Thursday, February 21, 2008
Your number for the day...
No, that's not the number of games played by Chris Chelios in his career -- that would actually be 1,604. But you'd be getting warm as to its significance.
That is the number of games of combined experience held by Chris Clark, Brian Pothier, and Michael Nylander. These three players -- all on the shelf at the moment -- might very well have played their last games of the season for the Caps.
That is a lot of talent, experience, and depth the Caps are deprived of when they could use it most, as the season heads into the last 20-game stretch.
Think of that number, and compare it to last night's lineup, one in which five of the 18 skaters have 100 or fewer games of experience under their belts. If you look at the top five scorers on the club and account for Viktor Kozlov's 810 games of experience, the other four average less than two full seasons of play among them. Alex Ovechkin is the "grizzled vet" of that bunch with 224 games played.
With all the success the Caps have enjoyed over the past three months, it is also a fact that this team is very green. While several of the kids -- Mike Green, David Steckel, Tomas Fleischmann, for example -- have gone through this at the AHL level, this is their first taste of a tight playoff race at this level. We've never had to go through it, but we're guessing it's not quite the same.
There isn't any substitute for experience but experience, and the kids are getting that "trial by fire" training in front of our eyes. It means that as a team, the Caps will have to turn things up a couple of notches over the next six weeks, but whether they are sucessful in the end in getting to the playoffs, they will be a better team for what they are going through right now.