Thursday, February 07, 2008

Tenuous Hold

A win in Philly always makes the morning sun a little brighter, and today is no exception. Save for a little stretch where the Caps seemed content to sit on a three-goal lead (have they learned nothing??), last night's game was a clinic in defensive positioning, pretty goals, and winning on the road.

It also was the first time in recent days that someone other than Ovechkin scored - and of course his goal turns out to be the game-winner. Not that we don't love when Ovie gets a goal but it almost seems a shame that he gets the GWG in a game where he was pretty well held in check. Brooks Laich's goal, aided by lousy Flyer defense, was just a beautiful backhand. Kozlov's goal was a wicked shot off an even more picturesque Fleischmann pass. Bradley's marker was earned by doing something they haven't been doing lately - simply going to the net and getting your body in the way.

Power play? Stunk. Penalty killing? Well, the Flyers have a pretty good PP and they scored with one of our best PKers in the box, so I'll let that one slide. Officiating?

...don't even get me started.

But that was a team win through and through. Guys were blocking shots, taking the body, and simply frustrating the high-flying Flyers offense to the point where it was just an ugly game - and that's what it needed to be.

Olie was very, very sharp - even on that disallowed goal he made a great toe save before getting unceremoniously shoved into the net (and no, it shouldn't have been a goal, read your rulebooks). Mike Green looked downright Mike Green-ish for a change. Schultz has improved immensely and no longer scares me when he has the puck. The Semin-Kozlov-Fleischmann line is looking very impressive. And Eric Fehr continues to make a believer out of all of us with a few more good chances.

Now on to the real story about this win. Anyone who follows Caps hockey and watched or read about last night's game knows what the win meant - two points that vaulted this team over Atlanta and Carolina into first place in the Southeast, third in the Conference. We all knew it. It was talked about ad nauseum by every media outlet that covers (or "covers") hockey.

...still, how many of you did what I did this morning and went right to the standings page, just to see it in black and white? It was one of those "pinch me, I must be dreaming moments" for me where I woke up and thought, what if it was all a dream? Could this team that was back in 30th place just two months ago really have clawed their way out of the cellar to take the division lead? Hard to believe...

Look, there we are! Believe it, baby. This is no dream.

However, there is one thing to remember, and Boudreau said it best in today's daily dialogue - we haven't done anything yet. For now, we are in first place in the Southeast. For now. As early as 9:30 tonight, when the final whistle blows in the Thrashers-Canucks game, that could change.

So we as fans can't sit back and just assume it's a done deal; the team certainly can't sit back and assume it's a done deal. There's a lot of hockey left to play down the stretch. To quote Lenny Kravitz, "baby, it ain't over 'til it's over"...

Here's what lies ahead:

- thirteen more division games, including seven straight to end the season

- a six-game road swing that includes the final two Central division opponents and four Southeast teams

- one final matchup with the Penguins back at the Phone Booth - with or without Crosby, Pittsburgh is always a team that provides a challenge for the Caps

- one more Rangers game, one more Islanders game, two more Devils games (woo) and three more against the Bruins

So enjoy it for now and hope for a wider margin as we continue down the stretch. We'll need the combined forces of fate, luck and skill to get this team past April 5th and I for one think it's possible.

For now, though, enjoy the view from the top - and I think I speak for all Caps fans when I say...go Canucks.


DMG said...

...still, how many of you did what I did this morning and went right to the standings page, just to see it in black and white?

I didn't even wait that long! I was reloading the TSN standings page within 20 minutes of the final buzzer to see it.

*Can you recommend any Hershey Bears blogs for me? I'm trying to read up on the impressions of some of the prospects.
*I agree that the Caps can't get complacent now, but given that theyve had one of the best records in the NHL with BB as boss and how weak the rest of the SE is, they should definetly be the favorites.
*Shameless plug!: swanky (fairly) new digs

Victor said...

Off-topic, but I hope you won't mind a BB quote from the WaPo chat:

South Riding, Va.: How do you pick players for the overtime shootout?

Bruce Boudreau: You have your standard go-to guys, but you might sneak in a guy who is having a hot game. Or if you go 10 or 12 rounds then some of the guys just jump on the ice and go.

(the gf emailed this to me, BTW)

Chris & Sarah said...

It's nice to be in playoff contention again. Now these guys can't just be happy with #1 in the division. Because of the log jam in the standings, we need to get more wins in the bag to make sure that if the Thrashers or the Canes make a last minute jump ahead, we can still get in finishing in 8th spot or higher. And the way these guys are going, it's not out of the realm of possibility.