Sunday, December 7, 2008

Charmed or Cursed?

Hockey Night in Canada featuring our Washington Capitals. Sweet. And the solid effort against the Maple Leafs was even sweeter, right?

Tell that to Eric Fehr. Is this team charmed because they're earning victories with such a decimated roster, or cursed because each game sacrifices another player?

Thankfully, the Washington Capitals have installed enough organizational continuity to be able to plug in players with little or no NHL experience and still find a way to succeed. It's one thing to say you use the same systems at both levels, but the evidence was on display against Toronto on Saturday night. I didn't see any sign of the "too cute" Caps the coach Boudreau gets so piqued with. Instead, I saw tenacious denial-of-space and positional focus in every zone on the ice.

Fortunately, Alex Ovechkin didn't spontaneously combust out of sheer frustration. Here's a guy who's become quite accustomed to having his hard work be rewarded with results. The only results he seemed to get on Saturday were near-misses and tiki-tack penalties. But the lasting memory for me was the play when he turned right into harm's way as pesky Ryan Hollweg lined him up for destruction, only to find that he was the one who got blew up. That's why I'll always contend that Ovechkin is unique in the NHL. Chris Clark should just go ahead and defer his captaincy to the obvious leader of the team.

Speaking of frustration... I'm always looking very closely at body language and demenor of atheletes. The TV cameras were pointed directly on Brooks Laich when they announced his goal was disallowed. Obviously I, as a fan, was disappointed by the decision but Brooks just replaced his mouthpiece and skated back into position. I thought it showed class and dignity and I applaud him for it.

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