Friday, October 02, 2009

Skinning a Cat

There are many ways to do it, and for our purposes, we’re thinking about scoring from in close. A lot of pixels have been devoted to the acquisition of Mike Knuble and his adding an ingredient the Caps have lacked – an ability to get to the net and score from in close. Knuble’s 6’3, 225 pound frame taking the shortest distance to get from whatever point he occupies on the ice to the point in front of the net to do the most damage is one way to do it.

But there is another, and it was on display last night. Brooks Laich, while a fellow of sturdy build, does not have Knuble’s wide-frame sort of frame and thus uses other means to achieve similar ends. Last night he displayed a knack for sort of appearing out of nowhere at one pipe or the other in scoring two power play goals (see this clip at about the 35 second mark and again at about the 1:45 mark)…

On his first goal, Laich lurked (say that five times fast) deep along the wing at goalie Tim Thomas’ right. When the puck swung around to the other side, Laich popped out to avail himself of a Nicklas Backstrom feed with no one around him, attention having swung to the other side of the ice.

The second goal was, perhaps, even more telling as a different way to skin a cat on the way to the net. After Alex Ovechkin fanned on a shot attempt from the left wing boards, he sent the puck to Laich below the goal line. The puck popped out to Alexander Semin, who tried to find Nicklas Backstrom cutting to the net. Backstrom failed to convert, but there was Laich – not using bulk or strength to position himself at the doorstep, but darting inside Andrew Ference at the post to Thomas' left, using quickness to gain leverage and inside position to put himself in place to swat the loose puck into the net from under Thomas.

The Caps have a couple of guys who might provide some needed in-close scoring, and they do it in quite different ways, another headache for opposing coaches, defensemen, and goalies.