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Thoughts on tonight’s game against the Canucks October 26, 2007

Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
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It’s going to be a netminder’s duel tonight, as Roberto Luongo will likely be minding the mesh against, I assume, the Caps’ Olie Kolzig.  Longtime Caps fans don’t need to be reminded that Luongo is no slouch.  If memory serves, he was between the pipes for the Sunshine City Kitties a couple of years ago, when we set a franchise record for shots fired in a loss.  And let’s not forget that quadruple-overtime win he got against the Stars in last year’s playoffs.  Two seasons ago, he got 35 wins for the Kittens–7 against us.  We avoided a season sweep only because the Panthers played their backup goalie one night.

I’m not going to write this one off as a certain loss.  But our offense has got to shoot, and shoot, and SHOOT that biscuit tonight.  I’d rather we take 60 good shots tonight than 20 perfect ones.  Meanwhile, Kolzig needs to give us the best he’s got, and then reach deep down to give us even more.  With the Sedins up front, and Luongo in back, fatalists might very well say that the Canucks could skate a blueline corps straight out of mites and probably still be in the game. 

That’s a little too pessimistic, I think.  The Canucks would need defensemen from at least the squirt level to compete.

But with the Canucks averaging 2.7 goals for per contest against 3.2 per against, and given their 4-6-0 record, they certainly are beatable.  We’re averaging 2.38 per for, 2.75 per against.  So their goals for and our goals against are right in line, leading me to expect that they’ll hang at least a 2-spot on us tonight.  I want to be wrong–I’d love Kolzig to backstop a shutout against Luongo–but I’m not expecting that given the Sedins.  Were we to lose 1-0 tonight, I’d at least consider that a moral victory.  I’ll assume the Canucks will get a certain 2, probably 3 goals tonight. 

The disconnect is their D against our O.  Since they’re giving up a lot more goals per than we’re scoring, something’s got to give.  Factor: We’re the Canucks’ fourth game in six nights; we’re playing our third game in seven nights.  Game fatigue favors the Caps.  Factor: the Canucks’ last three games have been on the road; we’re closing out a 4-game homestand.  Road fatigue favors the Caps.  Whether that will add up to more goals for the Caps remains to be seen, but I think we might get a few more chances tonight than we would had the Canucks been better-rested.

Here’s what the East looks like coming into tonight’s action, per standings posted on NHL.com:

OTT, 8-1-0, 16 pts
CAR, 6-1-3, 15 pts
PHI, 6-3-0, 12 pts
BOS, 6-3-0, 12 pts
TOR, 4-4-3, 11 pts
TBL, 5-3-0, 10 pts
NYI, 5-3-0, 10 pts
MON, 4-2-2, 10 pts
PIT, 5-4-0, 10 pts
WAS, 4-4-0, 8 pts
FLA, 4-5-0, 8 pts
NYR, 3-5-1, 7 pts
NJD, 3-5-1, 7 pts
BUF, 3-5-0, 6 pts
ATL, 2-8-0, 4 pts

Eastern teams in action tonight:
VAN at WSH
MON at CAR
BUF at FLA

Carolina is out of reach tonight.  Ideally, the Sabres will beat the Panthers to keep both teams comfortably behind us.  If we win, Buffalo-Florida won’t affect us either way.  Montreal, however, is interesting.  If they win, they stay ahead of us regardless; if they lose, they drop behind Pittsburgh.  If we win, we won’t pass the Pens, based on the third tie break, if I understand the rules correctly.  Here’s why: the tie breaks in play are games played, games won, and head-to-head.  We’d have the same 5-4-0 record as the Pens, so games played and games won are identical.  The third tie break is head-to-head.  Here’s the rule:

“3. The greater number of points earned in games between the tied clubs. If two clubs are tied, and have not played an equal number of home games against each other, points earned in the first game played in the city that had the extra game shall not be included. If more than two clubs are tied, the higher percentage of available points earned in games among those clubs, and not including any “odd” games, shall be used to determine the standing.”

We’ve only played one game against the Pens, and they won it, so they’re going to stay ahead of us.  So, if we win, and the Habs lose, we’ll pass the Habs, but that’s it.  So the best case, if we win, is 9th place; at worst, if we win, we stay put in 10.  If we lose, then the game to watch becomes Buffalo-Florida.  If the Sabres win, and we lose, we still stay put.  But if we lose, and the Cats win, we’ll drop down to the 11 spot.

You don’t have to tell me that it’s October, so this isn’t for a playoff berth right now.  Fair enough, but would you rather the Caps try to knocking on the door from the 9 spot…or have to claw back in from being three spots out?  There’s a whole different mind-set when you’re playing from the lead versus when you’re playing from the back of the pack.  Don’t tell me the Sens and Thrashers (as the East stands now) are mentally approaching their games the same way right now, because I’ll have a hard time believing that.

So, the 3-place question: Who’s going to do what tonight in the East?  My predictions:

Caps 3, Canucks 2
Hurricanes 4, Canadiens 2
Sabres 4, Panthers 3

As ever, I take my crow medium-well.

Are there any lessons of Spirit in tonight’s game?  Well, considering that Luongo seems to have had our number in previous seasons, I think it fitting to recall David and Goliath.  Take 6 did a great a capella song about David and Goliath back in, what was it, 1988?  The story should be familiar enough, but there’s a larger point here, as there is with most Scripture.  The lesson here is to be unafraid, no matter what kind of opposition you’re up against.  Goliath stood, if I recall Scripture correctly, six cubits and a span, which would have made him something like 9 feet tall and change.  Fearsome opponent!  But David had faith, and believed that with God, no battle was impossible.  Not even a one-on-one champion battle with an opponent to whom he was giving away several feet in height.  David believed, and he overcame impossible odds to win a battle.

Do the Capitals believe tonight?  Do we, their fans?

See you at the Phone Booth tonight, folks.

CAPITAL SPIRIT
NO OPPONENT TOO FEARSOME

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