Saturday, March 29, 2008

He's a-leavin' on a jet plane...well, maybe

The New York Daily News reports that Jaromir Jagr might be of a mind to scratch his itch to play in a city in which he "has been unabashed in his affection for..."

No, Caps fans, not, Pens fans, not Pittsburgh.


That's right, Omsk...the one in Siberia.

John Delapina reports for the Daily News...

Next week, Jagr will get the chance to lay the groundwork for just such a return - or, at least, continue a dialogue that never has been interrupted - when he meets with Anatoly Bardin, the new general manager for Avangard-Omsk of the Russian Super League.

Bardin is flying to New York this weekend. And according to his team's Web site, "The main objective of the visit are the negotiations with the Czech forward Jaromir Jagr of the Rangers about his possible return to the 'Vanguard.'"

We're guessing that option thing is dead.

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Panthers, March 29th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

Well, here we are, at the end of the road…the last of the six game trip, the last road game of the regular season.

And tonight, it’s the Florida Panthers to close the road show. And to get a take on this one, we looked up one of the world’s great investigators…Inspector Jacques Clouseau. Inspector?...Inspector!

“Ehm sorree…Eh was on ze pheun…”

Ze pheun?

“Yes…ze pheun…ze pheun…I was taking a call on ze pheun...I am ze famous Inspector Clouseau, et yerr service.”

Also known as zee Ping...uh, the Pink Panther.

“I hate zat nemm...and who are yeu?”

The Peerless Prognosticator…

“We zeem to have too much pee here…”


“yes, pee…Pink Panther Peerless Prognosticateur.”

Oh, ok, I get it…now, about the Panthers, what can you tell us Inspector?

“Ah…more pee…well, zey are a ‘ockey team…”

I KNOW that…that’s what we do here…hockey.

"I zee...and what deu yeu deu?"

What do I do?

“Yes, yeu deu…”

Well, I have this blog, you see.

“Block?...are yeu aware zat a block is a deadly weapon in ze hands of an eggzpert?”

Not ‘block’…blog…web log…an online site to write about…oh, never mind…now, about the Panthers...

“A large cat, nehtive to ze Florida area…”

No, the hockey team…

“Zey train panthers to play ‘ockey?”

No, you twit! The panthers are the mascot for the Florida hockey team.

“Do zey know it is not legal to keep panthers?”

They don’t have actual panthers, it’s the name of the hockey team…

“Zhouldn’t zey have a hockey name, like ze ‘bucks?’”


“bucks…ze little rubbehr bucks…”

The Florida Pucks?...we’re getting nowhere here…

“Zo, zen…where are we going?”

We’re going to get to the contest…and what the Caps have a chance to do here is not only climb to within a tie breaker of Boston, should Boston lose in regulation to Ottawa (Boston would still be in eighth by virtue of having played fewer games), the Caps can put the Panthers out of their misery with a win in regulation.

This will not, however, be an easy task. Florida brings two pieces of history into this game that suggest a difficult night. First, despite having lost their last two, the Panthers are 8-2-1 in their last 11 games. Here’s the breakdown:

Record: 8-2-1
Goals for/against: 28/18
Power play: 8/43 (18.6%)
Penalty killing: 39/43 (90.7%)

Over the last 11 games, the Panthers have done it with defense, which harbors its own problems, but we’ll get to that. 18 goals in 11 games (1.64/game) is remarkable, especially in that it represents more than one goal per game less than the Panthers’ season figure (2.68). And while they’ve had the benefit of playing some teams that have been offensively challenged from time to time (Boston, the Rangers, Atlanta, a slumping Lightning team), they’ve also managed to hold the Hurricanes and Penguins in check, too. And that brings us to goaltending and…

That would qualify as pretty solid. It’s had to be. The Florida offense – with those 28 goals (2.55) are slightly off their already only 20th ranked average for the year (2.60). There is the good and the bad to that offense. First, the good…it’s been balanced among the top scorers in the last 11 games:

Olli Jokinen: 3-6-9, -4
Nathan Horton: 5-3-8, +7
Stephen Weiss: 3-3-6, +6
David Booth: 3-4-7, +7
Brett McLean: 4-8-12, -1
Rostislav Olesz: 3-2-5, -2

That’s 21 of the Panthers’ 28 goals spread across six players. OK, the bad…no one seems to be stepping up to lead the offense to the next level. One would think that being on the brink of elimination would raise some games (Jokinen comes to mind). Whether a slump, squeezing the sticks too tightly, missing Richard Zednik (still the 7th leading scorer, having missed 24 games this year and out indefinitely with the neck injury suffered against Buffalo)…whatever. The margin of error that the offense is leaving for its defense and goaltending is too thin to sustain.

And cracks have started to show. In each of the two games the Panthers have allowed more than two goal in these last 11 games, they lost in regulation – the last two games, in fact, to Tampa Bay and Atlanta, neither of which have had much to play for lately.

But that is the last 11 games, none of which have been played against Washington. And that brings us to the second piece of history. The Panthers have been a fang in the side of the Caps all year. In fact, the key word for the season series, from the Caps’ perspective, is “frustrating.” Here is the breakdown of the series through six games:

Caps’ record: 2-3-1
Goals for/against: 14/15
Power play: 5/25 (20.0%)
Penalty killing: 22/25 (88.0%)
Record in one goal games: 1-2-1

You’ll note that one-goal game record. In fact, in the other loss – a 4-2 loss in Florida on February 15th – the Caps gave up an empty netter in the last minute for the final margin. So close…so far (kind of like the standings at the moment). Here is how that same group noted above has fared against the Caps in six games (unless otherwise noted) this year:

Olli Jokinen: 3-2-5, +1
Nathan Horton: 1-1-2, +2
Stephen Weiss: five games, 0-2-0, +1
David Booth: 2-1-3, +2
Brett McLean: two games, 0-0-0, even
Rostislav Olesz: four games, 1-0-1, -1

There isn’t a scoring line that comes screaming off the page, but it has been just good enough to frustrate the Caps often enough. In fact, if there is one player to watch, it would be Kamil Kreps. He’s 3-1-4, +3, against the Caps this year. He also has two game-winning goals against the Caps, his only two game-winners this year.

As for the goalies, Vokoun has been the goalie of record in all six games, going 4-2-0, 2.31, .930. One would expect he’ll get the nod once more this evening.

The Caps lost ground to the Flyers last night in another of those infernal three-point games, losing in a shootout to New Jersey. The Caps are now three points behind Philadelphia for seventh in the East, two points behind Boston for eighth (the Bruins holding a game in hand). Boston hosts Ottawa tonight.

So, the pressure is still on. The Caps have responded well to it…well, fairly well. Shoot, let’s just say well, because the only thing that matters, no matter how it is accomplished, is earning two points each time they take the ice. And the Caps have done that in 11 of their last 15 games. We think they’ll make it 12 of 16 to make the upcoming home stand the most meaningful in years.

Caps 3 – Panthers 1