Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday Roundup/Gamenight: Caps @ Cats

[SeSo Open Thread]

With five games to go in the season, the Caps have 26 wins and 65 points, three wins and five points behind their totals from a season ago. Whether or not they can best last year's point total will be of great importance to some onlookers, but wins and losses alone don't tell you everything about a team's progression (or lack thereof). Of course, neither do raw stats and rankings, but here are a handful anyway that probably better reflect where this team is now versus where they were at the end of last season:
  • The power-play is up 2% to 16.7% (moving the Caps up four spots in the League rankings).
  • The penalty kill is up 1.3% to 80.2% (a jump of four spots as well).
  • Goals per game are up .14 to 2.94 (a nine-rank leap, up to 14th in the League).
  • Goals against per game are better by .24 to 3.42 (a two-place bump).
And while similar improvements next year would likely put the Caps in playoff contention, as we've all seen with our friends from Steeltown, sometimes young teams can make bigger-than-expected leaps. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Back to the here-and-now, while the Caps can perhaps still play the spoiler a bit in some of their five remaining games, fan attention is likely more focused on individual milestones, and none are bigger than these three:
  • Alex Ovechkin has 43 goals and 87 points. 45 and 90 are nice round numbers and should be no problem (and no, I'm not counting him out for 50 quite yet).
  • Alex Semin has 38 goals and 72 points. 40 and 75 would be huge and more than anyone could have realistically hoped for.
  • Chris Clark has 29 goals. Raise your hand if you thought he could be a 30-goal guy.

In a season with more than its fair share of disappointment in the nation's capital, a trio of 30-goal scorers would be an impressive highlight. How many other teams will have three 30-goal guys by season's end, you ask? Well, Buffalo has four. Already. Calgary has three already. Pittsburgh, Ottawa and Carolina are all on the verge of having a hat trick of 30-goal getters and that's it by my count. Not a bad bunch of teams to be lumped in with, is it? And only two other teams - Tampa and perhaps Atlanta - have a shot at a pair of 40-goal scorers.

There's one more "magic number" I'd like to see before the year ends, and that's 2.99 - as in Olie Kolzig's goals against average. Currently, Olie's GAA stands at 3.05. If he plays sixty minutes in four of the final five games and gives up nine goals, he'll end up at 2.994, certainly respectable and certainly doable. By contrast, if Brent Johnson played every minute of the last five games and didn't give up a single goal, his GAA would finish up at a relatively-bloated 3.20 (and that's neither terribly respectable nor is it doable).

But it all starts tonight, in Sunrise, against a Panthers team that has scored nearly at will against the Caps in the last four meetings, racking up 23 goals in those four wins. Hopefully the Caps can get back on track and finish up strong for themselves both as a team and as individuals with goals... and saves.

Daily Awards

  • Hart: Jarome Iginla (3G, +2, 4 SOG)
  • Ross: Teemu Selanne (4 points)
  • Norris: Chris Pronger (2G, A, +2, 7 SOG, 2 hits, 1 blocked shot)
  • Vezina: Chris Osgood (W, 1 goal allowed on 25 shots against in 2-1 win at Nashville)
  • Richard: Jarome Iginla (3G)
  • Calder: Phil Kessel (G, A, +2, 2 SOG)
  • Aiken: Niklas Backstrom (2 goals allowed on 2 shots against in just 1:20 of work)


Jody said...

Welcome back, JP. Great stuff, as always.


1) Guess it depends if you're a glass half full or empty kind of person. Some may say this team added a 40 goal scorer yet is poised to finish poorer than last year.
2) However if this season is looked upon as another bulding block to get to the next level there were plenty of positives to be hopeful about.

JP said...

But if the power play, penalty kill, goals for and goals against are all better both in raw numbers and relative to the rest of the League, the team isn't poised to finish "poorer than last year," regardless of wins and losses. That's my point.

Anonymous said...

the fact of the matter though jp, is that it does come down to points, bottom line. Even hanlon feels that way, which is why he was targeting a specific point total to get into the playoffs from the beginning of the year. A win's a win, a loss is a loss, and a point is a point, and the fact that they probably are going to end up with less points than last year is a terrible thing in terms of progress. Whats even more concerning is the fact that they are ending the season(whole second half included) on a major downer, which doesnt bode well for next year at all. With that said, i reserve judgement on next years team until july 1 at 12:05am


1) If 'specialty teams' were the measuring stick teams used, then Montreal should be elated with their performance this season.
2) Bottom line is that what 'anonymous' says is true, success/failure comes down to Wins/losses. Parsing through other stats is fine to find where you need to improve, etc, but winning is always the true gauge.

JP said...

Goals for and against aren't specialty teams, Faux. And simply looking at wins and losses for a team at this stage of their rebuild paints an incomplete picture - a bounce here, a post there and you have a three or four game swing. If the team had kept Zubrus or if Olie hadn't gone down for a few weeks, the team would probably already have surpassed last year's point total.

In other words, don't be a slave to the point totals - look deeper. Wins and losses matter a lot more in the next stage of the rebuild than they did this year, though I agree that they mattered more this year than last.

At the end of the day, this year was about seeing progress, both in individual players and in the team as a whole. Some players progressed. Others didn't. And the team got better in nearly all areas... except in wins and losses. Does that matter? Of course. But it's not the only thing that matters. That's all I'm saying.


1) We don't disagree with you JP, as our initial post this morning alluded to, during a rebuild you have to look at what was accomplished overall toward long term improvement
2) That said, the team was sagging even BEFORE Zubie was dealt and Ollie was injured. If a season turning point could be determined we'd say it was the home loss to the Pens when the caps blew a 4 goal lead and lost in a shoot out.
3) Both teams had similar records going into that game, and have gone in opposite directions since then

cd said...

Why is faux writing like the Queen? Does he have a mouse in his pocket?

Tyler said...

Uh, actually I thought Clarkie would be a 30-goal guy. He has (dramatically) underappreciated speed and quickness.

But because there are 4,298 Fauxes I'm guessing that at least 12 of them saw Clark's 30-goal season coming. You know: kind of like a million monkeys in a room for a thousand years typing out the complete works of Shakespeare and all.

Anonymous said...

you think AO will get 50 goals? what a joke of a blog. at least be serious.

if i had 1 billion dollars i would bet you 1 billion dollars that he will not get 50 goals.

i would have bet that 15 games ago.

JP said...

Best... comment... ever.

Anonymous said...

the most concerning part of all of this, which i alluded to earlier but no has yet to touch on it, is the fact that last years team finished strong and had a lot of confidence moving forward to the next season. They believed in the rebuild and that they were on the right track. the exact opposite is happening this season and i believe that many players as well as fans are starting to doubt themselves, the team and the rebuild. There is no positive energy to feed off of heading into the offseason, and ovechkin's display on the trash can and his ipod is frightening proof that things are getting worse by the day.

JP said...

I don't disagree, but think that whether they were winning now or not, the front office would have to produce big-time in the offseason either way.

Whereas last year finishing strong likely bouyed the team's spirit enough to get them through the first half of this year without having added any big names last offseason, even if the team had won a bunch of games down the stretch this year, if they didn't bring in some new, top-notch talent in the offseason, it would have been ugly. Now, the pressure's on all the more.

Obviously you'd feel better about a team that could win and just needed to add a few pieces than a team that can't win and needed to add a few pieces, but a couple of big name free agents and I'm sure everyone - from AO on down - will have a new lease on life come next season.

Anonymous said...

"a coule of big name free agents" would be very nice, im just not sure how "big" and how extremely not "free" they are gonna be. It still seems to me that ted is more worried about losing a couple bucks than he is about doing whats necessary to win, why else would he feel it necessary to burden the fans with the fact that he is and will be in the red. Are we supposed to feel sorry for him? I guess we'll see, ill be praying(mostly that ovechkin isnt as bitter and resentful at the start of the season as he is now. hes at his best when hes having fun and hes obviously not having any).