Friday, January 31, 2014

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 54 (Blue Jackets 5 - Capitals 2) and Game 55 (Capitals at Red Wings)

We have a suspicion that this morning there are hazmat crews hard at work at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, desperately trying to remove the stench hanging in the arena after the Washington Capitals turned in what might have been their worst performance of the season, a 5-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

It was bad. Bad, bad, bad, bad.

If you saw the Caps’ 5-4 overtime win over Buffalo on Tuesday night, last night was that game without the four-point night from Alex Ovechkin and late heroics from Mike Green.  As to the latter, Green left the game in the first period after having his head driven into the glass by the Blue Jacket’s Boone Jenner.  Green was face down on the ice for several moments before skating off on his own.  He did not return to the contest and will be reevaluated in Detroit, where the club will play this evening.  

As for those who remained, they were awful.  No one gets a pass on this one.  Not the power play, that went 0-for-7 and allowed a shorthanded goal.  Not the top line, which managed three shots on goal for the night.  Not the second line, which had eight shots on goal, but no points.  Not the defense, which once more decided to play the “hunt and peck” method of standing still and poking at pucks with their sticks as opponents skated freely around them.  Not Braden Holtby, who seemed to have the attention span of a three-month old golden retriever in goal.

No, this was a 20-man effort.  OK…19 (backup goalie Michal Neuvirth gets a pass).

Other stuff…

-- Alex Ovechkin had his first four-point game of the season on Tuesday.  From the “take the good with the bad” file, he had his first minus-5 game of his career on Thursday, getting up close and personal looks at all five Columbus goals.  Ovechkin (minus-17) is tied for 802nd of 817 skaters in plus-minus.  Geez, folks…sure, the plus-minus is a stat that has fallen out of favor, but c’mon.  He was plus-2 for a ghastly team that finished 27th in the league in standings points his rookie season.  Oops…they’re tied for 23rd right now.

-- Ovechkin’s night was odd in another respect.  He skated only 18 shifts.  Still, he logged more than 21 minutes of ice time.  Why?...

-- The Caps were 0-for-7 on the power play (for Ovechkin, that meant 1:25 of ice time per power play).  That makes it 0-for-8 and 0-for-7 wrapped around a 2-for-3 against the worst team in the league starting their backup goaltender.  Everything is broken on this team right now.

-- Well, maybe not the penalty kill (whodathunkit?!). The Caps were 7-for-7, making it 13 for their last 14 dating back to the second period of their 2-1 loss to New Jersey last Friday.

-- Mike Green was the only Caps defenseman not to be on ice for a goal.  But you probably figured that out, seeing how he had only 5:48 of ice time before he left the game. 

-- Eric Fehr led the team in shots?  Am I reading that right?  Hey, at least he scored.

-- Possession Bizarro World… Caps had Corsi-for percentage at even strength overall of 50.9.  Their Fenwick-for was 41.0. 

-- This game got away from the Caps early.  How do we know this?  There were only 13 Fenwick events in 5-on-5 close score situations (and Columbus had eight of them).  Not much “close score” action there.

-- If Ovechkin had a bad game, what adjective can one conjure up for Marcus Johansson’s?  He was on ice for the last four Blue Jacket goals (he missed out on the shortie that started the evening).  No shots, no shot attempts, no hits, no takeaways, and he lost two of three draws.  If the meek shall inherit the earth, Johansson is emperor of the planet on that performance.

-- Which loops us back to the first line overall.  For the night, 11 shot attempts.  Ovechkin had ten of them.  Think too much offense is being stuffed into Ovechkin’s side of the ice?

-- Tom Wilson…7:14 of ice time, four hits, one fight, no points, no shots, one shot attempt.  Tell me, how has this young man grown as a hockey player this season?  Is he a more rounded player than he was on Opening Night?  Has he expressed parts of his game that we didn’t see in early October?  Or is it, hit, fight, get off the ice, repeat?

-- At least Joel Ward pulled into a tie for sixth in shorthanded goals this season (2).

But for the sheer mediocrity of the Metropolitan Division, you could start working on those pithy phrases to describe a season wasted.  But the Caps are still – improbably, amazingly, criminally – only two points out of a playoff spot.  But they have lost consecutive games to Columbus by a combined 10-3 margin.  They allowed a pair of goals in the first period of both games and were outscored by a 7-2 margin in the first two periods of the two games.  They haven’t been nail-biters.

And now it’s on to Detroit, a team having troubles of its own.  The Red Wings are 3-4-1 in their last eight games and, if the playoffs started today, would be sitting at home.  What is their problem?...

-- They can’t score (21st in scoring offense)
-- They don’t defend all that well (tied for 14th in scoring defense)
-- Their 5-on-5 play is mediocre (16th in the league with a 0.99 goals for/goals against ratio)
-- The power play isn’t powerful (22nd in the league)
-- They don’t play from ahead enough (only 20 times in 53 games have they led at the first intermission, only 19 times have they led after the second)
-- They finish poorly (54 third period goals, eighth most in the league)
-- They’re hurt (Stephen Weiss, Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, Jimmy Howard, and Henrik Zetterberg are injured in varying states).

If the Caps win both games against the Red Wings in this weekend's home-and-home, they can pass the Red Wings and put as many as three points between the teams.  If they lose them both, they could find themselves right at .500 in standings points and might feel the hot breath of the New York Islanders right behind them in the race for seventh…yes, seventh place in the division. 

Time to put on your big boy pants, guys.

Capitals 3 – Red Wings 2
Capitals 4 – Red Wings 3