The Peerless Prognosticator is BACK ON THE AIR!!!
That’s right, kids. It has been 141 days since we did one of these, and we hope you’ll forgive us if we are a little rusty. Since the last time we prognosticated in anger, a lot of things have gone on…
- Mike Ribeiro picked up his cool hat and moved on to Phoenix
- Wojtek Wolski went to the KHL.
- They figured out the mechanism that causes human allergies to cats.
- Matt Hendricks went to Nashville.
- Pluto’s fourth and fifth moons were named “Kerberos” and “Styx.” Wait…what?! When did Pluto get five moons?
- Joey Crabb went to Florida, which has become the Island of Misfit Toys.
- Two Popes were named saints.
- Caps held development camp, and everyone was impressive. Some more than others.
- A new language was discovered in Australia… “Light Warlpiri” (still waiting on “Heavy Warlpiri”).
- Tom Poti is still looking for work.
- The Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to a baby boy, who has already been linked to a bevy of starlets in the tabloid press.
- The Caps signed Mikhail Grabovski.
- Will and Mack got engaged.
- A youngster named Connor Carrick was the hit of training camp and made the team as a 19-year old one year removed from his being drafted.
- The United States government finally acknowledged the existence of “Area 51.”
- Tom Wilson made the team.
- Grand Theft Auto V sales hit the $1 billion mark 3 days after its release in stores.
- Mathieu Perreault was traded.
But now it’s time to start the 2013-2014 season…on time, for a change. And what better way to do it than to be the foil for the Stanley Cup champions at their banner raising. That’s right, the Caps get to open their 39th season of hockey (some would argue their 31st season… God only knows what to call what they were playing those first eight years) in the Windy City, paying a visit to the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center. Guess we’ll get an early measuring stick to see where the Caps stand as a contender. In the meantime, here is how the clubs finished the season…
1. Chicago finished 4-0-2 in the preseason, one of three teams to finish without a loss in regulation. Five of their six games were one-goal decisions, four of them in extra time, three of them ending in a trick shot competition.
2. Despite winning the Stanley Cup in two of the last four seasons, the Blackhawks come into this season with a sub-.500 franchise record. At 2496-2535-814-97 (.497 points percentage), they rank 21st of the 30 teams in franchise points percentage.
3. Since the 2004-2005 lockout, Chicago is 3-3-2 in home openers. Six of the eight games were one-goal decisions, three of them going to the trick shot competition.
4. Last season Chicago finished in the top five in: standings points (1st), scoring offense (2nd), scoring defense (1st), 5-on-5 goal ratio (1st), penalty killing (3rd), shots on goal per game (5th), shots allowed per game (4th), shot differential (2nd), winning when out-shooting their opponent (1st), winning when being outshot by their opponent (4th), winning when scoring first (1st), winning when trailing first (2nd), winning when leading after one period (2nd), winning when trailing after two periods (1st). On the other hand, their power play finished only 19th.
5. Chicago had 17 players finish the 2012-2013 season with at least ten points. They accomplished that feat in 48 games. In 2011-2012 they had 18 players reach that level in 82 games.
1. Washington finished 4-0-4 in the preseason, another of the three teams to finish the preseason without a loss in regulation time. Six of the eight games were one-goal decisions, all of them went to extra time, and four of them finished with a Gimmick. The Caps were 2-4 in those one-goal decision games.
2. Since 2006-2007, the Caps have alternated wins and losses in their road opener. Last year, they lost at Tampa Bay, 6-3. The Caps have opened the road portion of their season in Chicago only once. It was not pretty. The Blackhawks beat the Caps, 8-4, on October 19, 1980. That was a big night for the home team, too. It was the night the Blackhawks retired their first player number. Stan Mikita was the honoree.
3. Only nine of the top 12 scorers from last year’s squad return for the Capitals in 2013-2014; those nine are the only returning double-digit point getters from last season.
4. No team won more games when trailing at the end of two periods last year than the Caps. They won five such games (tied with St. Louis and Anaheim). They also won the most games (nine) when trailing after one period.
5. When Adam Oates won 27 games as the Caps head coach last year, it was the fifth highest win total for a Caps head coach in his first season (not bad, considering he did it in 48 games). That would be more than the combined first year win totals of Roger Crozier, Milt Schmidt, Tom McVie, and Glen Hanlon (a combined 25 wins) in 107 games.
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
Chicago: Patrick Sharp
Sure, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are the Butch and Sundance of the Chicago Blackhawks, but lost in the accolades bestowed upon that pair is the performance of Patrick Sharp. Since the 2009-2010 season, when the Blackhawks won their first Stanley Cup since the 2004-2005 lockout, the eleventh-year veteran is third on the team in total goals (98, behind Toews and Kane), third in points, third in plus-minus, third in power play goals.
He did this despite last year missing 19 regular season games to a shoulder injury. He was right there again, though, in the 2013 playoffs, finishing first on the team in goals, third in points, first in power play goals, tied for the team lead in game-winning goals, and first in shots on goal.
Washington: Eric Fehr
Since the Caps started on their six-year playoff run in 2007-2008, the top scorers are familiar names. Alex Ovechkin is first, Nicklas Backstrom is second, Mike Green (among players still with the team) is third. Would it surprise you to know that among players on the opening night roster, Eric Fehr is fifth? He was one of only eight players in the league to play in 41 or fewer games and finish plus-14 or better. And, he save the best for last. Of his nine goals, three were scored in the second period, four in the third, and two in overtime (both against Boston). He has faced Chicago only twice, recording a goal an assist.
1. Ceremonial Stiffness. This will be the celebration of the Stanley Cup banner-raising in Chicago with the attendant pomp and ceremony. That means more sitting around than usual after the pre-game skate around. The Caps can’t let a combination of stiffness and the Blackhawks’ adrenaline put them behind the eight-ball early. And that’s something the hawks did often last year; they were 26-2-1 in games in which they scored first. If the Caps can get out of the first ten minutes tied, consider it a plus.
2. Shoot! The Blackhawks have few weaknesses, but goalie Corey Crawford facing a lot of shots might be one of them. Last season he was 4-2-2 when facing more than 30 shots (15-3-3 when facing 30 or fewer).
3. Feel the Power. The Caps were 10-5-2 in road games in which they scored a power play goal. They were 2-5-0 in their other road games. Win with power.
In the end…
Caps fans are likely to read a lot into this game, more so if they lose. But it is a good measuring stick to see where the Caps are, and more important, where they need to go. Chicago might not win a second consecutive Stanley Cup, but until proven otherwise, they are the class of the league.
The trick for the Caps is going to be containing the Blackhawk offense. Chicago was 11-1-0 when scoring at least five goals. They were 9-5-4 when scoring two or fewer. This is something the Caps are certainly capable of; they held 21 opponents to two or fewer goals last season and went 18-2-1 in those games.
Capitals 3 – Blackhawks 2