Monday, October 26, 2009

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Flyers, October 27th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

Welcome home, boys. The Caps took a brief holiday from Fun Street and won both games on an abbreviated road trip to bring the winning streak to four, which is their longest winning streak since piecing together a seven-game winning streak from December 23rd through January 6th last season. The last win in that streak happened to come against the same Philadelphia Flyers that will visit Verizon Center this evening. But tonight, the Caps… uh, excuse me, but are you lost?

“Uh, no… “

You look familiar, do I know you?

“No, I just look like somebody.”

Well, are you a hockey fan?

“Uh… I am now.”

Do you follow the Caps?

“Yeah, yeah… I’m a Caps fan.”

How ‘bout that Ovechkin, eh? Second in the league points, second in goals…

“He didn’t have any goals in his last two games, did he?”

Well, no, but...

“He needs to be replaced. And while they’re at it, they need a new coach.”

Why is that?

“Because… and what’s the deal with the general manager?”

What do you mean? You don’t like George McPhee?

“Why have one? A waste of money.”

He seems to have rebuilt the team pretty well.

“Yeah, but do the Caps ever sign any big free agents? Do they draw 92,000 every week?

Well, no, but Verizon Center only seats…

“And do the Caps have the undying love of the Washington community?”


“Do they get the undivided attention of the Washington media?”

No, but they do one thing that other team doesn’t do…

“And that is?”

They win.

“Uh… can you hook me up with season tickets?”

Well, that might be a stretch, even for an esteemed blogger such as yours truly, but the Caps look good even on TV in this early going with their 6-2-2 record. But one of those losses was an overtime loss to these same Flyers back on October 6th, a game in which the Flyers chased goalie Semyon Varlamov with four second period goals. The Caps took a lead in the third period of that game, but yielded a goal late, then lost in overtime when Danny “Don’t Call Me Daniel” Briere netted the game winner. Overall, the numbers for these two teams look like this…

Since beating the Caps, though, the Flyers are 2-3-1, having been outscored by their opponents by 19-17. In those six games the Flyers’ scoring has come from the usual suspects. Jeff Carter is 2-5-7, Danny “DCMD” Briere is 4-1-5, and Mike “The Concusser” Richards is 1-3-4. But joining these three is “The Heralded Rookie” – James “Don’t Call Me Jimmy” Van Riemsdyk, who is also 1-3-4 in these last six games for the Flyers.

Meanwhile, Simon Gagne – who missed yesterday’s practice with “lower body soreness” – is poised to jump into the top-ten in all-time Flyer scoring, perhaps by mid-season. Gagne is currently 13th on the all-time Flyers scoring list with 489 points. Should he add 30 points to that total over the remainder of the year, he will pass Gary Dornhoefer for 10th place. Since the lockout, Gagne is 8-7-15, plus-3 in 14 games against the Caps, but seven goals and three assists of that total were achieved when the Caps were sucking along at 70 points in the first two seasons of that period.

Meanwhile, Danny “DCMD” Briere has had a similar pattern of success against the Caps since the lockout. In 13 games against Washington over that period, he is 6-7-13, -10. Two things to note about that. First, he’s been awful at even strength against the Caps (something to note, since the Caps are 2nd in the league at 5-on-5). Second, Briere recorded two goals and five assists of that total (not to mention a minus-2) in the first year after the lockout, when he was in Buffalo and the Caps were awful. As a Flyer, he is 1-4-5, even, in seven games against the Caps.

But the Flyers have had scoring coming from odd places, too. If you would have had both Arron Asham and Darrell Powe ahead of Simon Gagne and Scott Hartnell in goal scoring nine games into the season, go buy a lottery ticket. But that’s the case, as both Asham and Powe have three goals, while Gagne and Hartnell have one apiece.

What the Flyers have as well is a re-tooled defense. Chris Pronger is the big new addition, but the Flyers have also added Ole-“Is There a Worse Name for a Defenseman than ‘oh-LAY’”-Kristian Tollefsen from the Columbus Blue Jackets and Danny Syvret, who did play in two games late last year for the Flyers but is on the squad to start the year this season. Tollefsen has had health issues, playing in only 51 games two years ago and 19 last year. He missed four of the first six games this year with injuries.

Syvret, a graduate of the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League, has points in two of his last three games. Along with Tollefsen, he has to provide some measure of relief for the top four of Pronger, Matt Carle, Kimmo Timonen, and Braydon Coburn, all of whom are averaging more than 23 minutes of ice time a game.

Since Brian Boucher started his first game of the season against San Jose on Sunday and allowed four goals on 28 shots in a 4-1 loss, the Flyers might be expected to go back to Ray Emery for this one. He got the decision in the 6-5 overtime win over the Caps on October 6th, but he was hardly a rock between the pipes. Or maybe he was, kind of just sitting there as the Caps shot pucks around him for five goals on 36 shots. Emery started well in his return to the NHL after a year in Russia, shutting out Carolina in the season opener, then allowing only two goals to the Devils in his second start. Then, he allowed the five goals to the Caps, which he followed up with a five goals allowed effort against Pittsburgh. He’s righted the ship somewhat, going 2-1-1 in his last four appearances (2.17, .914). It’s worth noting, though, that three of those games were against Florida (twice) and Anaheim, teams that rank in the bottom quarter of the league in scoring.

The Caps have held a lead in the third period in each of the last four games they’ve played against the Flyers. They’ve lost two of those games, one in a Gimmick. This is not a pattern you’d like to establish against a team you might be meeting in the spring. You’d expect the the big guns to show up for a big game like this, and the young guns have had some success against the Flyers:

Alex Ovechkin: 17 games (regular season), 16-12-28
Alexander Semin: 13 games, 6-5-11
Nicklas Backstrom: 9 games, 3-9-12
Mike Green: 15 games, 2-4-6

But the key might be a Mike Knuble. In 25 career games against the Flyers, Knuble has one goal, that coming with the Bruins in December 2000. Even though he’s played but one game against the Flyers since the 2003-2004 season, you might say he’s due.

Caps 4 – Flyers 2


Flying Cloud said...

It sounds as though Briere is due also. It's also a bit worrisome, our lacking an enforcer to impose discipline (or exact revenge). I'm not as optimistic about tonight. I hope the boys are ready.

Anonymous said...

Props, mad props
Caps 4 Flyers 2
Thats a beautiful thing