Saturday, May 02, 2009

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Eastern Conference Semifinals, Caps vs. Penguins...Game 1

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

We are live from Peerless Central on this, the morning of Game 1 of the greatest playoff series in the history of earth.

Romans versus Carthaginians in the Punic Wars? Pfft…amateurs

The Hundred Years War? Yeah…right.

The Civil War?... intramural pansy crap.

This is serious! Ovechkin versus Crosby, Malkin versus Semin, Fleury versus Varlamov, Boudreau versus Bylsma, Primanti’s versus Ben’s Chili Bowl. It doesn’t get any bigger.

“Calm down, cuz…it’s just a game.”

Just… a… game? What are you, a Communist? Or worse, a basketball fan?

“No, I’m just sayin’… “


“Feerless, I’m sceered…he’s talkin’ stoopid.”

“Don’t worry, that’s just the caffeine talking after he was up writing that preview last night. You OK, cousin?”

Sure, it’s just these early games. Pronosticatin’ is hard, ya know? So what are you boys looking for today?


The game, Cheerless…the game…”

“Oh, shoot, I don’t know…I just look at the scoreboard to figure out who’s doing what.”

You’re nothing if not simple. Feerless?

“It’s like you said in the first round – ‘first to four.’ If the Caps win, it’s only one game on the way to four. If they lose, it’s not the end of the world.”

You guys aren’t much for analysis, are you?

“It’s like you said, cuz, it’s early…

OK, well, about this game… the early comparisons here are, of course, the Ovechkin versus Crosby angle. It’s today’s version of “Bird versus Magic,” the legendary rivalry that started when Larry Bird and Earvin Johnson met in a college championship final and carried their rivalry into the NBA, where they met 17 times in the regular season over their respective careers and in the playoffs three times in the finals.

If you’re looking to that short-pants rivalry for clues about the Ovechkin-Crosby duel, we’ll give you some things to think about.

If you’re looking for similarities in persona, you’ll find them here. Earvin “Magic” Johnson, he of the electric smile and outgoing personality, the player who could bring fans out of their seats with rushes up the court, the personality that was made for the marketing folks in the NBA in the 1980’s could be said to have his stylistic descendant in the person of Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin, with his gap-toothed grin, fractured English, devil-may-care attitude, a player who can bring fans out of their seats every time he takes the puck out of his zone on a rush up the ice, is a player made for the marketing folks in the NHL in the post-lockout era of hockey.

Larry Bird, the reticent, reserved player of elite skill in all aspects of the game, a player who can beat you with sheer technical excellence or the perfectly timed display of flash, a player who could take his team on his back and carry them as far as they need to go, was the perfect foil for a player such as Earvin Johnson.

Sidney Crosby, who gives the appearance of measuring his behavior and calculating the effect of his quotes with each appearance he makes in the media or in interviews, who is perhaps the most technically complete player to step onto an NHL ice sheet, certainly since Wayne Gretzky, who can by sheer force of will and skill dominate an opponent and carry his team on his shoulders, is the perfect foil for the outsized personality and talent of a player such as Alex Ovechkin.

If you’re looking at the head-to-head, Caps fans will be hoping the analogy of Ovechkin-Crosby carries over to Johnson-Bird. To date, Sidney Crosby has had the upper hand in the regular season meetings between the teams…

This year, however, Ovechkin evened up the statistical profile. His Caps went 3-0-1 against the Penguins, and he went 4-2-6, +3, compared to Crosby’s 1-6-7, -5 in four games.

It isn’t unlike the Johnson-Bird regular season history in which Bird enjoyed a considerable statistical advantage over their respective careers. Bird averaged 23.0 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 6.5 assists a game in 17 regular season games played between the Celtics and Lakers in their careers. Johnson averaged 20.5 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 12.2 assists in those 17 head-to-head matchups. The Lakers won 10 of 17 of those head-to-head games.

And things didn’t change – statistically – in the playoffs between Johnson and Bird. Bird averaged 25.3 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 4.6 assists in 19 career playoff games against Johnson. Magic averaged 20.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 13.5 assists in those games. But in the end, Johnson’s team won 11 of 19 playoff games and two of three series. Caps fans will be anxious to have that scenario play out here.

But carrying that analogy even further, the “magic” of Ovechkin isn’t enough, any more than Johnson’s “magic” was enough for the Lakers. Ovechkin doesn’t have a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sort on his team, but there are other players who are faint echoes of the sort of player who provided the kind of support the Lakers had to have to beat Bird and his Celtics.

In Sergei Fedorov, a wily veteran who can do it on offense or defense, a smart player of no small amount of skill, a player who can succeed with grit or style, there is a faint resemblance to a player such as James Worthy.

In Brooks Laich, a player who gets his nose dirty, who bangs in the timely goal, who hustles all over the ice, there is the distant echo of a Kurt Rambis.

In Alexander Semin, a player who is as pure an offensive talent as there is on the Caps, a player who can have fans asking, “how did he do that?” there is a resemblance to a Byron Scott.

The “X” factor here, though, might be Nicklas Backstrom, who might very well be the key to this series for the Caps. His ability to find teammates for scores (he has 13 assists in eight career games against Pittsburgh) will be important in taking some pressure off the defense – and rookie goalie Semyon Varlamov – at the other end of the ice.

The Caps are 6-1, all-time, in Game 1 against the Penguins. We see no reason why the trend should be any different. It’s a long road ahead, but the first step on it is a good one.

Caps 4 – Penguins 3

1 comment:

Jack Hazard said...

"The Civil War?... intramural pansy crap."