Friday, April 20, 2012

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 5/Eastern Conference Quarterfinal: Capitals at Bruins, April 21st

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

Here we are, Game 5. The very words, “Game Five,” strike fear into the hearts of Caps fans of long standing. They know what it means…

1987, Round 1. The Caps, leading three games to one and trying to close out the New York Islanders, lose to the Islanders, 4-2. The Caps would go on to lose the series in seven games, the last of which was “The Easter Epic,” the four-overtime loss to New Yorkers that ended on Easter morning in 1987.

1988, Round 2. Caps fans would rather remember Round 1, in which they won Game 5 to stave off elimination, going on to win the series in Game 7 when Dale Hunter scored in overtime on the Philadelphia Flyers’ Ron Hextall. That is because in Round 2, the Caps had a chance to tak a 3-2 lead on the New Jersey Devils and did not, falling by a 3-1 score. The Caps tied things up again in Game 6 with a 7-2 pounding of the Devils, but lost in Game 7 by a 3-2 score.

1989, Round 1. The Caps again found themselves tied at 2-2 in a series, this time with the Flyers. But in Game 5 the Caps couldn’t stop pucks from flying into their own net, including one off the stick of goalie Ron Hextall into an open net to seal an 8-5 decision. The Caps then lost Game 6, 4-3, and the series.

1992, Round 1. This would be the first of many post-season tortures inflicted by the Pittsburgh Penguins on the Caps. Holding a 3-1 lead in games heading into Game 5, including a 7-2 thrashing of the Penguins in Game 4 in Pittsburgh, the Caps dropped a 5-2 decision at home to the Penguins. To add that touch of salt to the wound that always seems to happen when the Caps are involved, the game-winning goal was scored by former Caps defensemen Larry Murphy. The Caps lost Games 6 and 7, and the series.

1995, Round 1. Game 5 in the Caps’ opening round series against the Penguins signaled the beginning of the end for goalie Jim Carey. The Caps had this game and the series (leading three games to one) on their sticks by virtue of having a lead and a power play, having already scored two on power plays in the game. But Jaromir Jagr stole a puck, raced in on Carey, and scored shorthanded. The roof fell in on Carey and the Caps after that. The Penguins won this game in overtime, 6-5, then made short work of the Caps in Games 6 and 7 by 7-1 and 3-0 scores, respectively. Carey would never be the same.

1996, Round 1. The Penguins again. This time, the Caps took the first two games of the series, but dropped the next two, the Penguins winning Game 4 in the Caps’ second four-overtime game in franchise history. It set up a pivotal Game 5. Right… Penguins 4, Caps 1. The Caps dropped Game 6, and their season was over.

2001, Round 1. Yup…you guessed it. Pittsburgh. The Capitals got off to a good start in the series with a 1-0 win in Game 1, but the Penguins took the next two contests. Washington rallied to win Game 4 in overtime on a goal by Jeff Halpern. It set up another big Game 5. Pittsburgh scored two goals 41 seconds apart in the first period, then held on for dear life to escape with a 2-1 win. It was all the Caps had left; they lost Game 6 – and the series – in overtime, 4-3, on a breakaway goal by Martin Straka after Caps defensemen Sergei Gonchar lost the puck on some bad ice at his own blue line.

2003, Round 1. Finally, the Caps faced someone new in a big Game 5, but it didn’t have a different result. The Tampa Bay Lightning were the new foil, and it looked as if the Caps would find the Lightning more to their liking, winning Games 1 and 2 in Tampa. But the Caps lost Games 3 and 4 in Washington, setting up an important Game 5 in Tampa. The Lightning got a goal from Martin St. Louis mid-way through the third period for the difference in a 2-1 Lightning win. The Lighning would close out the series in Game 6 on another game-winning goal by St. Louis, this one coming in the third overtime on a power play that resulted from a too-many-men penalty on the Caps. St. Louis would take a special place in the annals of Caps heartbreakers. He had the game-winning goal in each of the last three games of the series.

2009, Round 2. Back to the Penguins. In the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Caps won Games 1 and 2 at home, the Penguins did likewise in Games 3 and 4 on their ice. In Game 5 in Washington the Caps could not hold a 2-1 lead they took into the third period, losing the lead on early goals by Ruslan Fedotenko and Matt Cooke before Alex Ovechkin tied it up with less than five minutes left. Then, with Milan Jurcina in the penalty box for tripping in the first overtime, Evgeni Malkin took the puck wide on Caps defenseman Tom Poti. Malkin tried to slide the puck across to Sidney Crosby, but the puck struck the shaft of Poti’s stick, leaving goalie Semyon Varlamov helpless in watching the puck slide over the goal line for the 4-3 Penguins win. The Caps would return the favor with a 5-4 overtime win in Pittsburgh in Game 6, but would fall hard to the Penguins in Game 7, 6-2.

2010, Round 1. Perhaps the unkindest cut of all. The Caps were the Presidents Trophy winner as the team with the most standings points in the regular season. They lost Game 1 of their opening round series against the Montreal Canadiens in overtime, but that looked like a speed bump when the Caps peeled off three wins, the last two by a combined 11-4 margin, to take a 3-1 lead. Then came Game 5. Goalie Jaroslav Halak stopped 37 of 38 shots in a 2-1 Canadiens win. It would be the first of three consecutive games in which Halak allowed but a single goal. He stopped 131 of 134 shots in those final three games, all Caps losses in an embarrassing “one-versus-eight-seed” loss to Montreal.

All-in-all, the Caps are 9-18 in Game 5’s in franchise history. In the nine wins, they went on to win the series seven times. In the 18 Game 5 losses, they went on to lose the series 15 times. Clearly, Game 5 in this opening round series against the Bruins means something if history means anything. So, we’re going to call on someone with far more inspirational talent than we have. General, if you could say a few words to the men…

Now, I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a hockey game by giving up his body for his team. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard give up his body for his team.

Men, all this stuff you've heard about Capitals not wanting to win, wanting to go play golf when the weather gets warm, is a lot of horse dung. Washingtonians, traditionally, love to fight. All real Washingtonians love the sting of battle.

When you were kids, you all admired the champion marble shooter, the fastest runner, the big league ball players, the toughest boxers. Washingtonians love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Well, at least not anymore. Washingtonians play to win all the time. Now, I wouldn't give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That's why the Capitals have never lost and will never lose a playoff series this year. Because the very thought of losing is hateful to the Capitals.

Now, a hockey club is a team. It lives, eats, sleeps, shoots, checks, fights as a team. This individuality stuff is a bunch of crap. The bilious bastards who wrote that stuff about individuality for the NBC Sports Network don't know anything more about real battle than they do about fornicating.

Now, we have the finest food and equipment, the best spirit, and the best men in the world. You know, by God, I actually pity those poor bastards we're going up against. By God, I do. We're not just going to beat the bastards. We're going to cut out their living guts and use them to tape the blades of our sticks. We're going to murder those lousy Bruin bastards by the bushel.

Now, some of you boys, I know, are wondering whether or not you'll chicken-out under fire. Don't worry about it. I can assure you that you will all do your duty. The Bruins are the enemy. Wade into them. Spill their blood. Check them into the boards. When you put your hand into a bunch of goo that a moment before was your best friend's face after a high stick, you'll know what to do.

Now there's another thing I want you to remember. I don't want to get any messages saying that we are holding our position. We're not holding anything. Let the Bruin do that. We are advancing constantly and we're not interested in holding onto anything -- except the enemy. We're going to hold onto him by the nose, and we're gonna kick him in the ass. We're gonna kick the hell out of him all the time, and we're gonna go through him like crap through a penguin!

Now, there's one thing that you men will be able to say when you get back home, and you may thank God for it. Thirty years from now when you're sitting around your fireside with your grandson on your knee, and he asks you, "What did you do in the great 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs?" -- you won't have to say, "Well, I shoveled shit in Saskatchewan."

Alright now you sons-of-bitches, you know how I feel.

Oh, I will be proud to lead you wonderful guys into battle anytime…


That's all.

Capitals 2 – Bruins 1

It's All Your Fault!!!

There were some mysterious goings-on with the game clock in the Washington Capitals' 2-1 win over the Boston Bruins last night.  With 9.5 seconds left and a faceoff in the Capitals' end, the clock didn't start at the drop of the puck.  More than five seconds passed before the clock restarted, and had the Bruins been able to score in those extra seconds, Caps fans would have been angry to say the least.

But the brain trust that is the NHL has an explanation...
"With 9.5 seconds remaining in the third period, there was a stoppage and resulting face-off in the Washington zone. During the stoppage, the game clock operator and Series Manager determined that 0.9 seconds should have been added to the time remaining in the third period and attempted to contact the on-ice officials to delay the puck drop to accommodate making the necessary clock adjustment to 10.4 seconds remaining.

"The off-ice officials were not able to attract the attention of the referees or linesmen despite sounding the horn, which was not audible due to crowd noise, and the puck was dropped.

"The NHL Situation Room in Toronto immediately was aware that the clock had not started for 5.3 seconds after the face-off and, therefore, would have disallowed a goal scored with 5.3 seconds or less showing on the clock (emphasis added)."
We almost wish the Bruins had scored to see and hear the reaction on both sides when the goal was disallowed.

But ask yourselves...would the league have really called from Toronto and instructed the in-arena officials to take a goal off the board?  I'm kind of glad we will never know.

In the end, though, IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT Caps fans for being just dad gum loud.

Knock it off, will ya?  They're trying to play a hockey game down there.

Sittin' at the end of the bar...

It’s a little known fact…

-- Only Phoenix’ Mike Smith has faced more rubber through four playoff games (164 shots) than Braden Holtby (148). On the other side, Tim Thomas has faced only 109 shots.

-- Odd fact… Speaking of 109 shots, three goalies have faced 109 shots. There is Tim Thomas, who has allowed seven goals in that total. The others are Marc-Andre Fleury (20 goals allowed) and Ilya Bryzgalov (17 goals allowed).

-- Among goalies having appeared in all four of their respective teams’ playoff games, Holtby has the best save percentage (.953, one point better than Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick), and he is tied for having the best goals-against average (1.60, with Tim Thomas).

-- Alex Ovechkin is third in hits (21); he is 22nd in shots (14). The Caps might want to see those totals reversed.

-- Karl Alzner and Roman Hamrlik are tied for fifth in blocked shots (12).

-- Hamrlik also happens to be tied for fifth in giveaways… with Mike Green.

-- You would expect guys like Manny Malhotra or Zenon Konopka or Boyd Gordon to be at the top of the faceoff rankings, and they are. But lookie there… Jay Beagle is fifth (62.5 percent).

-- From the Department of Duh… 13 of the top 18 point-getters in the playoffs so far are in the Philadelphia-Pittsburgh series. Brooks Laich is the top point-getter for the Caps (1-3-4); he is tied for 16th.

-- Only one player in the Capitals-Bruins series is among the top 40 in penalty minutes. Evil-Lars, himself…Nicklas Backstrom.

-- Alexander Semin is tied for the league playoff lead in power play goals (two); he has the only two in the Capitals-Bruins series. By the by…get you wouldn’t have guessed St. Louis’ Andy McDonald is the leading power-play point scorer (2-4-6).

-- The Caps are the only team in the playoffs with a 100.0 percent penalty kill (12-for-12).

-- Boston is second among the 16 playoff teams with 37.0 shots per game; the Caps are 14th (27.2).

-- Southeast Silliness... The Caps and Florida are tied for worst in third-period scoring (one goal apiece).

-- Only Chicago has taken fewer penalties so far (15) than the Caps or Bruins (16 apiece). If you were to take away Nicklas Backstrom's match penalty, the Bruins and Caps would each have 32 minutes in penalties, lowest in the league. As it is, the Caps have the third fewest (42) with Florida in second (38).

-- The Caps-Bruins series is the hittingest of the eight. The Bruins and Caps are second and fifth, respectively, in total hits.

-- Only the Rangers (51) have more blocked shots than the Caps (49), and Boston is fifth (37).

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Game 4: Capitals 2 - Bruins 1

Before we turn to last night’s game, let’s all sit back and take a deep breath.


Now, last night the Washington Capitals defeated the Boston Bruins, 2-1, to tie their first round playoff series at two games apiece. It was the fourth one-goal game in four contests as the series inched past the half-way point.

The half-way point. Want to take another deep breath? We’ll wait…

The Caps got goals from Marcus Johansson in the game’s second minute and Alexander Semin on a power play with less than two minutes left in the second period. Braden Holtby made them stand up, allowing only a first period goal by Rich Peverley among 45 shots he faced to secure the win.

Other stuff…

-- Had Boston scored a goal in the dying seconds to tie the game, this game might have forever been known as “Clockgate.” With 9.5 seconds left and a faceoff to Holtby’s left, the linesman dropped the puck, and then the clock… didn’t… start… for… almost… five… full… seconds. That’s right (we timed it when we watched it later on replay). Instead of 9.5 seconds, the Bruins had 14 seconds of time in the Caps’ zone, and it was in those free four-and-a-half seconds at the end that Braden Holtby had one more save in him, gloving down a shot from Patrice Bergeron at the horn.

-- OK, it wouldn’t have counted. Bergeron’s shot technically came just after the horn and is not on the game’s play-by-play sheet.

-- The Capitals made good on taking their minimum daily requirement of Swede. Marcus Johansson had a goal, two shots (three attempts) and even got more than two minutes on the power play.

-- For all the run up about helmets being knocked off, after-whistle scrums, waking sleeping beasts, this and that, Game 4 was a relatively cleanly-played game. Four penalties, all told, only one of them for what was a “physical” foul, a slashing call to Rich Peverley late in the first period.

-- The guys who got their first taste of action didn’t figure in the scoring, but they did make their presence felt. Defenseman John Erskine had four shot attempts (a good month for him) and three hits in 11 minutes of ice time. He did try to effect a sliding block of Peverley’s shot that become a goal in the first period but just missed.

-- The other newcomer to this series – Mike Knuble – had three hits and a takeaway in just under 12 minutes, but he did not have a shot attempt, and he took the Caps’ only penalty of the game, a holding call midway through the third period.

-- About that Boston goal. It might have been the only “mistake” Braden Holtby made all night. It looked as if he was cheating a bit, anticipating a pass from Peverley to Dan Paille as the Bruins were closing on a 2-on-1. Peverley snuck a shot in through the opening Holtby left on the short side as a result.

-- The Bruins out-attempted the Caps in shots by an 83-44 margin. The Bruins had 45 shots to the Caps’ 44 shot attempts. But here’s the thing – 36 of those shot attempts for Boston came from defensemen. There is good and bad in that. The good is that it is a lot of shots coming from outside. The bad is that they are getting to the net where a lot of mischief can occur with loose pucks being batted around by Bruins. By way of comparison, the Caps’ defensemen had 16 shot attempts, four of which were on goal (three by Dennis Wideman).

-- We have talked a lot about getting “secondary scoring” (Marcus Johansson was last night’s example of getting some). But “secondary faceoff wins?” Among the non-centers taking draws when Caps were thrown out of the circle (Troy Brouwer, Jason Chimera, and Joel Ward), they were six wins in six tries.

-- Six shots on the power play in 4:50 of power play time. Not bad, and they were getting shots from players the Caps want getting them – Dennis Wideman, Alex Ovechkin (2), and Alexander Semin (the goal).

-- Lost in all this was the fact that the Caps could have run the Bruins out of the building if not for a fine performance from Tim Thomas in the Bruin net. The Caps broke down the Bruins defense often for odd man situations or good scoring opportunities. Thomas allowed a goal on the first such situation, when Brooks Laich fed Marcus Johansson for the goal, but Thomas came up big on a drive by Brooks Laich early in the second period, he snuffed out an attempt by Ovechkin off a turnover mid-way in the second, then he denied Keith Aucoin off a centering feed from Joel Ward mid-way in the third that would have given the Caps an insurance goal.

-- Teams that start fast and fail to convert almost always regret the lost opportunities later. The Bruins had a 24-5 lead in shots half-way through the game and had only Rich Peverley’s goal to show for it.

-- The teams are now a combined 2-for-24 on the power play in this series. Alexander Semin has both of the power play goals. Boston is the only one of 16 teams in the playoffs without a power play goal.

-- For all the commentary about how rough and tumble this series is, only Phoenix has fewer power play opportunities (11) than the Caps and Bruins (12 apiece).

In the end, we are just past the half-way point of this series. No team has yet to enjoy so much as a second with a two-goal lead. This is the sort of series that, according to the game plan, the Caps have been preparing for over the last several months. The sort of series in which goals are hard to come by. The sort of series where intensity cannot descend into frenzy, where one must have a certain resolve and steeliness to play within one’s self and well with small margins for error. This leads one to believe that there is a lot of hockey yet to be played. So… not too low with the lows, and not too high with the highs.

It was nice, though, wasn’t it?