Saturday, December 22, 2007

Take a number...

Next in the NHL's hit parade of "Where is Alex Going?"...


Jack Todd of the Montreal Gazette penned a somewhat delirious essay on the matter of how Alex Ovechkin could find himself in the bleu, blanc, et rouge next season. As these things go, it's a doozy. He doesn't mince words...

"...for the NHL to have a player like Ovechkin in a market like Washington is a crime. Night after night, Ovechkin plays to thousands of empty seats and in D.C., he always will."
Well, DC does have its problems with crime, but the only one we've seen lately with respect to Ovechkin might be his turns on a Segway.

Ovechkin apparently inspires escapes from reality, or at least fact wit:

"This year, he's earning a mere $1.3 million."
Nope...he's earning $3,834,000...below market, to be sure, but certainly not among the hockey working class.

"Ovechkin and Russian teammate Alexander Semin will be restricted free agents and Washington will be hard put to satisfy both..."
Uh, nope again. Alexander Semin signed an extension. $9.2 million for two years, starting next season.

Even the logic seems a bit tortured...

"All it will take is, oh, $120 million over 15 years and a slew of first-round picks..."
Earlier in the article, Todd makes the point that thoughts of an $8.7 million deal along the lines Sidney Crosby signed in Pittsburgh have given way (at least in the Ovechkin camp) to perhaps a $9-10 million/year deal. So why, then, would anyone think he's going to go below market ($8 million a year) to sign an offer sheet in Montreal? More to the point, if these are the terms -- less than that Crosbyesque deal, why would the Caps not match?

"If the Capitals are reasonably certain they're bound to lose Ovechkin, the Habs might be able to swing a multi-player deal, offering Washington any player on the roster not named Carey Price."

Again, earlier in the article, Todd compared Ovechkin to Rocket Richard -- he of the eight Stanley Cups, 544 goals, a Hart Trophy, and a place in the Hall of Fame...the kind of guy folks make movies about. Meanwhile, much as we love Carey Price, he hasn't done anything yet in the NHL, but maybe that's our reflexive fear of goaltenders with "Carey" in their name.

"In terms of sheer excitement, no one in the NHL is Ovechkin's equal."
Caps fans will agree with that...but the league has it's money down on another player.

We've had New York, Detroit, The Hockey News, and now Montreal weighing in on "where -- as long as it's not Washington -- will Alex Ovechkin play next year?" First, it was annoying, but now it's getting to be something of a parlor game in the making...

Boston...a combination of Cam Neely, Phil Esposito, and Bobby Orr...and he should play in an original six town instead of that dump down the Eastern Seaboard...

Chicago...Bobby Hull?...Denis Savard?...Stan Mikita?...pfft...besides, he already looks good in red, and the Blackhawks are another original six team...they could use the boost...and they'd probably pay him now that Bill Wirtz has departed. Well, maybe not.

Philadelphia...He might not be a Broad Street Bully, but he'd be a Broad Street Banger who could score goals by the bushel. Philly sells out every night (well, a lot) ...his style would fit right in to the city's image. And he could rub the Caps' faces in it four times a year.

Pittsburgh...Crosby...Ovechkin...parades ensue, and Gary Bettman doubles his dry cleaning bill from soiling himself in jubilation.

Toronto...loves the town, the town loves him, and the population can spell "Ovechkin."

Ottawa...just because it's Canada, and it's not Washington.

Hey, try it yourself...we're sure just about every other town in the league will be doing it soon, too.

* We have to thank our good friends over on the Penguins' official for pointing out this article. And, we appreciate their heartfelt concern over the Caps' and Ovechkin's future.

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Islanders, December 22nd

Ho-ho-ho…The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

‘Tis the last game before the break, and the Caps can do no better than find themselves in last place in the East as they head into the holiday. However, a win tonight can be a nice note on which to end the first phase of the season. It also can keep them within shouting distance of eighth place, which is no small consolation given how the Caps started the year.

Tonight, the Caps visit the New York Islanders and one of the goofier tag lines hung around the neck of an NHL club this year…”We’re All Islanders.” The Peerless supposes that in the broadest sense of the term, they are correct, as all 30 teams in the NHL play on a land mass surrounded on all four points of the compass by water (although we generally call that, “North America”), but it really does sound sort of, well…goofy.

Nevertheless, the Islanders – a franchise managed by what is, on paper, a confederacy of dunces, is anything but. Although they find themselves in 12th place this morning, they could find themselves in the top eight by midnight, should they defeat the Caps. You wouldn’t know it to look at them…

They have no scorer in the top-75 (Mike Comrie is tied for 76th with 25 points)

They have no goal scorer in the top-70 (Josef Vasicek is tied for 72nd with 10)

They have no player in the top-150 in plus-minus (Vasicek and Sean Bergenheim are tied for 161st at +3)

They have no “minute-eater” (Radek Martinek leads the club in ice time with 22:10 – good for 60th in the league)

They have no particular power-play go-to guy (Miroslav Satan and Ruslan Fedotenko are tied for 49th in power play goals with four apiece)

But they do other things well that don’t make SportsCenter highlights (that is, when ESPN is not confining itself to Sidney Crosby moments)…

Trent Hunter is third in the league in hits; Brendan Witt is 17th

Mike Sillinger is 15th among players taking at least 200 faceoffs (55.6 percent)

Brendan Witt is 9th in blocked shots (78)

In other words, when you play the Islanders, bring a lunch…it’s going to be a long day, and it’s not likely to be pretty.

However, the Caps might be catching the Islanders at the right time. Even with the Islanders’ 4-2 win in Pittsburgh last night, they are 3-7-1 in their last 11 games, having been outscored 22-33. They’ve scored two or fewer goals six times in this stretch and have been shut out twice.

On special teams, the “special” has been missing…the power play has scored seven times in 51 chances (13.7 percent), while the penalty killers have skated of 56 of 68 shorthanded situations (82.4 percent).

No Islander has more than three goals over these past 11 games, but they would be the ones that Caps fans should be watching out for:

Miroslav Satan: 3-4-7, -5 in his last 11 (42 games, 26-13-39, +4 career against Washington)

Mike Sillinger: 3-2-5, -4 (33 games, 6-11-17, -10)

Bill Guerin: 3-2-5, -1 (42 games, 22-7-29, -2…he has three goals in two games this year)

Rick DiPietro got the call last night in the win over Pittsburgh. You’d think that coming off the road, backup Wade Dubielewicz would get the start tonight. We wouldn’t bet on it. The Islanders will be off until Wednesday after tonight’s game, and DiPietro is 7-3-1, 1.99, .926, and two shutouts in his career against the Caps. Meanwhile, Dubielewicz has been in four games this year (one since November 3rd) and has no career decisions against the Caps.

For the Caps, 8-5-2 looks a lot better under the Bruce than does 7-6-2 heading into the break. The Caps have not lost consecutive games in regulation under Bruce Boudreau, and their having lost twice in a row under any flavor of loss in their last two games is the only such occurrence in December.

There are a few Caps who need to come out of a funk. Tarik El-Bashir covers one of them in this morning’s Post – Olaf Kolzig. But there are others.

Viktor Kozlov has no goals in his last 19 games (0-8-8, -1).

Tomas Fleischmann has one in his last 16 games (1-3-4, -5).

Michael Nylander has two goals in his last 16 games, although he’s been adding to his assist total (2-12-14, -11…ouch).

Matt Pettinger has one goal in his last 23 games (1-1-2, -11…ouch again)

Tom Poti has no goals as a Cap (0-11-11, -7 overall)

Alexander Semin has given signs of coming around, with goals in each of his last two games. Perhaps the former Islanders Kozlov and Poti will reverse their fortunes tonight.

That’s how we see it, anyway. So with that, we’ll leave you with some Christmas cheer...

Twas the night before Christmas, when all ‘round the rink
Not a creature was stirring, you could hear yourself think.
The stockings were hung by the lockers with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The Cappies were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of Stanley Cups danced in their heads.
With Gabby in warmups, and wearing a cap,
They’d just settled in for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the ice there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the tunnel I flew like a flash,
Knocked over some sticks and fell with a crash.

The lights in the arena on the new sheet of ice
Gave the lustre of mid-day, it was oh, very nice.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Michael! now, Viktor! now, Nicklas and Olie!
On, Alex! On, Greenie! on, Clarkie and Johnnie!
To the top of the glass! to the top of the stands!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As players that before the wild Hurricanes fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the slate
The prancing and pawing of each little skate.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the stairs St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like Don Cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the stairs he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

Caps 3 – Islanders 2