Monday, February 11, 2008

Well Wishes to Zed

The Panthers have set up a page for fans to post their get well wishes to Richard Zednik. Zednik, who suffered a skate injury on Sunday that left his carotid artery "hanging like a thread," is recovering and is expected to resume normal activity in 6-8 weeks. As for his return to the ice, that is not yet clear.

From the story on his recovery...

Attending surgeon Sonya Noor said there were no initial signs of brain damage, which is a fear whenever the coratid artery is clamped. She said clamps were in place for about 15 to 20 minutes during surgery, which she considers a short time.

"So far, he looks very good. He's awake, oriented," said Noor. "He remembers what happened last night."

Let the deals begin!...Hurricanes and Senators start the party. reports that the Ottawa Senators and the Carolina Hurricanes have made a deal. The particulars...

-- Ottawa receives
defenseman Mike Commodore and forward Cory Stillman

-- Carolina receives defenseman Joe Corvo and forward Patrick Eaves.

Ottawa gets perhaps the best player (Stillman, although he's only 3-4-7, -11 in 17 games in 2008), Carolina gets younger. So, from the Southeast race perspective...what's in it for Carolina?

Well first, let's look at it from Ottawa's point of view...both Commodore and Stillman are UFAs after this year, so you'd think Ottawa was going for a specific short-term remedy. Size on the blue line, additional offensive potential and veteran experience to give some relief to the top line of Heatley-Spezza-Alfredsson. Given that Ottawa is 5-8-0 in their last 13 games, a shake-up seemed to be in order, too. This would qualify.

For Carolina, this is a bit of a curious that suggests the future in mind, not the present. Eaves is a restricted free agent after this year; Corvo is signed through the 2009-2010 season. If nothing else, the Hurricanes get quicker (and a bit younger) in the short term. But on balance, we're wondering how this deal helps Carolina in the 2007-2008 race to the playoffs.

Given the Caps' success against the Senators this year, this might not be the worst of deals that could have taken place.

Oh, to be young and in a playoff race...

We’re in the last 25 games of the regular season, and for the first time since the 2002-2003 season, they are games that will matter to the Caps.

For this squad, though, it is uncharted territory. Only four players currently with the club dented the statistics of that last playoff season season for the Caps…Olaf Kolzig was, of course, the cornerstone netminder. Michael Nylander, who would leave for Boston and New York before returning this year, played in 71 games and was 17-39-56. The other two – Steve Eminger and Matt Pettinger – combined to play in 19 games. Eminger played in 17 games while spending most of the year in Kitchener in the OHL, and Pettinger played one game for the Caps, spending most of the year in Portland of the AHL.

These guys haven’t been to war together…at least not at this level.

We bring this up because with all the attention being paid to Alex Ovechkin lately, he’s likely to get even more as the focus of a Caps team that is a legitimate contender for a playoff spot. We’ve talked about his remarkable consistency before, and it merits some attention in terms of what might be expected as the Caps head into the home stretch. If one looks at the NHL season in terms of its prelude and its home stretch, the boundary of which is the trading deadline, then Ovechkin registered goals/assists/points-per-game in his first two years is as follows:


Before deadline (60 games): 0.70/0.62/1.32
After deadline (21 games): 0.48/0.81/1.29


Before deadline (63 games): 0.56/0.62/1.17
After deadline (19 games): 0.58/0.37/0.95

The points-per-game was rather consistent in the stretch of his rookie season (fewer goals, more assists). In his second season, there was a considerable dropoff in his assists and points-per-game, but the Caps were not a team of gifted finishers, either. Chris Clark benefited from skating on the opposite wing, but there wasn’t much to spare in terms of a center who could score, and the Caps defense was goal-challenged all year.

So what? Well, if folks are looking for a let down or Ovechkin hitting the wall, his brief history in the NHL suggests otherwise. He’s been scoring at precisely a goal-a-game pace since Thanksgiving (33-20-53 in 33 games). There is little to suggest that his 1.61 points-per-game pace since late November is an aberration.

Add that to a club that is following the script of having important cogs growing together (and winning a championship) in Hershey, then you’d have to think that as this precocious group of kids faces their first stretch run test, the game plan is unfolding as it was drawn up.