Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Salute to Bench, Bit, and Beyond Players

Even as DC Optimist’s fantasy football championship aspirations lay mortally broken in the wake of another typically underwhelming Rudi Johnson performance, there was reason to celebrate this morning. The Wizards and their ever-shrinking healthy roster continued their blistering run up the Eastern Conference standings (13-5 since those panic-stricken days of early November, with the wins being elusive and the let’s-overreact-and-fire-Eddie-Jordan sentiment gaining ground). The Capitals came out a night after a sometimes-stirring-yet-often-times-disturbing performance against Buffalo and responded to another of Bruce II’s public displays of disgust with a victory over the Lightning. The win was significant in that it finally allowed the team to shed the shackle of “Worst Team in the NHL”, leaving that distinction to the truly hapless (as opposed to our own team’s “accidentally and temporarily hapless” status) LA Kings. Thus the weeks-long climb from beyond obscurity and relevance has its first tangible result. Next stop: not-last in the Eastern Conference and Southeast Division, overtaking the no-longer-hot Thrashers and the seldom-if-ever-hot Panthers.

What do the recent Wizards and Caps have in common? Primary, secondary, and tertiary scoring. The now-familiar drastic injury situation has forced the Wizards’ collective hot shooting hands into such a situation. Ivan Carter’s article in the Post summed up the Wiz nicely in its opening line: “Lose a key player, win a basketball game.” Scoring was again all over the board, pushing Jordan further towards his inevitable Coach of the Year award. The game also, again, nicely contrasted them with a team who has had significantly less success in dealing with significant injuries.

The Caps won with names seldom seen in a game summary outside of the penalties or healthy scratches: Fleischmann, Steckel, Pothier. They also again fought back from being scored on first, a death knell if there ever was one earlier in the season. It was a great bounce-back from the debacle-ish game against Buffalo, played in front of a trio of Washington sports luminaries (Ryan Zimmerman, Mike Sellers, and Chris Cooley), as well as, unfortunately, more than a few Sabres fans.

It’s been a good DC sports weekend so far, a welcome contrast from some dark weekends of the recent past that saw all local teams go down in a two-or-three day period. With the recent trend towards less-prominent players leading our teams to victory, presumably tonight we will see the likes of Reche Caldwell, Todd Yoder, and Ladell Betts dancing in the Giants Stadium end zone tonight (not to mention the fact that it’s still Todd Collins looking to lead them to victory). So, onward with the successful weekend (even if I do lose that fantasy football affair).

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