern Conference Quarterfinals: Bruins at Capitals, April 19th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

For the second time in their first round series against the Boston Bruins, the Washington Capitals find themselves down a game. They enter Thursday night’s Game 4 contest with the Bruins down two games to one.

Having said that, The Peerless guarantees a win on Thursday for the Caps. That’s right…guarantee.

Why? April 19th is a rather exceptional date in Caps playoff history. First, they have never – not even to the Pittsburgh Penguins – lost a home playoff game on this date. OK, so it’s only four games, but it is still 4-0. And what a four games they were…

April 19, 1986. After dropping Game 1 to the New York Rangers in the Patrick Division finals in overtime by a 4-3 margin, the Caps came roaring back in Game 2. Alan Haworth had two goals and three assists to set a team record for points in a playoff game (five) in an 8-1 rout over the Rangers. The eight goals stands as the Capitals’ team record for goals in a post-season game.

April 19, 1992. In Game 1 of the Patrick Division semi-finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Caps got a pair of goals from Peter Bondra and another from John Druce, plus a 32-save effort from goalie Don Beaupre to beat the Penguins, 3-1. Dale Hunter was involved in a fight with one of the most unlikely of adversaries – former Capitals defenseman Larry Murphy. It would be one of only two post-season fights in Murphy’s career and would be the last bout in any game for the future Hall of Famer. Oddly, it was not the first time these two threw hands. Hunter and Murphy had a bout on October 27, 1981, when Murphy played for the Los Angeles Kings, and Hunter was skating for the Quebec Nordiques when both were rookies.

April 19, 2000. You will remember this series as the one in which a scheduling conflict resulted in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals being played in Washington, and Games 2 and 3 in Pittsburgh, despite the Caps having home ice advantage. The Penguins took advantage of the scheduling quirk, winning Game 1, 7-0, in Washington before taking a pair of one-goal decisions in Pittsburgh. Game 4 – on April 19th – would be the only win in the series for the Caps, a 3-2 win featuring goals by Chris Simon, Steve Konowalchuk, and Jeff Halpern.

April 19, 2008. The Capitals found themselves down three games to one in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal matchup with the Philadelphia Flyers, the last of those losses a gut-wrenching 4-3 loss in double overtime in Philadelphia. The game-winning goal in that game was scored by none other than current Capital Mike Knuble from just off the left post past Cristobal Huet. The Caps might have just folded up at that point, but in Game 5 the Caps got off to a lead on a goal by Nicklas Backstrom late in the first period, then Sergei Fedorov and Alexander Semin assisted on each other’s goals as the Caps staved off elimination with a 3-2 win. The Caps would come all the way back to tie the series before succumbing in Game 7 on an overtime goal by Joffrey Lupul.

Overall, the Caps are 6-3 in post-season games played on April 19th, and in addition to the five-point record-setting night by Alan Haworth in 1986, the Caps set a team record for fewest shots allowed in a period when they allowed one third period shot by the Penguins in a 2-1 loss in Pittsburgh. The Pens managed only 17 shots for the game on goalie Byron Dafoe. The Caps had the last laugh, though. They won the series, four games to two.

In 1996, the Caps took a 5-3 decision in Pittsburgh on April 19th in which Joe Juneau tied a team record for assists in a post-season game (three). Pat Peake had a pair of goals, and the Caps used singles by Peter Bondra, Mike Eagles, and Michal Pivonka to get the win. It would be the Penguins enjoying the last laugh in this one. They halved the Caps 2-0 lead in games with a 4-1 win in Game 3, and then outlasted the Caps in a four-overtime 3-2 win before closing out the Caps in six games.

That is the history the Caps bring to April 19th. They are going to need it with Nicklas Backstrom sitting out the game for a league-mandated time out for his match penalty against Rich Peverley at the end of Game 3. And that brings us to…

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Boston: Tyler Seguin

Much is being written about whether or not the Caps have awakened the slumbering beast in Milan Lucic. Let’s not make this – or Lucic – a bigger thing than it is. Lucic is a load, but is not a difference maker on a night-to-night basis. Tyler Seguin is…just not in this series so far. He has no points in three games, stunting the scoring momentum he had coming into the playoffs (3-4-7 in his last seven games of the regular season). He does have two goals against the Caps in four regular season games, so maybe he’s the slumbering beast that doesn’t need to be poked.

Washington: Marcus Johansson

No, it’s not a Swedish thing. It’s just that Johansson is tied for the team lead in scoring against Boston in the regular season (2-2-4). This is part of a larger theme. In four regular season games this season – none of which featured an appearance by Nicklas Backstrom and three of which were won by the Caps – eight different players scored goals. Fifteen different players had points. Balance and secondary scoring was the ticket.


1. You are getting sleeeeeeeeeepy… The Caps want to play a nice, simple, vanilla, boring game. The kind they played in Boston. The kind that doesn’t bring fans out of their seats until the final horn. Oddly, their success in doing this might best be shown on the power play. Watch to see if they are spending too much time passing at the top of the zone or along the wall. Pucks to net, go to net, puck in net.

2. Play to the whistle…but no further. The Caps are only going to get into trouble and play to the Bruins’ strengths with after-whistle extra-curriculars. Standing up to the nonsense of the Bruins means playing them hard between the whistles.

3. All for one… The Caps need to get something from down the roster. We mentioned Johansson, but Jason Chimera, Joel Ward, Mathieu Perreault (combined: no goals on seven shots) – the Caps need contributions from players such as these.

In the end, this is one of those “not a must win, but it they don’t things look really bad” kinds of games. It is more important in that they need the win to keep from having to win two games in Boston to advance to the second round. Home teams have enjoyed no advantage in the playoffs so far this season. In fact, you might say teams have had an “away-ice advantage,” since home teams have a 9-19 record in 28 playoff games so far. Hopefully, the Caps make it ten.

(edit... no, we guarantee it)

Capitals 3 – Bruins 2