Friday, October 31, 2008

The Story of Bruce

John Walton has the information on Bruce Boudreau's autobiography, coming out in October 2009.

The Sloan Era

Tarik El-Bashir reports in Capitals Insider that Tyler Sloan has been returned to the Hershey Bears. Sloan -- heretofore a player who logged AHL time with Syracuse and Manitoba, as well as Hershey in the AHL -- had a nice little run here. It argues for him being on a short list of potential emergency call-ups this season. In his four games...

Record: 2-2-0
Scoring: 1-0-1
Average ice time: 10:38
Plus/minus: even
Shooting percentage: 50% (1-for-2)
Hits: 6 (good for 11th on the team...not bad for a guy who's played fewer than half the games)
Slobberknocker hits: 1 (Daymond...Daymond...uh, Daymond?)

Horror Show at the Confluence

"Saw V"...a Disney film

"A Nightmare on Elm Street?"...a Spielberg feel good movie

"The Texas Chainsaw Massacre?"...pfft...a Cartoon Network feature

"Psycho?"... a story of family love

Now this is a horror show...

...if you're a Penguin fan.


It's a movie waiting to happen

Last night, the last thing we did before retiring was to read with interest an article dated this morning in the Washington Post by Tarik El-Bashir on George McPhee, educator, and wondered...

Raiders of the Lost Cup?

Washington McPhee and the Center on Fun Street?

Washington McPhee and the Stanley Cup Crusade?

Washington McPhee and the Kingdom of Lord Stanley's Chalice?

"V-I-C-T-O-R-Y... the search for victory. Not truth. If it's truth you're interested in, Doctor Tyree's Philosophy class is right down the hall. So forget any ideas you've got about fancy parties, exotic travel, and taking over the sports world. We do not get features on SportsCenter and "$" never, ever, marks the bottom line."

We really need to lay off the anchovy and pineapple pizza before bed...

Thursday, October 30, 2008


I saw this at one of my favorite sites today...

...and thought to myself (at least with respect to your favorite prognosticator), "and never used so many words to say it."

Just keep telling yourself...'s for a good cause, it's for a good cause...

The warmup jerseys were part of a promotion at the Hershey Bears' "Pink at the Rink" night last Sunday, at which jerseys were auctioned, with proceeds going to the American Cancer Society.

They actually look sort of cool.

Thanks to The Red Skate for pointing us to Derek Meluzio's blog, "Stack the Pads," which had links to these fine pictures, among others.

Sometimes the Bear gets you...

...and sometimes the Bulldog gets the Bear.

It was a case of 1-2-3, as in, one goal in the first, two in the second, and three in the third as the Hamilton Bulldogs treated the Bears like Pooh in a 6-0 win last night.

The Bulldogs had a pair of shorthanded goals and a power play marker to add to the three even strength goals they had.

One might not have seen this one coming, as the Bulldogs were 0-2-1 in their previous three games going into last night's contest. But it was one of those nights, apparently, when whatever could go wrong, did, for the visitors.

Sami Lepisto seemed to have an especially difficult evening. Going into the game with a league-leading +10, he was a -4 on the night. His turnover led to the Bulldog's shortie, and he was on the ice for the three even-up goals. But he certainly wasn't alone. That oh-for-seven power play stands out, too.

But even with this stinker, consider...

- The Bears still have four of the top ten in the AHL in plus-minus (ten players are tied for ninth)

- They still have five players in the top ten in goals (although there is a real train wreck of players tied for ninth at five goals)

- They have three in the top ten in assists (again, a large group tied at ninth)

- They have two of the top-ten rookie scorers

- They still have those 44 goals scored, while no other AHL team has yet cracked the 30-goal mark

- They are still on a pace for 391 goals, which would be 91 more than last year's league leader (Chicago: 300)

- They're still on a pace for 124 points (the franchise record is 114 set two years ago; the league record is 124, set by Binghamton in 1992-1993)

Perhaps it was a serving of humble pie or a bad night in what has been, and what still looks like it could be, an otherwise remarkable season up in Hershey.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A TWO-point night: Caps 4 - Predators 3 (OT/SO)

It’s still two points…it’s still two points.

Hey, if the Caps win 45 more games as ugly as that, color The Peerless pink with glee. For those of you who didn’t suffer through the Eukanuba Dog Show on Versus – oh, excuse me, the Flyers 7-0 win over Atlanta – the Caps sleep-walked their way through the last 45 minutes of regulation and overtime, ultimately relying on a couple of backhand scores in the Gimmick round of the competition to beat the Nashville Predators, 4-3.

One might be tempted to say that the Caps did everything they could to give the game away, but the verb “to give” is a verb of action, and there was precious little action on the part of the Caps in those last 45 minutes of actual hockey-like skating. It was more like, “Hey, you want it? Fine…let us know when to lock up.” And even with all of that, the Predators couldn’t snatch victory from the jaws of…the napping.

The best that can be said of this is that it is a win, and with it the Caps have gotten to ten points (actually 11 with the win) faster – in their ninth game – than any season since 1997-1998 (when they did it in six games and went to the Stanley Cup final). Other stuff…

There are times, watching Alexander Semin, when one might think, “if he had a bow, instead of a stick, he’d be Rostropovich on the cello.” His pass to David Steckel, springing the latter for a shorthanded breakaway goal, after peeling back and around to restart the play was a sight to behold. Then there was his own goal, catching Preds goalie Dan Ellis going the wrong way and lifting the puck (it actually looked like something of a mishit) over Ellis’ glove. Finally, there was his nice-as-you-please backhand in the shootout that looked like one of those “why can’t everyone do this” kind of score.

Just an observation, but watching Boyd Gordon skate is a little bit like watching Walter Brennan in The Real McCoys. He gets there, but he has an odd way of looking about it.

The Caps skated real purdy in the first period, and for all their synchronized skating got absolutely squadoosh. The scored on an ugly goal from in front and a breakaway that looked like it leaked off of Steckel’s stick and caught Ellis thinking it would be a crisper shot.

How many times on the Caps’ five power plays did anyone plant their caboose in Ellis’ face? For that matter, how many times did anyone bother to stand to the side and wave their stick? If the answer was “none,” it would not surprise me. Except for when Semin scored eight seconds into the last Capitals man advantage, the power play looked like an advertisement for Totes (that’s an umbrella thing).

Mike Green had an interesting night…four shots, four giveaways, four takeaways, four blocked shots. But here might be the most interesting number on his line. He was on the ice for 7:03 of the total 7:53 of Caps power play time.

When you lead in shots 23-6, then give up a goal to tie the game 2-2, you usually come out on the losing end of the final score. Give credit to the Caps for not letting the night slip entirely away.

If defensive defensemen can be in slumps, it seems Shaone Morrisonn is in one. The interference penalty he took late in the third didn’t look like a smart play. The puck was headed elsewhere, and he didn’t disengage from the other player.

Nicklas Backstrom looks like he is this close to getting a four assist night. This was the rare night this year where he looked as if he was doing a better job of getting the puck to people where they could do something with it.

The Caps got Michael Nylander in part for his ability in the Gimmick. One could see why tonight. His backhand was pretty, too.

The Caps outshot Nashville 19-4 in the first period. OK, so why didn’t it look as if Dan Ellis was making many tough saves?

Jason Arnott got two of the flukier goals of his career – the first when the puck bounced all the way across the crease past three player and right onto his stick for an uncontested backhand, and another when the puck snuck through a clot of and Arnott redirectred it off the post and past goalie Jose Theodore.

The Caps split 64 draws with Nashville, but won 11 of 18 in the defensive zone.

The crowd was announced as 17,011. Hallowe’en must have started early with all the folks dressed as purple seats.

It was a curious kind of game in that the whole arena seemed to lack intensity. Perhaps it was a case of no Ovechkin, no Horn Guy (at least I did not hear him), and no Voice (at least I didn’t hear him). Even the mites-on-ice feature at the first intermission seemed to fail in exciting the crowd.

For all the whining of yours truly, though, the Caps are now atop the Southeast Conference, and they have not lost a game in regulation at home (3-0-1). Alexander Semin stands alone at the top of the scoring rankings, and he is tied for the league lead in goals. It’s worth noting that Semin has eight goals in his first nine games this season. That’s something Alex Ovechkin has not accomplished in any of his four seasons (he’s had six three times).

Hey, in the end, it’s two points. This isn’t the Beauty Contest Series of college football, where you get style points for whoopin’ your opponents. Two points ugly pays the same as two points pretty. That’s the bottom line.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Predators, October 28th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Capitals are back home tonight after a 1-2-0 road trip to take on the Nashville Predators. It is an opportunity for Caps fans to gaze in wonderment at what might be the most gawd-awful uniform ever foisted upon a team in the National Hockey League (well, since those pajamas the Flyers wore some years back, anyway). Not least bizarre in the scheme is the team logo, some sort of prehistoric creature with some serious overbite issues. The Peerless tracked down the esteemed paleontologist, Dr. Alan Grant, to get his take on just what this odd creature is…

Dr. Grant, welcome…

“This isn’t about some park you want to open, is it?”

No, Dr. Grant…we’re not opening a park. Dr. Grant, we wanted to get your opinion on the creature depicted in the logo of the Nashville Predators hockey team. You’ve seen it, I take it?

“Not much of a hockey fan, myself…I’m usually out in the field digging up bones or trying to escape the odd velociraptor.”

Well, here the logo is some sort of creature that resembles the saber-toothed tiger.

“Ah, well, there is your first mistake. It is a common one. The saber-toothed ‘tiger’ is not a single species at all, but serve to describe a group of species, some of which are related to kangaroos.”


“Yes, but what most people associate with the ‘saber-toothed tiger’ is a member of the ‘smilodon’ genus.”

You’re pulling my leg…

“Only if it’s in a dig…sorry, that’s a paleontology joke.”

So, is this the basis for the logo of the Predators?

"Well, no…the teeth are much too large in relation to the cranial vault. If I was to hazard a professional opinion, I think that the basis of the logo is Jerry Lewis…probably from the early Nutty Professor period."

Thanks, Doc…As for tonight’s game, the Predators come into it with very middle-of-the-road numbers:

Record: 4-4-0
Goals for/game: 3.50 (T-5)
Goals against/game: 3.88 (28th)
5-on-5: 1.00 (T-13)
Power Play: 17.1 (T-17th)
Penalty Killing: 75.6 (26th)
Win when scoring first: .600 (T-19)
Win when trailing first: .333 (T-16)

This is another of those Western Conference teams that Caps fans don’t get to see much of. The Predators have played in Washington once in the last four seasons, taking away a 5-2 win in December 2005 (it’s so long ago, Ben Clymer had a goal in that one, and the Caps had assists from Andrew Cassels, Jamie Heward, and Brian Sutherby).

This Predator team suffers the low expectations of comparisons with the Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings and this season’s “it” team, the Chicago Blackhawks in their own division. This will be the Predators’ first game against an Eastern Conference opponent this year. In an eerie way, the team that employs former Capitals General Manager David Poile in a similar capacity looks more than a bit like the Capitals teams under Poile.

For instance, the Predators are led in scoring at the moment by a defenseman – Shea Weber (the 1990-1991 Capitals team was led in scoring by defenseman Kevin Hatcher). Weber is part of a solid, if not spectacular blue line (which sounds like the Caps of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s) that includes Ryan Suter, Dan Hamhuis, and Greg DeVries.

This year is very much a return to a defense-centric attack. The blue line has amassed seven goals in the eight games thus far. Weber has three of them, and only Hamhuis and Ville Kostinen among the defensemen have not scored a goal for Nashville. As a group, they have 22 points (the Caps’ blueliners have a total of 16 points).

The Predators – again, like many of those old Caps teams – lack high-end scoring talent, but they do have balance. Three players – Weber, J.P. Dumont, and Jason Arnott – have put up at least a point a game through eight games. Seven others have average at least a point every other game, among those players playing in at least half (four) of the Predators’ games.

What the balance the Predators bring to the game has done is permitted them to get off to fast starts. No team in the league has scored more first period goals than Nashville (11, tied with Chicago and Calgary). That could be critical, given that the Caps have allowed the fourth highest number of first period goals this year (11, tied with Dallas). The other side of that coin is that only seven teams have scored fewer than the seven goals the Predators have in the third period this year.

Nashville also can score in bunches. Twice this season the Predators have scored three goals in less than four minutes, and those six goals were scored by six different players. Five of them were at even strength.

In goal, Dan Ellis has gotten the call in all eight games this year for Nashville, starting in seven of them (he came on in relief of Pekka Rinne after Rinne allowed three goals on eight shots in a 5-3 loss to Columbus). If Ellis is called upon once more, he is 0-1-0, 12.00, .625 in one career appearance against the Caps. He gave up three goals in the opening 14:40, at which point he was pulled in a 4-2 loss to Washington last season.

The Peerless' Players to Ponder

Nashville: Radek Bonk

If there is one Predator who has a history against the Capitals, it’s Bruce Garrioch’s favorite trade rumor on skates, Radek Bonk. In 42 career games against Washington, most of them as a member of the Ottawa Senators, Bonk is 8-15-23, +9, with three power play goals and a game winner. He’s off to something of a slow start with Nashville (1-1-2, -1 in six game) but will be a player to watch.

Washington: Alexander Semin

With the “other” Alex out for this game, Semin now gets a lot of the focus Ovechkin was getting early on. The league’s co-leader in total scoring and third leading goal scorer has one goal in two career games against Nashville – it happened to be the one that touched off the three-goal barrage that ended Dan Ellis’ night early last year.

The Caps have done it this year without Ovechkin being at the top of his game. Now, they have to do it without him in the lineup. Those are different things, owing to the fact that even as he had “only” two goals in eight games, Ovechkin commanded attention. Now, that attention will be lavished on others. This will probably be a tighter game, and if the Caps don’t get caught up in the old “we’re back home, let’s put on a show for the crowd” mentality, they should do just fine.

Caps 3 – Predators 2

Sunday, October 26, 2008


We saw this on Hershey Bears' announcer John Walton's blog, and thought we'd pass along the "local guy makes good" story...


Sarah Palin drops the puck at two NHL games (disaster ensuing...Flyers stumble out of the gate, Manny Legace stumbles over carpet)...and now, courtesy of the AHL's Lake Erie Monsters...

Frankly, we'll stick with this...

The Viewer's Non-Viewing Guide to Caps Hockey

As you know by now, the Caps will not be on the tee-vee when they return home to play the Nashville Predators on Tuesday. Well, kids, for those of you not in actual attendance at the event, this is an opportunity to play Gramma and Granpa and listen to the game on the ol' ray-dee-oh by tuning in to Steve Kolbe’s call on the 3WT network: 1500 AM, 820 AM and 107.7 FM.

Now kids, the verb, to tune involves some hand-ear coordination, if you are getting into the playing Gramma and Granpa thing and listening to it on the old table top console (or even if you're in your car). There are generally two knobs on a radio (what's a "knob," Uncle Peerless?...Gary Bettman, but that's another story) -- one for volume, which is generally on the left, and one on the right.

If you turn the knob on the right to the left, you go "down the dial." That means you go down the numbers that indicate the "frequency" on which the radio station broadcasts. We won't bore you with the technical details of that. If you turn the knob to the right, you go "up the dial." OK, so...oh, we forgot...we assumed you knew how to turn the radio on. That would be by using the knob on the left, which you have to turn to the right to click "on," then turn further to the right to achieve the desired volume.

OK, back to "tuning." You have to turn the knob to the right until the "dial" -- the big circular thing in the face of the radio -- indicates you are at "1500" or "820" (we're leaving the FM number out of this, since Gramma and Granpa didn't listen to that new fangled "FM" in their day).

At this point, you should be hearing the dulcet tones of Steve Kolbe "calling" the game -- that's a radio term for "announcing." And, in order to help you visualize the game Mr. Kolbe is calling, we provide you with these images you may use as mental depictions of what is happening on the ice...

Alex Ovechkin rushing down the left side into the Predator zone...

A faceless Predator (no, really...look for yourself) about to feel the wrath of Matt Bradley

Captain Chris Clark taking the ice on Nicklas Backstrom's right wing

Predator goalie Dan Ellis leaving the short side open for an Ovechkin drive

Brent Johnson coming up large in goal

John Erskine blocking a shot

See? Not having TV won't be so bad. With a radio, a little imagination, and copious amounts of adult beverages (root beer for you folks under 21), you can make this an experience you'll tell your own grandchildren about.

No hockey today...

The first time the NHL has been dark for a non-all star break or holiday date since November 21, 2001.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A TWO-point night: Caps 6 - Stars 5 (OT)

It’s still two’s still two points…it’s still two points.

It might not have been an aesthetic masterpiece, but tonight’s 6-5 overtime win by the Caps over the Dallas Stars is still two points, and it salvages a three game road trip for the Capitals.

The operative word in this game was: “deep”… in, the defenses of both teams were beyond awful deep in their own zones. Let’s start with Washington. Here is all you have to know about how bad the Capitals were deep in their own end. Sean Avery scored a goal on a long rebound off the right pad of Jose Theodore – that one’s on the goalie. But the last four Dallas goals were scored from a total of 48 feet…an average of 12 feet apiece. That’s pretty much four point-blank goals. If anything, Theodore kept the Caps in it, as the Stars might have rung up double digits with the chances they had.

At the other end, Marty Turco was an adventure all to himself. He was more of a beer-league goalie early – giving up four goals on 19 shots through two periods – but turned into the missing Flying Wallenda late, personally stuffing Tomas Fleischmann and Alexander Semin twice apiece when the pair has almost open nets at which to shoot. Strangely, if not for some timely play from the goaltenders, this might have been an 11-10 game, instead of a 6-5 game. The respective defenses were that bad.

But enough of that…next April, if…when the Caps are getting ready for the playoffs, this will be just another game in October. Meanwhile, there were milestones tonight:

- Tyler Sloan netted his first NHL goal when he converted a rebound at the doorstep to Turco’s left.

- Sergei Fedorov passed Alexander Mogilny as the top-goal scoring Russian in the NHL with his first of two goals tonight.

- Sean Avery scored his first goal as a Star.

- Marty Turco sustained his first career loss to Washington.

Some other things that stand out…

- Another indicator of how bad these defenses were…Dallas blocked only 15 of 55 Washington attempts, Washington blocked only 10 of 55 Dallas attempts. In today’s NHL, that seems mighty low. Only one player on the ice had more than three – Philippe Boucher, and one would not say he had a very good game.

- So there was Krys Barch, doing his best Matt Bradley imitation, trying to move up in weight class to take on Donald Brashear on the faceoff following a Dallas goal. Like Bradley against Pittsburgh’s Paul Bissonnette in a recent game, Barch got his beak cut and ended up on the wrong side of the pile down on the ice.

- 35-12. No, that wasn’t the score of the Weber State – Montana State game a couple of weeks ago (ok, it was), it was the hit totals. No, Washington did not have the 35. Only three Stars were not credited with a hit. Meanwhile, three Capitals’ defenseman failed to register a single hit (Morrisonn, Schultz, Sloan). The other three – Erskine, Green, and Jurcina -- had a total of four…the same number Joel Lundqvist had in barely nine minutes of playing time.

- Nicklas Backstrom showed some more signs of life tonight. He has an assists, attempted five shots, had a couple of takeaways, and tied for the team lead in hits (ok, the team lead was “two”).

- It’s worth noting that this six-goal outburst came on a night when the top three lines of opening night were re-united: Ovechkin/Backstrom/Kozlov (0-2-2, even), Semin/Fedorov/Laich (3-3-6, -1), Fleischmann/Nylander/Clark (2-2-4, +3).

- Here’s an odd one…Mike Ribiero and Brenden Morrow were on the ice for the last four goals scored in this game – two by Dallas and two by Washington, including the overtime winner. Loui Eriksson might have made it if team skated five a side in overtime. He wasn’t on the ice for Alexander Semin’s game-winner.

- The more we see this Ovechkin on the penalty kill thing, the more we don’t like it. It might have been a “high-risk, high-reward” kind of idea, but it looks more and more like “high-risk, low-reward.” But we’re wondering…if Ovechkin got 2:46 of penalty killing time tonight (third among forwards), and Chris Clark got none, is there a problem with Clark (total of 11 minutes and change)?

- Fabian Brunstromm got a power play goal…and he was on the ice for two Caps goals. He’s been on the minus side in five of his last six games (-2 tonight).

- Tomas Fleischmann is looking like a real live NHLer more and more these days. As Craig Laughlin put it tonight, he had lightning in his stick. If not for Turco’s acrobatics, he could have had four, perhaps five goals.

- Boyd Gordon won 13 of 17 draws, but in the ends, he was eight of ten in the defensive end and won both offensive zone draws. In fact, the Caps won 15 of 22 draws in the defensive end – no Cap had a losing record in their end.

- This was the third time in four games that the Caps have coughed up a second intermission lead. And, they had trouble finishing off periods, giving up a man-down goal with ten seconds left in the first and another (Turco having been pulled for the extra skater) with 57 seconds left in the third.

- Marty Turco stands a 41st in the NHL in save percentage (.842) out of 42 ranked goaltenders. Maybe he was distracted by his alma mater losing their fourth home football game of the year this afternoon, the first time in 40 years that’s happened to the Michigan Wolverines.

- Don’t worry, Jose Theodore and Brent Johnson are on the “second page” of the rankings, too (31st and 34th, respectively). It’s actually a fairly esteemed group on that second page…Miikka Kiprusoff, Evgeni Nabokov, Rick DiPietro, and Martin Biron are back there, too.

This was a 140-foot game…for the defense, as they played (for lack of a better term) between the face-off dots. Both offenses managed to get the puck deep often and made the best of their chances. The Caps played well enough to win, perhaps, against Phoenix, and didn’t. They certainly played badly enough – on defense – to lose this game, and didn’t. Getting three of six points on this road trip would have been satisfying, even if it didn’t throw fans into a delirium. Getting none would have been a disaster. Getting two? Let’s just say, “ok, that’s over,” and pick things up against Nashville on Tuesday.

Because, it’s still two points.

photos: AP

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Stars, October 25th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

One more game on this horse shi… uh, horse show road trip. The Caps visit Dallas this evening, and when they do, your favorite prognosticator will be laying off the anchovy and pineapple pizza. It has a strange effect on his last night’s sleep...

“Ovi-Wan Kenobi. Ovi-Wan…now that’s a name I’ve not heard in a long time. A long time.

“I think my uncle knows him. He said he was washed up.”

“Oh, he’s not washed up…not yet.”

“You know him?”

“But of course I know him. He’s me. I haven’t gone by the name of ‘Ovi-Wan’ since…last season.”

"Ovi-Wan Kenobi, a year ago you served our team in the Stretch Run Wars. Now we beg you to help us tonight in our struggle against the Death Stars. I regret that I am unable to present our request to you in person, but my car’s in the shop and I'm afraid my mission to bring you to the Stanley Cup playoffs could fail. I have placed information vital to the survival of our playoff hopes into the memory systems of this CCM Vector stick. This is our most desperate hour.

Help us, Ovi-Wan Kenobi, you're our only hope."

Well, perhaps not their only hope, but it couldn’t hurt for Alex Ovi-Wa…Ovechkin to break the five game streak without a goal he brings into tonight’s game against the Dallas Stars. It could be a formidable task. The Stars, though, are having problems of their own, as the numbers suggest:

Record: 3-4-1 (2nd in Pacific/9th in Western Conference)
Goals for/game: 2.88 (16th in NHL)
Goals against/game: 4.00 (29th)
5-on-5: 0.73 (25th)
Power play: 15.8% (20th)
Penalty killing: 76.9% (23rd)

This is not the typical performance of a club that has averaged 105 standings points a year over the last eleven years, and that has had fewer than 100 points in only three of those seasons. The Stars have been consistently poor through games, getting out scored in each of the first (9-7), second (12-9), and third (10-7) periods through eight games this year. In three home games, the Stars have both scored and allowed 14 goals and have both scored and allowed three power play goals. Unlike the Stars we’ve gotten used to, a team that has resembled more the Western Conference version of the New Jersey Devils for their attention to system detail, they’ve been more the let-it-all-hang-out sort of club at home in the early going.

The Stars have found themselves having to climb out of holes a little too often for their liking. They have been scored upon first in six of their eight games, and they have a 1-4-1 record in those games to show for it. They’ve won both games in which they posted the first goal. Coming from behind is always difficult in the NHL, but the Stars have shown almost no ability to recover from a deficit. They are 1-4-1 when trailing after one period, 0-4-0 when trailing after two. Clearly, a good start favors the Capitals, but that’s going to be true on most nights.

One of the disappointments so far at this earl juncture for the Stars might be the performance of Sean Avery. The free-agent pick-up is only 0-2-2, -1 in eight games and leads the team with 31 penalty minutes. He does, however, have four goals in six career games against Washington.

The curiosity for this team is Fabian Brunnstrom. Undrafted by the NHL, he emerged as a potential NHLer as a result of his play in the Swedish Elite League last season (at age 23). Several teams – Detroit, Vancouver, and Toronto among them – were said to be vying for his services, but he signed a two-year entry deal with Dallas. Held out of the first two Stars games this season, he scored a hat trick in his NHL debut (also credited with the game winner) against Nashville, the third player to achieve the feat and the first in 29 years. However, since that start, Brunnstrom is 1-2-3, -5 in five games and skated less than ten minutes in his last outing against the Islanders.

Another early season disappointment of sorts is sophomore defenseman Matt Niskanen. In his rookie year last season, Niskanen was 7-19-26, +22 in 78 games. However, he is 0-1-1 in eight games to date and is a team worst -6.

One of the problems the Stars have had that is reflected in their goals allowed numbers is the absence of three-time Selke Trophy winner Jere Lehtinen. In addition to his defensive skill, Lehtinen has chipped in some offense in his career against the Caps (5-6-11, +8 in 13 career games). He has been ruled out of this game with a groin injury.

This will likely be the first time Krys Barch – a 4th round pick of the Caps in 1998, but for whom he never played a game – will play against Washington. Given that he’s topped the 100 penalty minute total in each of his two seasons with the Stars (doing it in only 26 games in his first season in Dallas), it’s not likely he’s going to be out there to provide a spark on offense.

There is also the old man on this team – Mike Modano. The 38-year old is probably no longer the consistent point-a-game player he was 5-10 years ago, but he always seems to find a way to inflict damage on the Caps. He’s 11-28-39, +15 in 30 career games against Washington, and he found a way to abuse Jamie Heward in other ways a couple of years ago…

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder:

Dallas: Marc Fistric/Nicklas Grossman

With Doug Janik doubtful and Sergei Zubov declared out for this game, this pair of defensemen take on some importance. Fistric is a load, physically, but by the same token might be exploited by the Caps’ speed. Grossman is a youngster (this is his second full season), and might be vulnerable to the skill among the Capitals’ forwards. Whether the Caps can get favorable matchups will be something to watch. If these two struggle, then Marty Turco’s perfect regular season record against the Caps (3-0-0, 1.21, .953) will be in jeopardy.

Washington: Sergei Fedorov

Fedorov has a long and successful history in playing against the Stars, primarily a product of his long tenure in Detroit. He is 33-44-77, +14 in 79 career games against the Stars with seven game winners, 12 power play goals, and five shorthanded goals. It seems likely once more that Fedorov will patrol the blue line, given the Caps’ injury situation, but he would also seem to be a candidate for power play time that will give him an opportunity to renew his acquaintance with the red light behind the Dallas net.

When you’re struggling, it doesn’t all come back at once, in most cases. Hard work here, a fluke there, and you get a toe-hold on turning things around. Dallas doesn’t play “elegant,” and the Caps should be prepared for a more typical tightly-fought, close to the vest Dallas effort. The defense has been there the last few games, with conspicuous errors late doing the Caps in. If they can tighten that up a bit and loosen up the grip on their sticks, they can make the last game of the road trip better than the first two.

Caps 2 – Stars 1

Friday, October 24, 2008

Dr. E diagrams the power play

Zis is the vay it's zooposed to verk, ja?

A NO-point night: Coyotes 2 - Caps 1

Well, the most exciting frustrating team in hockey let a lead get away for the second straight game, dropping a 2-1 decision to the Phoenix Coyotes, and all of a sudden we’re just about back to where we were at this time last year.

Then: 3-4-0
Now: 3-3-1

Then: 14 goals scored/19 goals allowed
Now: 22 goals scored/20 goals allowed (not counting Gimmicks)

Then: 4/35 power play (11.4%)
Now: 6/36 power play (16.7%)

Then: 28/37 penalty killing (75.7%)
Now: 32/41 penalty killing (78.0%)

Then: had a 7-goals against game (7-3 loss at Buffalo)
Now: had a 7-goals against game (7-4 loss at Atlanta)

From last night’s game, the “at leasts”…

At least they scored a power play goal (they had been on a 1-for-22 run – 4.5 percent)

At least Nicklas Backstrom had a point (doubling his season production to date)

At least the Caps had a good night in the circle – 64 percent overall, and every Cap taking a draw won more than he lost

At least Jose Theodore had another solid overall game (1.54 GAA, .945 SV since giving up three early goals to Pittsburgh)

But mistakes and bad habits have crept into the Caps’ game lately. Two defensive breakdowns – one a product of judgment, the other the product of awareness – led to the two Phoenix goals. Tyler Sloan made the wrong choice in trying to clear the puck from the Caps’ zone, putting it on the stick of Olli Jokinen, who found Mikkel Boedker cutting down the middle to beat Theodore. Morrison simply lost track of the only Coyote in the area – Peter Mueller – who converted a feed from Martin Hanzal for the winner.

As for the rest, the Caps started reasonably well, only to see the air leak out of the balloon as the game wore on…13 shots…11 shots…eight shots. Even the penalties – of which all four were of the “obstruction” variety (hooking, holding, interference, tripping) – hinted at the lack of focus. And, it’s not as if the Caps put the same sort of pressure on Mikael Tellqvist that the Coyotes put on Theodore. The shot chart suggests the Caps were bombing away from the outside, while Phoenix was getting more chances “in the paint.

One concern might be that the “young guns” are packing cap pistols on this road trip (no pun intended). Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Mike Green, and Nicklas Backstrom…17 shots, no goals, two assists, -1, last night (25 shots, no goals, three assists, even in the last two games).

The differences between last year and this are that, first, the club doesn’t need to have a change in philosophy to unleash their talent, and second, there isn’t the uncertainty surrounding the question of whether or not they’re good. But no team can just show up and get a win. Like we said, the Caps aren’t sneaking up on anyone this year, and the effort has to match the expectation. The hardest test of the road trip is perhaps to come – Dallas can be a suffocating team. The Caps certainly have the talent and depth to deal with that. But if they visit the Stars and skate a game like this, the question won’t be whether they win, but whether they score.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Unpalatable political pomp

Seems one puck drop wasn't enough. As Greg Wyshynski reports, Sarah Palin, the Republican candidate for vice president, will be in St. Louis on Friday to drop the ceremonial puck as the Blues face off against the Los Angeles Kings.

Swing state (Missouri being one), what she'll wear, the idea of hockey fans being used as props for a political moment. Frankly, it's old. We want to see something new.

What we'd like to see is for Governor Palin to schedule a puck drop event for Sunday, November 2nd, in Peoria, Illinois. Why? When Illinois is solidly in the ranks of her opponent? Well, the AHL's Peoria Rivermen will be hosting the Manitoba Moose. She can drop the puck, smile and wave, then shoot all the moose.

Now that's hockey!

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Coyotes, October 23rd

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

It’s “hump game” of the three game road trip, as the Capitals visit the Phoenix Coyotes, who seem to be in something of a state of denial with respect to their guests. If one were to go to the Coyotes’ web site this morning, one would find this blurb in their pregame preview…

“In two games against Phoenix, [Alex Ovechkin] has registered two goals and two assists.”

Well, no, not exactly, he’s registered one goal and THE goal.

“You’re not going to post a video of that, are you?”

Well, this is a surprise…Mikael Tellqvist, the Coyotes’ backup goalie…aren’t you starting tonight?


You don’t sound especially excited about it.

“Would you? I mean, here’s Ovechkin, in a slump, and he’s coming here, where he had –gulp-- that goal.”

You mean, THE goal, right?

“Look, I know about goals…there was that dipsy-do thing through eight defenders that Rick Nash scored against us..”

You mean, against you

“Yeah, OK, against me…and there was that falling down backwards on the seat of his pants backhand thing Sidney Crosby scored against us…”


“yeah, yeah…against me

You do know about highlight reel goals, don’t you?

“Nice way to get into your first game of the year, isn’t it?...Donald Brashear will probably to a somersault and head one into the goal tonight…”

Well, one can hope...

Tellqvist catches the Caps coming off their worst offensive production of the season in their 2-1 loss to Calgary on Tuesday. For the record, he will bring a 1-1-0, 3.53, .892 lifetime record against the Caps into tonight’s game.

He and the rest of the Coyotes are coming home after a four game road trip, the last three of which they lost. They also gave up 14 goals in the process…if the Caps are going to spring back on the offensive end of the ledger, this might be the team against which to do it.

Phoenix doesn’t bring a lot to this game (with an exception), based on their five game results:

Record: 2-3-0, 4 points (T-13th in the West)
Goals for: 2.40 (25th in the league)
Goals against: 3.40 (23rd)
5-on-5 ratio: 0.54 (29th)
Power play: 19.0% (12th)
Penalty killing: 85.0% (10th)

As you see, the Coyotes' special teams are not bad, both ranking in the top half of the league in efficiency. Their 5-on-5 results to date, though, are something the Caps should be able to exploit (the Caps are third in the league in 5-on-5 goals ratio).

Phoenix has had problems with bad starts. Their total of three first period goals ranks tied for last in the league. But, they’ve also had something of an odd pattern to their offense. They’ve scored only one goal in each of games 3 and 5. They scored four goals in their second game and three in their fourth. This will be game six on their schedule…the Coyotes and their fans might be forgiven if they can keep the pattern going against a Caps team that has allowed the seventh highest total of goals so far this season.

Individually, things start with an old friend – Olli Jokinen. The former Panther is 14-15-29, -13 in 49 career games against the Caps, and he leads the Coyotes in scoring at the moment (1-5-6, even).

To Jokinen, one must add Shane Doan in the list of players to watch. The Phoenix captain is not a player the Caps see much of, but in 16 career games is 3-6-9, +1, with two game winners to his credit.

The Coyotes have gone young with some promising early results. Two rookies have made a mark thus far – Kyle Turris (picked third overall in the 2007 draft) is 1-3-4 in five games, while Mikkel Boedker (picked eighth overall last June) has a pair of goals in five games. Two other rookies have appeared in all five games – Kevin Porter (no, not the former Bullets basketball player) and Viktor Tikhonov, grandson of the legendary coach of the Soviet Union hockey team. All in all, Phoenix carries 11 players on its roster 23 years of age and younger. It is also a team with size. Only Boedker is shorter than six feet, and 14 skaters tip the scales at over 200 pounds (five over 220).

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Phoenix: Daniel Carcillo

Carcillo returns from a two-game suspension, the product of engaging in fisticuffs with Chicago’s Ben Eager – Carcillo was on the players’ bench while Eager was on the ice. Carcillo – the league’s penalty leader by almost 100 minutes last year and a top-ten finisher in fighting majors – might be watched to see if he is on his worst behavior. The Coyotes lost both games in his absence – to Ottawa and Montreal – by a combined score of 10-4. He has never played against Washington.

Washington: Alex Ovechkin

This will be Ovechkin’s first visit to Phoenix since scoring “The Goal.” He also comes into this game on a four-game goal scoring drought. Here is your fun Alex stat for today…in each of his first three seasons, he finished his first seven games of the season with four goals. He currently has two…do the math.

The other thing to note about this game is that Jose Theodore has never lost to the Coyotes in regulation time. He is 5-0-3, 2.67, .905 in nine career appearances against Phoenix. Ovechkin getting off the schneid…Theodore continuing his solid recent play…sounds like a plan.

Caps 5 – Coyotes 2

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A NO-point night: Flames 2 - Caps 1

It wasn’t the best way to start a road trip, and there are some concerns, but it wasn’t as bad as all that, either. The Calgary Flames finally got their season started with a 2-1 in over the Caps last night that saw a reversal of fortune for the Caps in three respects.

First, there was the come-from behind nature of the win for the Flames (their first over Washington since 1999). Whereas that had been a specialty of the Caps so far this year (the Caps came from at least two goals behind in two of their three wins), the Flames spotted the Caps an early goal by Sergei Fedorov before taking the lead, which brings us to the second item…

The second period. Coming into the game, the Caps had outscored the opposition in the second period, 9-2. However, the Flames turned the tables by outscoring the Caps, 2-0, in the second period last night, then holding on for the win.

The third point is reflected in Calgary’s better effort and result than they had realized in giving up an average of 4.4 goals a game in their first five contests. The Caps aren’t going to sneak up on anyone this year. Last year, Ovechkin was a known, but guys like Alexander Semin and Mike Green were curiosities. No more; Green and Semin (who had 16 points between them in six games) were held off the scoresheet entirely and managed a combined total of only three shots on goal in more than 50 minutes of combined ice time.

There really isn’t a scapegoat in this game (except the Caps' power play, more on that in a bit); it was merely a case of Calgary playing a very good game, and Miikka Kiprusoff finally playing like a guy who has averaged more than 40 wins a year the last three seasons (he was named first star of the night by the NHL).

We are getting to the point, though, where there might be concerns about Nicklas Backstrom. He finished so strong last year (5-14-19, +16 in his last 18 games) that it was reasonable to expect that he’d be a productive player out of the gate in his second season. He hasn’t been. Despite getting more than 19 minutes a night on the top line (he was moved to the second line last night), he has a total of one point (an assist) in six games, and his faceoff percentage (39.7 percent) is better than only six other players having taken at least 50 draws this year. It’s early, but the term that comes to mind is, “sophomore slump.”

One supposes that you could be critical of the goals the Caps allowed. On the first, Jose Theodore didn’t get a handle on the slap shot by Jarome Iginla, but let’s also remember that Iginla is an accomplished goal scorer, and we’ve seen Alex Ovechkin rifle pucks like that through goaltenders often. On the second, the Caps might have backed off a bit too much to allow the Flames to enter the zone with speed and numbers, Matthew Lombardi getting what amounted to a free look and shot at Theodore. All he had to do was pick a side.

But two goals allowed against any team is, on most nights, going to be good enough to get a win, and Theodore played plenty well enough in this one to give the Caps a chance. Kiprusoff was just better.

As for the other skaters, there is another bit of a problem. Two guys that the Caps have depended on to win draws and start the game of puck possession are struggling. David Steckel (one-for-six last night and 42.8 percent so far this year) and Boyd Gordon (four-of-nine last night and 50.0 percent) aren’t putting up the numbers yet that they did last year (56.3 and 55.8 percent, respectively).

Alex Ovechkin got off the schneid, points-wise, but his four games without a goal streak is his longest since last February. Guys don’t use wood sticks any more, for the most part, so the old idea that you can see sawdust dropping from the stick where it’s being held too tight doesn’t apply. We don’t know what the analogous substance might be for composite sticks, but we might be getting an idea watching Ovechkin these days. We have a feeling though, that before this road trip is done, this problem will be in his rear view mirror.

Tyler Sloan almost got a “call-up hat trick” of sorts – a big hit, a fight, and a blocked shot. Trouble was, after the big hit on Daymond Langkow, he was jumped by Rene Bourque, who was sent off for instigating, unsportsmanlike conduct, fighting, and ten-minute misconduct. People who sit that long generally have to buy a ticket for the privilege. Sloan wasn’t penalized.

What followed, though, was the single inexcusable part of the Caps performance. Despite having the rarest of creatures – the possibility of a full nine minute power play – the Caps mustered but three shots, none of which tested Kiprusoff to any large degree. There was the game, right there. With a chance to stand on the Flames’ throat, and after a highlight reel hit to earn that power play at that, the Caps let the Flames up and never really dominated play thereafter. As for that power play, the Caps are now one for their last 21 in power plays (4.8 percent), dating back to the Vancouver game.

This was an opportunity lost by the Caps – the Flames had not played well coming into this game. But perhaps the lesson learned here is that they won’t be going into many buildings this year having the home club giving less than their “A” effort. That should be kept in mind when heading to Phoenix on Thursday.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A "smack my head, I got it" moment

The Tampa Bay Lightning have gone and done it again. They have claimed former Capital Matt Pettinger on re-entry waivers from the Vancouver Canucks.* Given the collection of forwards the Lightning already have obtained, one might ask with respect to the Pettinger claim ..."why?"

It took us a while, but we think we've figured it out. Follow along...

First, let's leave aside that idea that the Lightning picked up Pettinger because Len Barrie, one of the co-owners, is a friend and business partner, as reported by the Vancouver Sun. That's crap. There is a bigger theme here.

In David Koci, Ryan Malone, Mark Recchi, Gary Roberts, and Adam Hall, the Lightning have assembled themselves quite a group of former Penguins.

On the other hand, with Jeff Halpern, Jamie Heward, and Olaf Kolzig, the Capitals Alumni association is also well-represented. But, the Lightning needed another former Cap to even up the score (especially since Heward has been sent to AHL Norfolk).

Why? We think it is part of Oren Koules' (also a Lightning co-owner) nefarious plot to make up for the abysmal play of the Lightning on the ice and turn the St. Pete Forum into the set of some weird shoot for a horror movie, a Capitals versus Penguins death match, the perfect remedy for a guy who made his mark with the "Saw" movie series.




edit...St. Louis picked up Koci on waivers from Tampa Bay, but the Ducks have put Ken Klee on waivers...the plot thickens.

* Thanks to leftwing and CStoneNo37 on The Official for the heads up


From the "what, are you kidding me?" file, Greg Wyshynski asks the question this morning, is it possible for Sidney Crosby to be underrated at anything? Specifically, the issue is goal scoring and whether the youngster is somehow underrated in that aspect of the game, given this compendium of highlight quality goals assembled by TSN Canada.

Well, here's the deal...if the standard is, say, Marco Sturm or Niklas Hagman -- both of whom finished last year with 27 goals to finish in the 50ish ranking in the league, then yes, Crosby isn't getting the credit he deserves for averaging 37 goals per 82 games so far in his career (some of them of, yes, the highlight variety).

But that's not the standard here. This is a young man who scored 120 goals in 121 regular season games in Canadian junior. He has been heralded as the next coming of Wayne Gretzky perhaps since his age was still in single digits. He's done this before. His talent, including his ability to score goals, has set a high bar.

But that's the he is "rated" - under or otherwise - is a product of what is expected of him, and what is expected is "a lot." That might be both compliment and curse, but it's not as if we're comparing him to Sturm or Hagman. Crosby is rated highly in all aspects of his game, and rightly so. Frankly, I'd expect a highlight goal a month, not a compilation of ten that included shootouts (sorry, Gimmicks not allowed, they are not "goals" anymore than home runs in home run derbies are "home runs").

The question is, in my opinion, almost insulting to Crosby. He is lauded enough, with good reason we might add, without needing the manufacture of his being "underrated" with respect to one part of his game.

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Flames, October 21st

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Caps are on the road this week, tonight visiting the Pengrowth Saddledome (which sounds like a condition one might look up on WebMD) to take on the Calgary Flames, and speaking of Flames, you’ll never guess who we found way up here on the Canadian prairie…

“Wilkommen…bienvenue…welcome…c’mon in.”

That’s right, the Teutonic Titwillow, herself…Lili von Schtupp. It’s a long way from Rock Ridge, Ms. Von Schtupp…

“Call me, Wiwwy…”

Yes, Wiww…Lily…it’s a long way from Rock Ridge, how did you end up in Calgary?

“Zey ran out of schnitzengruben in Wock Widge…”

Well, tonight the Flames take on Alex Ovechkin and the Caps. Being a fan of the game, how would you preview the Caps and Ovechkin for Flames fans?

“I vood say…’Vhy don't you admit it? He's too much of man for you. I know. You're going to need an army to beat him! You're finished. Fertig! Verfallen! Verlumpt! Verblunget! Verkackt!’”

I don’t know that I’d go that far; the Flames are a rugged bunch. But Ovechkin might be due, since he has only two goals in five games…

“Is it true how zey say zat Ovechkin is... gifted?“

Well, he did have 65 goals last year…

“It's twue. It's twue. It's twue, it's twue!”

What about Sheriff Bart?...what ever became of him?

“Why don’t you ask him yourself…”

Bart. It’s a pleasure to meet you…

“Now, I suppose you're wondering just what in the heck you're doing out here in the middle of a prairie in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night.”

You bet your ass.

“I'm hip.”

Well, relocated movie characters from 1974 might not be “hip,” but the most exciting team in the NHL will be our focus of attention this evening, and no, we do not mean the Calgary Flames. The Flames are a struggling outfit at the moment, as their numbers suggest:

Record: 1-3-1
Goals for: 2.80 (T-18th)
Goals against: 4.40 (T-29th)
5-on-5 goals ratio: 0.57 (27th)
Power play: 20.0% (T-11th)
Penalty killing: 80.0% (T-19th)

The 5-on-5 play and goals allowed are especially worrisome. Only Chicago and Dallas have allowed more goals at 5-on-5 (15 each) than has Calgary (14), and both of those teams have played more games. Conversely, only Vancouver and the Rangers have scored more 5-on-5 goals (15 each) than the Caps (14), and both of those teams have played more games than has Washington.

Miikka Kiprusoff has gotten the call in all five games the Flames have played thus far, and he might not be the cause of the problem, but his numbers don’t suggest that he’s been helping matters, either. His 4.37 GAA ranks 32nd in the league, ahead of only Frederic Norrena of Columbus and Martin Biron of Philadelphia. His .851 save percentage ranks 30th. It is not as if Kiprusoff has faced an inordinate number of shots – the 29.6 shots per game Calgary has allowed ranks as the 12th lowest total (tied with Boston) in the league.

What’s more, Calgary seems to have played a somewhat uncharacteristically (for a Mike Keenan coached club) passive game. The 91 hits with which they have been credited ranks them 24th of 30 teams, although they have been somewhat more rambunctious at home (71 hits for 10th in the league).

Individually, the Flames reflect their team numbers. Of the 21 skaters to take the ice so far this year…

- Only two – Daymond Langkow and Andre Roy – are on the plus side of the ledger at plus-1.

- Jarome Iginla has been to the skaters what Kiprusoff has been in goal, and that’s not a good thing. Iginla is off to a slow start: 1-2-3, -5, and 14 penalty minutes.

- Only Todd Bertuzzi has more than one goal for the Flames (he has five).

- Dion Phaneuf – the big banger in this bunch – has been credited with ten hits. By way of comparison, David Steckel has nine in almost 16 fewer minutes of average ice time per game.

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Calgary: Craig Conroy

Conroy has not had a lot of success against the Caps, personally, in his career. In 13 games, he is 1-4-5, even. He’s off to a somewhat slow start (as are a lot of Flames), notching only a goal (no assists) in five games with a minus-4 to go along with it. It goes without saying that Iginla is the go-to guy, but Calgary needs to get some other players into the mix, and Conroy is one of them.

Washington: Jose Theodore

Calgary has shown little ability in the early going to mount much of an attack, especially 5-on-5. Against such a team, it is important not to get behind early, and not to allow the cheap goal. Washington has allowed nine first period goals, third-worst in the league and more goals than they’ve allowed in the second and third periods combined. Making Calgary work for their reward will be important, and Theodore is the guy who has to ensure that they don’t get any softies. His career numbers against the Flames – 9-7-2, 2.14, .922 – suggest he’s capable of being that guy.

This will be a homecoming for three Caps defensemen – Mike Green, Jeff Schultz, and Tyler Sloan, and a satisfying homecoming it will be…

Caps 4 – Flames 2

Monday, October 20, 2008

Who said 'The Sopranos" was off the air?

Yo, Vinnie, lookadis column by dis chiacchierone... talkin' 'bout "rearrangin' a guy's face." Like dis Godard guy is gonna come heavy and bust up dis Ovechkin guy, just cuz he mussed up dis Malkin's hair a little. Whatta jamook.

Hey yo, Vinnie, dis Madden guy...maybe he watches too many 'Sopranos' reruns on dat Ayyy an' Eeeee channel, you know what I'm talkin' about? Seen too many Godfaddah movies. Hey, maybe he can be in da Godfaddah remake...he can play Clemenza....he sure has da look down. Besides, I seen dis Ovechkin...Madonn', he got da stugots. He's whackin' guys all over de ice. An' he already looks like he's had dat face see dat nose? Looks like an off ramp on da Jersey Turnpike.

Ya know, Vinnie...if dis Madden guy has any ideas about whackin' somebody, he oughtta be lookin' at dat Bettman guy. I hadda beef widdat Bettman guy every since he had dis idea about shootouts. Don' he know dats somethin' best left to da garbage business?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

All in all...

...a damned fine week.

The Caps faced three goaltenders -- Roberto Luongo, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Martin Brodeur -- who were a combined 98-66-17, 2.28, .919, with 14 shutouts last year. The three were a combined 6-0-0 against the Caps last year, 1.99, .936.

And the Caps were 2-0-1 against the three this past week, scoring 12 goals in the process. The Caps scored a total of 12 against the trio in six games last year.

Don't look now, but...

Two players...

Player 1: Two games, 0-2-2, +1...his team is 3-1-1

Player 2: Five games, 0-1-1, -5...his team dropped to 1-5-0 today

Player 1...

Eric Fehr

Player 2...

Ryan Getzlaf

Sittin' at the end of the bar...

How do we know it's still early in the season?

-- Edmonton is undefeated...Philadelphia is winless.

-- Calgary has allowed 22 goals in five games.

-- Detroit is not leading the Central Division (let alone the Western Conference)

-- Someone named Aaron Voros is one point behind the league leaders in scoring

-- And while we're at it...Alexander Semin is leading the league in scoring

-- A Koivu leads the NHL in's not Saku

-- Saku's the one leading the NHL in plus-minus

-- In fact, four Canadiens top the plus-minus list...Koivu (that would be Saku), Andrei Markov, Mike Komisarek, and Alex Tanguay.

-- Derek Dorsett leads the NHL in penalty minutes. Now...don't look it up -- who does he play for?

-- Tomas Holmstrom has five goals...on ten shots.

-- Jay Bouwmeester is averaging more than 30 minutes of ice time a game...guess the Panthers want to get a full season's worth of ice time out of him before they trade him.

-- The Blues are tied for the top spot in goals scored per game (4.0). They are also buzzing along at a 40.9 percent clip on the power play.

-- The Kings haven't yet allowed a power play goal

-- The Rangers lead the NHL in fights (8)

-- The Rangers lead the NHL in hits

-- San Jose leads the league in second period scoring...a good thing, too. They're last in the NHL in first period scoring with no goals. They're also 5-1...go figure.

-- All those flashy signings, and Tampa Bay has scored fewer goals than any team in the league (8)

-- Backups are ranked second and third in the NHL in GAA (Patrick Lalime and Stephen Valiquette)

-- Speaking of GAA...5.74. That's the worst in the league, and it belongs to Martin Biron

-- In the what-a-difference-a-year-makes file...Pascal Leclaire had nine shutouts last year. So far this year, his save percentage is .866.

-- Alex Ovechkin has more than twice as many penalty minutes (eight) as points (three).

-- Matt Bradley is tied for the team lead in penalty minutes...he doesn't have a minor yet.

-- Only one Capital has a combined minus record in home games played so far (Eric Fehr, -1)

-- Sergei points, -4

-- Michael Nylander...after five games last year, -3 (on his way to -19)...after five games this year, +3

"They work hard, they love to play together and they're fun to watch."

It could pass for the franchise’s philosophy, both in Washington and Hershey. As it is, it was the description Hershey Bears’ head coach Bob Woods had of his club (as noted by Tim Leone of the Patriot-News) after last night’s 7-1 thumping of the Syracuse Crunch, that being the club visiting Giant Center on the wave of an 18-game regular season winning streak, in the Bears’ home opener.

As Hershey’s play-by-play announcer, John Walton, points out this morning, “until you see the numbers in black and white, you may not have the full perspective [of how dominating the Bears have been]." Through five games:


1. Keith Aucoin (11)
T-2. Alexandre Giroux (9)
T-2. Graham Mink (9)
T-6. Andrew Gordon (7)


T-1. Alexandre Giroux (5)
T-1. Graham Mink (5)
T-3. Andrew Gordon (4)


1. Keith Aucoin (8)

Power Play Goals:

T-1. Graham Mink (3)


1. Keith Aucoin (+7)
T-2. Sami Lepisto (+6)
T-2. Tyler Sloan (+6)
T-4. Karl Alzner (+4)
T-4. Alexandre Giroux (+5)
T-4. Bryan Helmer (+5)

That would be the top six spots occupied by Bears. You might not find that many bears together in Yellowstone National Park.

Mathieu Perreault (T-1st) and Oskar Osala (T-9th) are in the top-ten in rookie scoring.

It's also worth noting that before his call-up to Washington, Chris Bourque was 2-3-5, +1, in only three games.

Hershey has 29 goals scored in five games, 12 more than any other team in the AHL, and more than double the total of any team in the East Division in which the Bears play. The Bears have nearly as many goals scored as the combined total of the next three teams in the standings in the East Division – Binghamton, Bridgeport, and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (34).

There are 75 games to go, but one has to like the look of the Bears, who have a way about them at the moment a grizzly might envy.

A ONE-Point Night: Devils 4 - Caps 3 (OT/SO)

This morning’s word…


Meaning…“confused or disconcerted; upset; frustrated”

That was the Caps in a nutshell last night as they earned (well, “earned” really doesn’t capture it…”slunk away with”) a point they had no business getting in a 4-3 Gimmick loss to the New Jersey Devils at Verizon Center.

There isn’t a stat that jumps out so much as a visual…the shot chart:

The Caps might have had 27 shots, but it was often a case of “bombs away” from the outside. Martin Brodeur is too good a goalie to allow much from that distance. The Caps had some success from between the hash marks, but there wasn’t enough of that. That the Caps scored three goals is somewhat amazing in light of that visual.

The statistics of the game reflect the even nature of the scoreboard. The Devils enjoyed a wide lead in shots (37-27), but the teams were more or less even in blocked shots (Devils, 15-13), hits (Devils, 18-14), takeaways (Devils, 9-8), giveaways (Devils, 14-15), faceoff wins (Caps, 35-30). But what one gathered in watching the game was that the Caps just weren’t into the little things, like winning battles along the boards. If the puck was somewhere near the edge, and two or more players were fighting for it, one could be pretty confident that a Devil was going to come away with it.

One of the numbers that does leap out is the shots late. The Capitals – a team that showed an ability to finish well (they are tied for third in third period goals this morning) – allowed the Devils 14 shots in the third period and overtime, while posting only seven of their own. The Caps allowed the Devils to dictate the tempo in the last half of the game.

What we took away…

What the Devils lack for in offense (and three goals doesn’t really reflect just how boring it is to watch), they made up for in balance. Eight skaters had three or more shots on goal, none had more than four. Only two skaters – Colin White and Bobby Holik – failed to register a shot. And Holik played less than seven minutes, breaking his pinkie finger on an Alex Ovechkin clearing attempt in the second period.

John Erskine might have been “even” for the night, but it seemed that every shift he had out there was an adventure of some kind. Another delay-of-game penalty…having to dive to poke away a puck after it trickled off his stick…being the guy who didn’t tie up Petr Vrana enough to keep him from deflecteing Patrik Elias’ point shot for the Devils’ first goal.

This was the first time in five games (career) against the Devils that Nicklas Backstrom failed to register a point. Backstrom is shooting the puck more (he had seven attempts last night), but he looks just a bit off in, well, most everything.

That pass from Sergei Fedorov to spring Alexander Semin for a breakaway goal was a thing of beauty. No other Caps defenseman makes that pass. It might not be accidental that he and Milan Jurcina – a pairing for much of this game – were the two Caps defensemen who were not on the ice for a Devils score (although Jurcina was not on the ice for the last 7:28 minutes of regulation and all of overtime).

Holik is a not the player of years past, but one thing he still does well is take faceoffs – he won seven of eight.

Speaking of time, the Devils had four skaters who logged less than ten minutes – Holik, Mike Rupp, Petr Vrana, and David Clarkson.

The Caps had the guys they wanted shooting the puck. Ovechkin had six shots, Semin three, and Mike Green three. Part of the trouble was that Tomas Fleischmann, Eric Fehr, Chris Clark, and Brooks Laich were credited with one apiece.

Since Viktor Kozlov left the lineup mid-way through the 5-1 win against Vancouver, Backstrom and Ovechkin have a combined 26 shots, no goals, and one assist.

We had one right in the players to ponder…Jamie Langenbrunner had assists on both of the Devils’ third period goals.

One power play goal in eight tries (and the one coming on a 5-on-3). The Caps look as if they had the part of their brain holding the “what we do on the power play” wiped clean. The Caps had eight shots on eight power plays; the Devils also had eight shots…on four power plays. The Caps spent most of the 5-on-4 time playing the role of the dog in the time-honored game of “fetch.”

Alexander Semin had two more goals – he is now second (to Thomas Vanek) in goals and the league leader in points. He also had no shots on the power play.

The Devils’ TV analyst remarked in the third period that if he was a Devil, he wouldn’t give up the puck in the Caps’ zone until he wanted to, because the Caps weren’t pressuring the puck at all. That was one of the confounding truths all night…the Caps looked very passive in defending the Devils, who are not nearly as explosive a team as the one the Caps played on Thursday in Pittsburgh. They seemed to give the Devils too much room and too much respect.

There really is a glass-half-full, glass-half empty aspect to this game. If you’re a “glass-half-empty” kind of person, you’re probably thinking that last night’s effort and intensity just weren’t there. And, in fact, they weren’t, at least not so that we could see. The Devils play a system and make life very annoying for teams that want to run and gun, but the Caps looked pretty passive out there, too.

If you’re a “glass-half-full” kind of person, you’re thinking that the Caps got a point out of a game they had no business getting one from, and they did (if on a fluky goal) come from behind late. They carry a four-game points-earned streak into a western road trip. And, they did it despite missing some important cogs in Kozlov, Tom Poti, and Donald Brashear.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Devils, October 18th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

We are live from Peerless Central, where preparations are underway for the Caps first contest against the New Jersey Devils in the 2008-2009 season. The Devils are in their fourth and last game of a road trip that has taken them away from their new palace in Newark. They are 2-1 so far on this trip, but while they’ve been away, some interesting documents of archeological importance were discovered in the materials excavated from the site that are now in a New Jersey landfill (along with Jimmy Hoffa, Judge Crater, and John McCain’s chances of winning the election). The Peerless has received exclusive access to a particularly important – and revealing – piece of the find…the original Devil’s agreement:

I, Mephistopheles (a.k.a., The Devil, Beelzebub, Satan (not Miroslav), Gary Bettman), the party of the first part, do agree to provide the party of the second part with riches, fame, health, records never to be broken, culinary talent, a gift for story telling, and a little fun on the side.

In exchange, the party of the second part promises to relinquish, at a time of my choosing…

His soul.


Party of the first part: Mephistopheles

Party of the second part: Martin Brodeur

OK, maybe it only seems that way, but Brodeur is on the verge of setting new records for career wins (at 541, he is ten short of Patrick Roy’s record of 551) and shutouts (his 98 is five short of Terry Sawchuk’s record of 103). As far as health goes, the last time Brodeur played fewer than 3,800 minutes in a season, it took a shortened season to do it (1994-1995). He has ten consecutive seasons, and counting, of having played at least 4,000 minutes and seems to be on a pace to eclipse that mark again. He has 12 consecutive seasons of at least 30 wins (an NHL record) and has seven seasons of at least 40 wins (another NHL record), including an NHL record 48 wins in 2006-2007. He holds records in combined career shutouts (playoff and regular season), overtime wins, minutes played in a season, most shutouts in one Stanley Cup playoff, most shutouts in a Stanley Cup final, and is the only NHL goalie to have been credited with scoring a game-winning goal.

It’s a safe bet he’s going to the Hall of Fame.

And he’s wreaked a special havoc on the Capitals: 32-12-4, 2.11, .913, six shutouts

To beat the Devils, one has to beat Brodeur.

Frankly, Brodeur and the fabled Devils’ “system” it’s about all the Devils have going for them at the moment. As a group, they have scored a total of six goals in four games, no more than two in any single contest. And for all of that, the Devils are still 3-1-0. Why? They’ve given up only six goals, a total of two in their three wins. They have allowed only two even strength goals so far this season (they are, as you might expect, the best five-on-five team in the league at this early juncture).

Only eleven skaters for the Devils have registered at least one point through four games, and only two – Zach Parise and Patrik Elias – have more than one goal. If you do the math, that means that 15 Devil skaters have failed to score a goal, eight have failed to register a point. Among the latter, there is Bobby Holik, who was brought back to...well, we’re not exactly sure what, considering he’s being paid $2.5 million this year to be a ten-minute a night (ok, 10:25 a night) center.

Our old friend, Dainius Zubrus is once more displaying his sense of splendid mediocrity, notching an assist in four games, plus-1, and five shots (total, not per game) in 13:36 of work per game.

Another former Cap of sorts – Johnny Oduya – who had a fine year last year (6-20-27, +27 in 75 games), hasn’t exactly sprung from the gate through four games (0-0-0, even).

One source of concern for the Devils might be Brian Gionta. After putting up 48 goals in the 2005-2006 season, he slumped to 25 the following year and 22 last year. He is without a goal (with two assists) in four games to date.

One of the things (one of the many things) the Devils aren’t getting in scoring is production from the defense. Through four games, seven defensemen have a total of two assists (Colin White and Paul Martin). The seven have a total of 22 shots (by way of comparison, Mike Green has 21, and the other five – not including Sergei Fedorov – have 19).

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

New Jersey: Jamie Langenbrunner

Langenbrunner has gotten off to a very slow start – no goals, no assists, minus-1 in 18 minutes a night. However, he is 9-11-20, +10, with two game-winners in 30 career games against the Caps.

Washington: Nicklas Backstrom

Backstrom has been off to his own slow start – no goals, an assist, plus-one in almost 19 minutes a night on the top line. But, he is 1-4-5, plus-3, with a power play goal in his four games against the Devils. He had at least one point in each of the games the clubs played last year.

In the end, the Caps remind Brodeur of his contract and its “pay in full” clause. The Devil gets his due, tonight, not the Devils…

Caps 3 – Devils 1

Friday, October 17, 2008

You have to love this guy

In his Capital Insider column this afternoon, Tarik El-Bashir writes...

"[Matt] Bradley said he required a dozen or so stitches on the inside and outside of his upper lip after his fight with Paul Bissonnette last night. The complexity of the stitch job, he said, is what prevented him from getting back on the ice sooner. 'I wanted to come back earlier, but it took them to the end of the second period to finish,' Bradley said. 'It was a tough job; they did a great job.' He added: 'Stitches aren't a big deal. After that I was fine.'

Bradley said the minor league recall 'wanted to make a name for himself' so he began chirping at him and John Erskine early in the game. 'We were down at that point,' Bradley said. 'So I figured let me do something to spark the team.'"

That's called stepping up for the team. Every day, Bradley seems to be cementing his legacy as a Capital "plumbers" hall of famer.

Just sayin'...

In their last 23 regular season games, the Caps have...

- A record of 18-5-0 (that's a 128-point pace)

- Outscored their foes 80-48 (exclusive of Gimmick goals)

- Eight wins of at least three goals

- A power play humming at 21.5 percent

- Eight come-from-behind wins

It's early, which is cause for temperance, but ya know?...they're pretty good.

A TWO-Point Night: Caps 4 - Penguins 3

The Caps proved once again that: a) no lead is safe, and b) that they have issues to deal with, as they came back from a 3-0 deficit 22 minutes into the game to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-3.

Here are our take aways for the game…

- Pittsburgh came into the game as a bad five-on-five team. They finished the game as the worst five-on-five team in the league, giving up three goals for each one they score (they were outscored 4-0 at even strength last night).

- For all the talk of the stars – Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby – their effects were more subtle. Crosby, as one might expect, was sharp in directing the power play. Ovechkin was an important decoy on the winning goal…Marc-Andre Fleury had to know out of the corner of his eye that Ovechkin was lurking on the weak side when Boyd Gordon snapped the puck past him for the game-winner.

- We learned from the Pittsburgh TV crew that #14 for the Caps is “TOH-mee” Fleischmann (not Tomas, like it says in the program).

- Crosby didn’t play badly, but he was conspicuously involved in the Caps third and fourth goals, turning the puck over in the offensive zone and allowing the Caps to breakout (Nylander finishing off a pass from TOH-mee Fleischmann) and losing a faceoff to allow another breakout by the Caps (Gordon finishing with Ovechkin on the doorstep).

- Ovechkin didn’t play badly as much as he’s in one of those streaks when the puck just doesn’t find a hole. He had five shots and had four others blocked. He also had three hits...all, we think, on Evgeni Malkin, who wondered after the game, "Ovechkin is a great player, but every time he hits me - I don't know why." It’s because you have the puck, pal. Geez, you took nine shots…think folks won’t be paying attention?

- Speaking of shots…Malkin had nine, Crosby five, and the rest of the Penguins?...12.

- How hot is Alexander Semin? He is 4-4-8, +5 in his first four games. If you take the first four games of each of his previous three seasons and combined them, he was 6-3-9, +1.

- Alexander Ovechkin has two goals in four games…the same two goals after four games he had last year…and the same two goals in four games he had the year before that.

- For as much grief as Olaf Kolzig took last year for his inability to recover once he made an initial save, Jose Theodore is picking right up in that regard…that goal from Alex Gologoski (did this game set an early season high for Alexes on the ice?) was not what folks had in mind when Theodore was brought in.

- Today’s “do what you can when what you do isn’t working” award goes to Nicklas Backstrom. No goals, no assists, no points in 20-plus minutes of work, but he did have three shots on goal, had four others blocked, two hits, two blocked shots of his own, and won seven of 13 draws.

- Gotta give a round of applause to Matt Bradley. Paul Bissonnette is a load…he had 26 fights in the AHL last year (and another three in the ECHL for good measure), and he had four in this year’s preseason. He’s a practiced puncher. Bradley walked into one that got him a bloodied nose, but he came back out for the third and took four more shifts (generally his average per period).

- Eric Fehr quietly had an effective night with two assists, including the one (born out of fighting off Hal Gill for the puck) that sprang Gordon out of the Caps’ end of the ice for the winning goal.

- Kris Letang had a brutal night…-3, and he had a really good view of Fleischmann’s goal (late to cover him at the top of the crease) and of Fleischmann’s pass to Nylander for a goal (when he got turned around as the last man back and was late in stepping up on Fleischmann).

- Speaking of that goal, the setup actually came when Alexander Semin was crossing the blue line and found Fleischmann on the far side as Nylander was cutting between them. It was a superb play on Semin’s part.

- So far this year, the Caps have been outscored 8-4 in the first period. Fortunately, they’ve outscored opponents 8-2 in the second and 5-3 in the third. Here’s an idea…get off to better starts. Yeah, we know…easier said than done.

- The Caps have yielded seven power play goals in 24 opportunities. They’re not last in the NHL in penalty killing, but they can see it from there.

- Consistency…four…four…five…four. That’s the goals scored by the Caps so far.

- Tom Poti played 4:23 before departing with a groin injury. The Caps don’t have to call up a defenseman, but if they move Sergei Fedorov to the blue line, Chris Bourque might be getting a call.

- It’s early, so we’ll qualify this observation with the fact that there are 78 games to go, but the Penguins look an awful lot like the 2006-2007 Tampa Bay Lightning…a good team, not as good as the year before, and one that is very top heavy (in this case with centers) at forward. None of the wingers for the Penguins impressed last night, with the possible exception of Miroslav Satan, who was the right guy in the right place for a goal. Getting Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney can cure some of that problem, but they’re not wingers, and the Penguins are neither strong, nor deep at that position.

- So let’s see…the Caps beat guy they couldn’t beat with a baseball bat earlier in the week (Roberto Luongo)…they beat a team that beat them like a dusty rug the last three years (Pittsburgh). Next…Martin Brodeur, who is 32-12-4, 2.11, .913 in his career against Washington. This could be a nice week with a win on Saturday.