by Justin Mayo
Now, I know this may be a little premature, and the Caps are not playing at the highest level right now, but the Great Eight is back. Mark it. After missing one game with an apparent lower body injury he picked up at the end of that laugher in Carolina, Ovechkin has four points in three games including a huge game winning goal last night, in overtime, at home, against a feisty Islanders squad led by a stout goaltending effort by Evgeni Nabokov.
After finding themselves down a pair of goals late in the third last night, it was Troy Brouwer who (finally) stepped up to put away two goals for the home team to push the game into overtime. Then the real magic happened.
Ovi circles in the defensive zone as he picks up the puck. Ovi powers down the left wing. Two defenders. One Ovechkin. The crowd surges and rises in unison. That crescendo of noise we were so used to hearing when Ovechkin carried the puck up ice returns to form. It's like a wave. Using the defender as a screen (I like), instead of that bullshit curl and drag, he lets go with a wrist shot that beats Nabakov five hole. Verizon erupts.
Just a good, hard wrist shot. Nothing fancy. Pure power. This is the Ovechkin of old. Yes, it is only one game, but he is showing signs of returning to form. Yes, he is still taking chances, foregoing some defensive responsibility in favor of an extra step up ice, but that is also who he is. A true goal scorer. He is not Sidney Crosby. With all do respect, he is a Russian assassin, not some fucking no talent ass clown Canuck (what, I said with all do respect).
It took the Caps 56 minutes and 31 seconds to solve Nabakov after outshooting (I like) the Islanders 34-24 including a 13 to three advantage in a first period where the Caps found themselves down a goal. One of the staples of this Caps team was they always outshot their opponents. Not this year. They've struggled to get to 30 shots on goal when, in seasons past, they would routinely eclipse the 40 shot barrier. They currently rank 23rd in the league with 28.0 shots per game. That's not good enough. Too compare, over the last three seasons the Caps have averaged 32.5 shots per game finishing in the top three in 08-09 and 09-10 respectively. Last year they fell off a bit, and ranked 12th with a still respectable 31.3 shots per game. Part of the current seasons shooting woes has to be attributed to the absence of Backstrom and Green, but getting shots on net has to be a priority.
The Caps probably need a miracle to make a Stanley Cup run this year, but at least he has a name. It's Nicklas Backstrom.
You might be saying, the Caps aren't even a lock to make the playoffs and you're talking about The Cup? Yes, this team is capable of making a run if they get hot. Anyone can win in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. See Philadelphia Flyers, 2009-2010 NHL season. They needed 81 games, three periods of regulation, an overtime and a shootout to overcome the Rangers and clinch the playoffs on the last day of the regular season. They lost in game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals to a Chicago Blackhawks team who steamrolled through the regular season and playoffs that year to win it all. With 19 games remaining, the Caps currently sit in 8th place and have some big games left on the schedule against playoff caliber teams including a five game road trip in mid March which includes games against Chicago and Detroit on back to back nights. Sufficed to say, they have plenty of opportunities to get hot.
Ovi looks to be returning to the old Alex at just the right time. Mike Green is back in the lineup, getting his legs under him and helping the power play out. Yea, they went 0-4 last night on the power play, but it looks better with Green out there. That's a fact. He'll get his goals and the power play will come around. Goaltending is an issue, as always seems to be the case for this Caps team entering the playoffs. Who do they start? You have to pick one and hope they get hot. Vokoun seems like the most logical choice, but he is so inconsistent. Who knows. Nevertheless, the ONLY way this team makes a run in the playoffs is if a healthy Nicky Backstrom is back on the ice. Period.
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