Saturday, March 17, 2007

After-Math -- Caps vs. Maple Leafs

Woo-hoo!!!.... TWO points, tonight!!!

And that’s how it’s done. If one were to tell The Peerless, “Alex Ovechkin will not register a point, and the Caps will score five goals, anyway,” The Peerless would have asked, “who the $#@& are you, Eklund?”

As it was, that’s just what happened in the Caps’ 5-1 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs. And, lordy, did the goals come from odd places. Alexandre Giroux scored his first NHL goal 1:46 in after Steve Eminger sent the puck to the end boards, where it popped straight back, hopping past the flailing stick of Toronto goalie, Andrew Raycroft (who had one of the more brutal games a goaltender can have..he couldn’t handle a puck cleanly tonight if you, well…handed it to him). Giroux celebrated in appropriate fashion. After all, it’s not as if goal scoring is foreign to him (he has 38 goals for Hershey this year), but it was his first goal of the NHL variety. Congratulations, kid.

The Caps had a familiar face notch the second goal – Alexander Semin stuffed in his own rebound after a nifty takeaway. After that . . . Boyd Gordon, Kris Beech, and Tomas Fleischmann. Along with Giroux, those four have a grand total of 26 career NHL goals, counting tonight. Semin has 34 this year. It is the kind of contribution from the “other guys” (meaning ones whose first names don’t rhyme with “Malexander” . . . ok, there’s Giroux, but you get my point) that has been lacking all year.

Some folks might wonder . . . why did Brooks Laich get a second star in this game? Well, look at the shift chart.

Boyd Gordon took a lot of draws against Mats Sundin, but the pesky Gordon gives away four inches and 30 pounds. It was Laich that served as the big body pounding on the big Leaf, and in the end took more draws than Gordon. Sundin shook loose for an assist on the Leafs’ lone goal, but other than that was largely neutralized. Laich also led the Caps in ice time on the penalty kill. There is more to getting a star than scoring goals.

There were a few odd numbers tonight . . .

- “zero”…the number of hits Darcy Tucker registered. What, he’s mellowing in his older years?

- “four”…that’s how many Caps registered fewer than 10 minutes ice time.

- “two”…Neither Brian Sutherby nor Mike Green took a shift in the third period.

- 15:34…the combined ice time of Toronto centers Jeff O’Neill and Yanic Perreault.

- “16”…that’s how many different skaters made their way to the penalty box tonight. What, were they serving beer over there?

- “two” (again)…the number of Toronto skaters finishing the night even . . . 16 were in the minus category (testimony to the ability of the Caps to spread the joy around tonight; only three Caps were even, the rest were in the plus category).

- “.971”…the save percentage for Olaf Kolzig tonight (34 saves on 35 shots). Amazing what a steadying influence a veteran goalie with a pedigree can have.

All in all, it was a quite satisfying game. It might be just one game in the slow march to the end of the year, but the guys looked like they were having fun. Hope they played the music really loud in the locker room.