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October Recap and Prediction Grading October 31, 2008

Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
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(A quick note before I start this: I started working on this Thursday evening, but got massively sidetracked. Rather than re-type the standings as of today, I’m going to let them stand, and proceed with the rest.–CS)

Tuesday night’s game against the Preds officially closes the books on October’s games, and now it’s time for me to take a look at my predictions. What did I get right? What did I get wrong? Did I miss something that would make me a better reader? You regulars know the drill, so here goes.

FIRST IMPRESSION. I said:

“This certainly isn’t gloom-and-doom by any stretch: the worst I can say here is that it just looks dispassionate and kind of flat. There’s nothing bad per se here, but there’s also not a lot of wonderful news here, either.”

AS OF THURSDAY: The Caps took home 5 wins, 3 losses, and an overtime heartbreaker against New Jersey. That’s eleven points out of a possible 18. Right now, that is good enough to lead the Southeast, but only by one point as I type this. Carolina has got 10 points out of a possible 16, so as of now, the Hurricanes have been doing better, in terms of point percentage, than the Caps. And if we were in any other division, right now, we’d be standing 8th in the East instead of 3rd. So while the Caps are leading the Southeast now, let’s not kid ourselves as we wrap up October: there are a couple of coulda-woulda-shoulda’s this month that we might wish we had back in April if Carolina keeps it close. We have to do better going forward. Here’s what all 15 teams in the East looked like, as of Thursday morning, with percentage of available points (Southeast teams in bold):

  1. New York Rangers, 19 points out of 24: 79.167%
  2. Buffalo Sabres, 14 points out of 18: 77.78%
  3. Washington Capitals, 11 points out of 18, 61.1%
  4. Montreal Canadiens, 13 points out of 16, 81.25%
  5. Boston Bruins, 13 points out of 20, 65.%
  6. New Jersey Devils, 12 points out of 18, 66.67%
  7. Pittsburgh Penguins, 12 points out of 20, 60.%
  8. Toronto Maple Leafs, 11 points out of 20, 55.%
  9. Carolina Hurricanes, 10 points out of 16, 62.5%
  10. Philadelphia Flyers, 9 points out of 18, 50.%
  11. Florida Panthers, 8 points out of 16, 50.%
  12. Tampa Bay Lightning, 7 points out of 16, 43.75%
  13. Ottawa Senators, 7 points out of 18, 38.89%
  14. Atlanta Thrashers, 6 points out of 18, 33.3%
  15. New York Islanders, 4 points out of 16, 25.%

Do the math, and you tell me if I’m wrong in extrapolating that if this continues all year, the Caps will be the 8 seed come playoff time.

Not a lot of wonderful news here, indeed.

BASIS: KNAVE OF PENTACLES. I said:

If this is a player, they’re very young: less than two years in the bigs, and possibly even in Hershey right now. Style of play is very physical. But my impression on this wasn’t of a person–it’s that this is the beginning (Knave, lowest court card) of a journey to richness.

Looks like Tyler Sloan slipped under my radar, too! In a way, his story really did parallel the Caps’ this month: perseverence, dedication, sticktoitiveness, and finally, a chance to shine. I’m getting some very beautiful impressions from the angels on this, and I wish I could describe what I’m getting. There’s a message here, and the following words are not my own:

The message here was one of sticking it out, following your calling, and never surrendering even in the face of adversity. Sloan could have hung up his skates long ago and never taken a shot at the NHL. He did not: he played, he stayed, and now he’s in the NHL. Likewise with the Capitals this month: it would be very easy to say that this was a less than ideal month, that the season can’t get much better, and so on. But as Sloan persevered, so also must the Capitals persevere. Sloan found redemption; the Capitals will, as well, if they continue on their path. Ignore the math, and just play. Not just skate and pass and shoot and score: play. Only by allowing to happen whatsoever will happen, can the team succeed. You can’t catch your shadow, but it stays right behind you if you walk away from it. All concerned with the Capitals–players, staff, and fans–should accept this journey, and stay with it, as Sloan did. For with perseverence comes success.

I’m not naming my source for that: they are requesting anonymity.

CROSSING: ACE OF CHALICES. I said:

So if the Basis is where you are, the Crossing represents the “feeling” of the road ahead. It’s not necessarily an outcome: there can be roads of success that end in ruin, and, for lack of a better way of putting it, hard and narrow ways that lead to salvation. So I think that this may be an emotional journey this month, but really, will anyone care about it?

It’s certainly been an up-and-down month, to be sure. And it has been pointed out elsewhere that this is the team’s best October since the Stanley Cup Finals team. Okay…so why isn’t that being seized on by Caps fans as a reason to look up, despite a decent performance? 5-3-1 is certainly better than 1-5-3, but discontent still remains. Now, these are my fellow Caps fans, where optimism seems to be a foreign concept, so some of that is to be expected. Still, I can’t help but wonder how much our negativity is influencing things on more subtle levels.

DISTANT PAST: 3 OF SWORDS REVERSED. I said:

Not quite sure what to make of this one, actually.

I offered two theories on this one: that last season’s heartbreak is now in the past, or that the heartbreak I predicted for this season has been avoided. I’m not going to know the answer to this one until this season is over, quite frankly. I could submit that the Caps haven’t been playing as well as they did in the playoffs last year, but I’d run right into the goaltending argument, so I’m going to leave that alone.

RECENT PAST: THE LOVERS. I said:

But the message here is, put that love behind you. Forget the preseason accolades, because they mean nothing now. That love is already past-tense: now it’s time to earn that love all over again.

Well, the bloom does seem to have fallen off a couple of roses, n’est ce pas? I want Alex Ovechkin back: that impostor who’s been wearing the #8 jersey this month isn’t fooling me.

Although, in all fairness to Alex, his grandfather’s health may have been on his mind for most of this month. That he had to go back to Russia tells me he probably knew about this long before he left. Being the family man that he is, he may have been focusing on family to the point where his game suffered a bit. And there are conflicting stories on when he will return: the boards were saying Thursday, by way of the Post, that he would be back Sunday. But Friday morning’s Examiner was quoting George McPhee as saying there’s no set return date. Um, which way is up? Paging M.C. Escher!

But back to the card at hand, some of the preseason favorites do seem to have cooled a bit. Ovechkin is one, Mike Green is arguably another, and I’m not quite sure what to make of Chris Clark at this point. This isn’t intended as criticism or fault-finding: these men have played better before, and I know they will again. I just pray that their better days get here soon.

GENERAL DIRECTION: 7 OF SWORDS. I said:

The 7 of Swords is a cautionary card. It basically says, Be careful in the face of opposition. You can win, but you have to win SMART. Don’t get too fancy (I’m talking to you, Alexander Semin) and try to pull off some dipsy-don’t that ends up costing you a goal at the other end. Don’t get cute: play smart, and you’ll do just fine. The overall “mood” of the 7 of Swords is one of indifference…

Wow, I think I need to call out a few more players when I do my November reading! Good grief, Semin had a TERRIFIC month, and he may go from “the other Alex” to “the next Alex” if he keeps this up all year. He’s leading the league in points, and in the top five in goals and (I almost didn’t believe this when I saw it) plus/minus. If he keeps this going all year, he might, theoretically, bring home the Hart, Pearson, Ross, Richard, and Selke. And if he behaves himself, he may not be too far from a Lady Byng while he’s at it. I know it’s only Halloween, but man oh MAN, did Sasha tear up the pea patch this month! Great going, Alex–now you need to keep it up and prove this month was no fluke.

As for indifference, and cute versus smart: I’ve still seen a few too many cases of “too many passes”, or “No, your OTHER teammate in the white sweater!” Our defense has shown that it can be among the best in the business (ten shots allowed vs. Vancouver, for instance). But there are times when poor Jose and Brent are under seige, and the defense doesn’t look quite as sharp. The defense needs to be a full sixty-minute effort, as we saw against Vancouver. The Caps can’t play many game like they did against Nashville–shutdown defense early, lackluster defense late–and expect to get very far. That’s actually VERY 7 of Swords-ish, so that was well-predicted, I think.

IMMEDIATE FUTURE: QUEEN OF PENTACLES. I said:

So we may end up winning more than we lose, but I’m still getting the impression that the emotion’s not quite there yet. In a way, that’s fine: you can’t exactly run on playoff-level emotions all year, or you’d be a basket case by Christmas. Still, the lack of emotional indicators worries me a bit.

OK, so we tore down the ‘Bulin Wall at the home opener. OK, so that division championship banner looks really pretty. OK, so we housed Roberto Luongo. OK, so we came all the way back from 3-0 to win 4-3 in regulation in Pittsburgh. OK, so we swiped an overtime win against Marty Turco. So why, at the Nashville game, did the Phone Booth feel so much less enthusiastic?

Yes, the two go-to crowd marshals–Goat and the Horn Guy–were silent. Yes, it was an interconference game. Yes, it was a Tuesday game. Yes, it’s October, not April. But that awe-inspiring sea of red-clad fans that, I swear, made the building shake last spring was MIA, and there were times the place almost felt like it was 2006 all over again. There are more fans in the building, certainly. And the emotional moments, when they do happen, are indeed much more emotional, true enough. But we fans still seem to need a cue to cheer.

I can’t speak for the emotional states of the players, but I think I can speak for the fans, and the emotion really doesn’t seem to be there yet.

QUERANT: 4 OF PENTACLES. I said:

Here again, the message is one of “don’t get cute.” With the 7 of Swords, that’s because getting cute could backfire. With the 4 of Pentacles, don’t get cute because there’s really no NEED to. Just play your game, and let the wins come.

I think I got that one right, and I offer two games for your consideration. Consider the Vancouver game: everything was going right, D was on lockdown, we had Luongo’s number, and we cruised, 5-1. That’s what the team is capable of when it plays the game it knows how to play. Now consider the game at Dallas the other night: too many mistakes, a defense that looked like Swiss cheese, and a veritable grand larceny of two points. If the Caps just play like they know how to, and walk away from their shadows, their lot should improve next month.

OUTSIDE INFLUENCES: THE WHEEL. I said:

This represents good luck coming from outside, so spin the wheel, roll the dice, take a chance. That does not mean get cute: it means to take that less-than-perfect shot, go for that impossible save, and maybe, just maybe, try for a shorty or two if you’re a man down.

Paging David Steckel! 🙂 The Caps certainly seem to have gotten lucky more than once this month: Dallas, for one, and Pittsburgh, for another. The losses didn’t seem to be the result of bad luck. I was watching the road games–yes, I was up past my bedtime for the West Coast swing–and the losses didn’t feel like “bad beats.”

Now, those of you who don’t play poker may ask, what’s a bad beat? If you’ve ever seen the movie “Rounders,” you might remember the hand early on where Mike McDermott (Matt Damon) is holding an Ace-Nine, flops nines full of aces, and loses when the other guy has the two case bullets and beats him with aces full. For you poker junkies, McDermott would have been a 99% favorite given that situation. The odds of his opponent holding pocket rockets at that point would have been over 1,000 to 1. THAT is a bad beat. Losing three stacks of high society like THAT, is a bad beat story you’ll remember long enough to tell your grandkids.

But that’s not how the Caps lost their four games this month. One was a horrible case of opening night jitters; two were 2-1 road setbacks that really could have gone either way; and the shootout loss to the Devils…well, they played Brodeur, ’nuff said? So they’ve gotten some lucky breaks in the wins, but the losses didn’t feel like the universe was out to get them. So that’s pretty much in line with this card’s message here.

HOPES AND FEARS: 2 OF PENTACLES REVERSED. I said:

Perhaps there are a couple of players who are worried about early injuries, which would be understandable. But I think the message here is, don’t be afraid of that: just go out there and play.

It always seems to come back to Ovechkin, doesn’t it? Something tells me his grandfather was heading downhill earlier this month, and it’s only in the past week that his condition got so bad that Alex had to return to Russia. That’s admittedly speculative. But unless it were a sudden, highly acute illness, or some kind of accident, it stands to reason that there would have been warning signs earlier on. And that may have contributed to Alex not being the AO that we’ve come to know and love these past few seasons. Just a guess.

And there have been a couple of injuries so far, but if you discount Brian Pothier–yeah, what elephant, I know–we haven’t suffered a season-questioning injury so far. Let’s hope and pray that continues.

OUTCOME: 3 OF WANDS REVERSED. I said:

You can’t win the Cup in October, guys. And chances are, you’re going to lose a game or two before the month is up. But don’t let that throw you. You do have it within you to win it all.

Well, you can argue that they certainly didn’t play like it was May, but other than that, we’ll just have to see if they DO win it all, won’t we? Jury’s out on this one–we’ll see what comes of it.

I’m going to do November’s predictions tomorrow–this has been enough of a project as it is, so I’m going to call it quits for now.

CAPITAL SPIRIT
SEE YA, OCTOBER

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