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Monday, September 28, 2009

OGA SPR: The Washington Capitals – The Colonel

It's here - Season Preview Report #30 for the Washington Capitals. Not only does it bring the last of this season's previews, it signifies we are less than 48 hours from the first puck drop this year. And it signifies we are about to be back at what may be a battle for supremacy in the East...

Last Season versus the Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC): Called as Chasing Stanley – in the Playoffs – at Game 20 /19 November 2008. 2008/9 was their best season since the Lockout by a noticeable amount. At no time last year did this team’s PQC slip below The Curve. Their best stretch was Game 31 – 40 where they won nine out of 10 contests. Washington’s performance raises the bar high and means teams playing against them will not be taking them for granted at any time.

Post-Lockout average PQC and what to expect this season: Washington has averaged 4.26 against the PQC since the Stoppage and has secured a position in the first and second rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs over the last two years respectively. Their dramatic improvement since the arrival of Coach Bruce Boudreau is great reason for excitement for Caps fans. In measuring them against the post-Lockout PQC at this time, you have to look for common trends. Washington is usually in good shape and right around the PQC through Game 20. At about Game 40/The New Year mark, there tends to be a bit of a slump, but failing an implosion, this slump will be more like last season where Washington played right along The Curve. To determine if the Caps are going to see the post-season again this season, simply monitor their progress to see that it is somewhere close to last season. A minor slide will likely not cost them a season, but anything more than that would be reason for concern.

How will the Capitals fair in the 2009/10 season?

Team Play: ISSUE – Reloading… There is a not so quiet excitement building in Washington for the start of the new season. Optimism is evident at player, coach and management level, and in the fans who will attend the 41+ sold out games this season. Any frustrations at their Conference Semi-Finals departure last season are now replaced by thoughts of chalking it up to completing another step toward the ultimate goal of raising The Stanley Cup. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a hungry and capable squad.

The early Fox Sports depth chart for the Capitals indicates a No. 1 line of Ovechkin- Backstrom- Semin from left to right, and Laich- Morrison- Knuble on No. 2. We think it will actually be Ovechkin- Backstrom- Knuble No. 1 and Laich- Morrison- Semin as No. 2. The No. 1 pairing scored 7 G’s and 7 A’s in the pre-season, and No. 2 combined to chip in 3 G’s and 8 A’s. Fourteen and eleven points? In pre-season? We know – suspect matchups against a lot of guys trying to make it into the NHL. But any way you slice these two pairings, it serves as an indicator that they will put up some good numbers for this club. Of interest to Caps fans is the No. 3 and 4 lines. As of 28 September, Keith Aucoin and Alexandre Giroux were amongst the cuts, leaving Chris Bourque and Quintin Laing up with the squad for opening night. And there’s also the Nylander Factor – as in not factored into any pre-season games + statements of deep desire to play + a $4.875M cap hit might just = a depth roster slot, especially due to injuries.

The top two pairings listed on defense are Green-Jurcina and Poti-Pothier. Based on last season’s play, the top blue line pair projects at approximately 103 points playing a full 82-game schedule. That’s with the big IF Mike Green produces 70+ points again this season. This is better than several forward trios on 3rd and 4th lines. You can forget the dearth of scoring in the pre-season for the first pair (a lone A for Green) as they saw limited game time. Line No. 2 was good for 1 G and 4 A’s in September and should be able to be counted upon for about a point every other game. For those waiting with baited breath, Karl Alzner was again a victim of late training camp cuts on 28 September, but look for an injury call up if required.

One of the best camp battles this season was billed as Varlamov versus Theodore for the No. 1 netminder slot. Some would say Theodore might need a little time to ensure he is mentally ready to go after his loss in the off-season. I know such a loss would affect me personally. In Coach Boudreau’s 28 September weekly “Behind The Bench” column, he provides the answer, stating he will alternate both goalies pretty evenly until about Game 50. At that time, their play will tell him who they ride down the home stretch and into the playoffs. The only secret today is which goalie is the starter come Thursday night, 1 October at the Bruins.

Fantasy Value: Who does not want the entire No. 1 line of forwards on their Pool team? You will see Ovechkin go mostly at No.1 in any draft, but maybe as low as No. 3 if the Poolies are Penguins-centric. You also are likely to see Backstrom and Knuble go later in the draft than their output will seem to demand by season’s end – they are a steal in the 3rd and 4th rounds. Also, Alexander Semin should be on your team. He will get lots of PP time, especially if Ovechkin slides back to the blueline with the man advantage as he did a lot last season. Who does not want Mike Green as one of their defenders? He is going in the 1st or 2nd round of many drafts right now. Heck, he’s as good as any second round forward if he puts up the numbers he did last season, so why not? In net, we would take a bit of a calculated risk based on his poise in last season’ playoffs and tout Varlamov as your goaltender of choice here. This is a 40-win team, and he is going to get a lot of them, so do not overlook him for your pool.

Schedule Analysis: Almost 5700 more frequent flyer miles this season than last. For a primary analysis of the team’s overall 2009/10 regular season schedule, go to this link.

Next up tomorrow is the On Goal Analysis’ 2008/9 Report Card. Read just why you should subscribe to the Daily Tip In Report and visit this site often…

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