Winning is about heart, not just legs. It's got to be in the right place.--Lance Armstrong
So have the Washington Capitals found a cure for losing? Losing games they should be winning, that is? I don't know if I can answer that, but they took a big step towards that goal last night. They looked like the Capitals of old from top to bottom. In good ways as well as bad.
When Jeff Halpern scored the first goal, he drove to the net. Hard. Sounds as if the Brooks Laich philosophy of scoring is taking hold.
Lots of guys were losing the puck when it was at their feet, especially in the defensive zone. Might want to rid yourselves of that habit, boys.
Yep, Erik Karlsson is absolutely no relation whatsoever to John Carlson. They're not even distant cousins or anything like that. Just thought you ought to know in case that wasn't cleared up at any time during last night's game or the game on Saturday night. Or at any other time at all. Nope, no relation. None. Got it?
The Senators first two responses were disturbing to say the least. Both times the goal scorers treated the Caps' zone coverage like their own personal pylons. Erik Condra (rhymes with Bondra) in particular made all five skaters look just plain silly. This is back to back games that this has happened. This potentially cost them the game. This....is simply unacceptable from a Dale Hunter-coached team.
Might as well get it out of the way--I'm sure the incident between Chris Neil and Alex Ovechkin was just a misunderstanding. You see, Alex just temporarily forgot how to poke check and.....
But in all seriousness the officiating was ca-ca last night. Just awful. Both refs missed calls and called things that should not have been. Was Neil pitchforked in the gut? No sense trying to avoid it--hell yes he was. Should Ovechkin have been called for that? Definitely. But I also have no doubt that Neil unnecessarily embellished the result after an obvious delayed reaction to the play. So at least they got that right. But don't get me started on the other calls, worst of all the second Joel Ward slashing penalty. Ticky-tack in my opinion. It would help if the Sens had sticks that also didn't conveniently break so easily. For the record the referees were Eric Furlatt and Dean Morton. Don't expect these two to be on the ice anytime after April. If you know what I mean.
How about Troy Brouwer with the Gordie Howe Hat trick? Kudos to him especially for going up against a Winchester and doing well. Not sure how he would have fared against an Uzi. I heard somewhere that he's the first Cap to get once since, wait for it, Jason Chimera two seasons ago. I'm trying to confirm this.
The Caps even managed to score a power play goal. Let me say that again--the Capitals scored a power play goal. It's nice to type a sentence that has "Caps" and "power play" and "goal" in it.
I heard Locker and Joe B as well as Alan May (wouldn't HE look great behind the Caps' bench as well?) after the game mention that the key to the Caps' offense was how quickly they were able to move the puck out of their zone. The blueline quartet of Dennis Wideman, John Carlson, Karl Alzner, and Dmitry Orlov is certainly getting it done. All except Alzner got at least one assist in the game, but don't feel too badly for King Karl. He finished a plus two and led everybody in TOI with 27:40 logged. The man is a stud.
But the Caps being the Caps they just HAD to make things exciting late in the game. Alexander Semin (who else??) took yet another hooking call. Six seconds later, BOOM, Ottawa came within one goal of tying it with over three minutes left. It was pretty scary up until John Carlson put it away with a seeing-eye shot from his own blueline into the empty net.
We talked about what Ovechkin did wrong, now here's what he did right. First and foremost shooting and lots of it. Lots of skating and a push to get to the net. There's a word in Russian that's pronounced Doo-sha:
Its meaning is a cross between "drive" and "soul" and make no mistake the Captain came loaded with both. The goal he scored was a masterpiece. He owned the ice from the moment he got the puck in the zone until it was in the back of the net. THAT is the Alex Ovechkin we all know and love (and most Canadians seem to hate). Well, I say let them. Because when Alex is getting boos, he's also in your head--believe it. He only got in one hit (not counting his imitation of Farmer Brown), but I'll take one hit plus seven shots and a goal any day.
This year's edition of the Washington Capitals has surely had its ups and downs. It's difficult to say whether or not they've finally conquered their rough patch with their new coach. But I do know this much--if the team that showed up for the third period of these past two games shows up consistently for the rest of the season, we may well see progress like we've never seen before. Most importantly we will be witness to a team that knows not the meaning of the word quit--a valuable asset to have come playoff time. They've found their legs and their heart, it's time to go the distance.