On December 29th the New York Times ran its "predictions" for the 2009 year in hockey. Today, Chuck Gormley did the same. Besides a number of striking similarities, both predictions have the Caps winning the Cup. What that mean?
To say Alex Ovechkin is the best player in the league these days is not only a legitimate claim, its a bit of an understatement, if that were possible. The guy has been on an absolute tear (21 goals and 21 assists in 27 games... jesus). He has overtaken Sidney Crosby and is currently second in points in the league. He has a GWG and a GTG in the last two games. His line is out there for every important shift, and they have not failed to deliver. His center is on the league leaderboard for assists. His right wing has four (pretty) goals in four games.
This team is rolling. They've won 7 of their last 8 games. They are currently tied for second in the Eastern Conference with the New York Rangers (who they beat twice) and are only behind the Boston Bruins (who they beat in their only meeting). Thankfully, the Philly game is looking like a bit of a hiccup. And the most amazing part? They're doing it without their best defenseman, (arguably) their best goalie, the best natural goal scorer in the game, and their most experienced player.
Think about when those guys get back for good.
Some random thoughts on the game:
Ovie can score in any way imaginable, and he showed it once again. He also was hitting everything that moved, made some sweet passes, and had a goal that got waved off that in my opinion would have still gone in even if Lalime hadn't been interfered with.
Backstrom seems finding some good chemistry with Kozlov.
Sloan got dangled pretty badly towards the end there. Can't let that happen.
Good to see Helmer get a star of the game.
Also good to see Juice shooting now. I may have been wrong about him... nah...
Theo was outstanding. The defense (and especially Boyd Gordon) let him down badly on the first one. The second one wasn't even on net, it just hit Maxim in the leg and deflected in.
Didn't notice Clark offensively but he was making his presence felt with physicality with a nice hit behind Lalime's net.
Ovechkin almost took Vanek's leg off on a slapshot on the power play. If that happens to our boy when he's put on the penalty kill (though I've seen a lot less of him on it), then we might be in trouble.
Toronto looms on Sunday, and hopefully the return of someone like Green will help this already confident team. I'd look for Theodore to get the start, but maybe Gabby's got something up his sleeve with a young stud goalie who's 2-0 in the bigs on his bench. We'll have to see.
Not the greatest game of the year, by any stretch of the imagination. The boys let two 2 goal leads slip away and could have easily lost a game that they should have won by three or four goals, considering how bad the Islanders are. Regardless, two points is two points, and an eight point lead in the division, as well as third place overall in the conference, and shooting up to number 3 in the SI power rankings, are all pretty sweet right about now.
Some random thoughts:
Have I mentioned that I love that Alex Ovechkin guy? AO is now closing in on Malkin and Crosby at the top of the leaderboards in points and is making a run at Vanek at the top of the leaderboards in goals.
Johnson wasn't his dominant self of the season thus far, but he made the saves when they counted and was let down on a couple of goals.
Does anyone else privately kind of hope that Theodore stays injured?
The Caps were money in the faceoff circle.
Green had the hit of the night: open ice, coming across the blue line, shoulder into chest. Remind anyone else of Scotty Stevens?
Alzner and Jurcina is quickly turning into the teams best D-man pairing defensively.
Did I just use Jurcina in that sentence? wow.
Our old friend Brendan Witt was -5.
Seems like goals like that just come naturally to Brooks Laich.
Collins was okay, but took two bad penalties that led the Isle back into the game.
Semin had an off game. But that behind the back pass was pretty.
With two assists, Backis is slowly crawling up the points chart. Think where he and Ovie would be right now without those slow starts.
And finally, Ovechkin's shot in OT was absolutely gorgeous.