Photo edit: Ian Oland
The Pre Game: We’re thankful for Puck Buddy Bunny and Dave E filling in for us on the pregamer for the Winnipeg Jets game a few days back. So, too, were RMNB readers, if the comments are to be believed (and really, has the Internet ever lied?) “I retract any critical statements I’ve made of Doug Johnson in the past,” commented one ‘CDizz.’ To which we say: ha ha! We’re betting you will soon be retracting that retraction, Mr. Dizz. We now return you to your regular, disappointing pregames.
It must be said, however that these last few games have been anything but disappointing for Caps fans. Sure, Wednesday’s result was closer than we like (in part due to a genuinely crummy officiating call against Mike Knuble’s third-period goal that made us throw things at the television) and we’re still only talking a ‘streak’ of two games. We always considered, and still do, any talk of streaks in either direction premature. A streak implies consistent success or failure of the team to execute; this past week or so proves that Coach Boudreau’s squad is not consistent, playing like jellyfish one game and superheros the next. Still, Sasha, Nicky, and Chimera were a gravy-boat of goodness against the Jets, as was the team overall, and we have reason to believe that may continue. Or hope. Reason to hope, maybe. To believe. Moving on…
The Puck Drop
We’re combining our two back-to-back game previews into one post, partly because our fingertips are still sore after a run-in with a cheese grater on Thursday, and partly because we’re just lazy, probably. So let’s go with what we know. We know that if we have to be playing two teams from the Empire State, at least we don’t have to travel up to Long Island, which, as previously established, is just ghastly. We know few were expecting much from the Rangers (10-5-3) this year, but they seem to be getting into a groove of late, leading to better performance than we would wish for the Blueshirts. We know the Sabres (12-8-1) are having less good fortune, but seem to have the winds in the sails following Wednesday’s punch-’em-up against the B’s. And we know that Sean Avery is still an awful excuse of a human being. That said, what else do we know?
What Makes Either of Them Hot
1: Jhonas Brothers. Together these teams have two Swede goaltenders we’re watching closely, but for different reasons. In the crease for the Rangers, again, is herring choker Henrik Lundqvist. What can you say about a guy who’s earned a .935 save percentage, other than that puts him in the top five in the NHL? It seems like this square-head has been playing for decades, and we’re not sure why, other than the irritating fact that he’s just consistently good and so far not nearly as susceptible to the sort of glass-groin injuries we also seem to be seeing more frequently. (Since when did goaltenders become thoroughbreds?) And for the Sabres is smiling meatball Jhonas Enroth (.930 Sv%). He’s a much fresher face (joining the Sabres in 2009-2010) on a much smaller frame: at 5’10” and 166 pounds, he’s practically Martin St. Louis-sized. We’ve seen champagne splits bigger than this guy. He’s not quite in Lutefisk’s class yet, and did lose the shoot-out on Wednesday. But he’s fast and quick and we think worth keeping an eye on. In fact, they both are.
And yes, we really did just refer to a Swede as a meatball. We’re exactly that smart.
2: He Who Shall Not Be Named. So there’s this prick playing for the Rangers lately. We thought we were rid of him for good this season, perhaps after laying down a couple applications of roach spray. But he’s back. Perhaps he has horcruxes littered around Bryant Park; we don’t know. His numbers (2G 0A 2P in 7 games) still stink, but they really don’t tell the story of the last four or five games. As distasteful as it is, the Caps have to take this pest seriously, and shut him down.
3: Meh. We’re already late on deadline for this, and finding it hard to shoehorn two teams into one sausage. So let’s just say that both these teams are top-level mid-tier teams – not bottom-dwellers but not exactly league leaders – and both are capable of biting. It really depends more on which Capitals squad shows up: the fleet-footed flashers of Wednesday or the slipper-shuffling surrender monkeys against the Maple Leafs. Oh, and Marian Gaborik (9 goals, 7 assists) is slumping a little bit, but he’s still a sweet slab of Slovak hockey who can get pucks on net, as can the Sabres’ Thomas Vanek, who now has scored his team-high 12th goal and sitting pretty with 25 points.
Thomas Vanek, whose suit boldly mixes patterns.
What Makes Either of them Not
1: Home Away: The Caps aren’t exactly proving to be a team of road warriors so far, but we’re going to get a little help where these next two games are happening. Today’s post-turkey tango at the Phone Booth couldn’t be coming at a better time, with the squad feeling energized (we assume) from Wednesday. We’re also 8-1-1 at home, and we like those figures. Saturday we hit the road, but frankly if we have to play a team in their barn, we would choose the Sabres. With a home record of 5-6-1, they don’t have so much home field advantage as they do handicap.
2: Day-to-Day Grows to Weeks. This isn’t on either New York team, but on us. When Mike Green went down from a bad hit to the leg a few weeks back, we were reassured it was nothing significant and a day-to-day thing. That was weeks ago, and Green is still not back on the ice. He’s not even at practices, which tells us this is much more serious than just day-to-day. Jay Beagle last played on October 13 when he ran into a brick fist called Arron Asham, who is called different things in the PuckBuddys household. Beagle’s concussion has kept him out for six straight weeks. Neither player at this point is expected back in the nearish future. We obviously hope foremost for their recuperation, but know that the entire team is struggling to adapt to their absence.
3: RallyBalloon! Do either of their teams have a mystical red rally balloon? A sentient latex being from beyond come to inspire the Caps to smote our enemies? A Rockin’ Red airborne vessel of all things C-A-P-S? I think not.
The OT Shootout: Several of the last Ranger’s games have been relatively high-scoring affairs (and I still think we have their number) whereas Buffalo has generally been able to keep things within one or two (witness the Caps/Sabres pre-season match-up.) Predictions: Caps 4, Rangers1; Sabres 2, Caps 3. Bet based on these numbers and you deserve to lose your money.
Craig and I are heading to the game Friday. We’re the two goofballs in Caps jerseys. Oh, I crack myself up. But look for us: one with red hair, the other salt-n-pepper, both happy to meet RMNB fans. Even if you hate our previews.