Folks, desperate times call for desperate measures, and The Peerless is calling on his kin to lend a hand in finding a silver lining in this big honkin’ cloud that has settled over the Capitals. So with that, we’ve invited my two cousins, Fearless Prognosticator and Cheerless Prognosticator to sit in and lend their able skills to the proceedings…
(not a family portrait...but close)
Fearless, Cheerless…glad you could make it.
Fearless Prognosticator: “Glad to come to a cousin in need…”
Cheerless Prognosticator: “Oh, what for…I could be sleeping, and besides, it’s raining out.”
Well, I see Uncle Beerless (he’s a teetotaler) named you guys right. So, the Caps are sitting at 5-9-0 and head into Atlanta tonight to play the Thrashers. What do you guys know about them?
CP: “I know they’ve got a better record than the Caps…”
FP: “Now, Cheerless, you know they don’t…they have the same record.”
CP: “Well, it just seems like they’re better…at least they’re .500 in their last ten games (5-5-0).”
Guys, could we?...what accounts for this “mini-resurgence” on the part of the Thrashers?
FP: “Ilya Kovalchuk…he’s 11-7-18 in those ten games, and he was ‘first star of the week’ in the NHL last week.”
CP: “Yeah, but he’s only ‘even’ in those games.”
Well, he’s not out there to be a shutdown forward. He’s also got that 17-20-37 in 31 career games against the Caps…and +14.
CP: “…yeah, and he’s -75 against the rest of the league combined for his career.”
Boy, you’re just a font of negative statistics for everyone this morning, aren’t you?
CP: “Hey, that’s why Daddy named me, ‘Cheerless,’ big shot.”
So, who else do we watch for tonight?
FP: “Well, Eric Perrin is 3-5-8 over his last eight games after being held scoreless in his first six this year, and Marian Hossa is 21-23-44 in 39 career games against the Caps.”
CP: “Yeah, well, with the way the Caps are going, that AHL-wonder they’ve got will probably get a hat trick.”
You mean, Darren Haydar, Cheerless?...Yeah, he’s had quite a time in the minors – an even 100 goals over his last three seasons down there. He’s got exactly one NHL goal in his career.
CP: “Yeah, maybe he should be named, ‘Darren Fleischmann.’”
Hey!...OK, so Kari Lehtonen has the dreaded “groin injury”…who gets the nod if he can’t go?
FP: “Yeah, Johan Hedberg would seem to be the pick. He doesn’t have outstanding numbers against the Caps in his career – 2.84 GAA and a .904 save percentage – but he wins…5-2-2 lifetime.”
What about the team as a whole…the Thrashers are on a bit of a run, aren’t they?
FP: “You bet…since that 0-6-0 start, they’re 5-3, including a couple of shootout wins. And, after scoring only nine goals in those six games to start the year, they have 26 in their last eight.”
CP: “That’d be a month’s worth for the Caps right now.”
Geez, Cheerless, you are in fine form this morning…
FP: “Daddy says there’s nothing wrong with him that a good dose of fiber won’t cure.”
Uh…let’s wait ‘til later on that one, OK? What about their defense?
FP: “If the Caps can’t score on this bunch, they might as well mail in the rest of the season…4.07 goals-against per game. That’s dead last in the league, and they’ve given up five or more goals five times. They’ve only held opponents under three goals twice.”
Has that improved with the change in coaches?
FP: “A little…they’ve given up 30 goals in their last eight games. But they still struggle in their own end of the ice.”
That bad, eh?
FP: "And it’s not like it matters if they’re at even strength or killing penalties…27th in 5-on5 efficiency, 30th in penalty killing. It’s no surprise that they’re 29th in shots allowed…it’s a shooting gallery against the Thrasher goaltenders…like I said, if the Caps can’t score against this bunch…”
I think I see your point…so, who wins tonight?
FP: "Well, the Caps are desperate…it’s about time they started playing like it. And this is the team to do it against. It’ll be close, since the Thrashers have found their legs in the offensive end, too. The key might be Brent Johnson…he’s 7-2-0-1, 2.36, .916 in ten career games against Atlanta. If he can keep the Caps in it early and let the boys get some confidence, it’ll be a successful night."
Well, I’d have to agree…tonight the Caps avoid becoming the second team to ten losses this season, letting the Thrashers claim that dubious honor…