Friday, February 1, 2008

Scoring Lead Secured. Next: The Division

Whether it was motivation for revenge over that nasty little game in Montreal a couple of days ago or merely a desire to keep a great turnaround season going (still no consecutive regulation losses since Thanksgiving, as we all know), the Caps jumped all over the Canadiens from the start last night. It is well that they took a 1-0 lead in the first period (and killed a Montreal power play before doing so), because it was the only just result after the way Bruce’s boys took it to Canada’s darlings in the first ten minutes. A Montreal lead would have been the greatest injustice since Alex Ovechkin’s non-start in the All Star Game.

And how about that Alex Ovechkin? That guy’s super. Easily on a 60-goal pace now, and creeping up on 70. His performance last night was, like every other game of his in the past three weeks, completely unmarred by the dreaded Huge Contract Complacency (HCC). Like the equally dreaded Temporary New Coach High, which we often heard was the sole reason for the Caps December about-face, HCC is not going to happen with Alex. Such was the grandeur of his play last night that Tarik obviously couldn’t even sleep, having to blog at 12:42 AM about the Russian machine and his ever-increasing productivity. Looks like a scoring title is in the future.

The Hurricanes, meanwhile, continued to postpone their inevitable collapse in fending off the Maple Leafs in OT. No matter. As we’ve previously discussed, their non-first-place fate is sealed as they hurtle towards February 8 and a showdown at the Verizon Center. The fall of the Hurricanes is as unavoidable as the ultimate arrival in DC of trophies by the names of Jack Adams, Art Ross, Hart, Richard, and Calder. Pretty good haul for a team written off at 6-14 back in November. Pretty good for a team still struggling for complete acceptance in a league always eager to fawn over a select few teams and nobody else.

We keep hearing that the Capitals are starting to get attention across the league as legitimate contenders (and a nice little story). We don’t doubt that, and the jocking of the team by Barry Melrose a while back (Jack Adams for Bruce II; Calder consideration for Nicklas Backstrom; Norris consideration for Mike Green) was welcome (we like Barry in the studio hyping up the Caps, not behind the bench coaching them, as one of the rumors back in the dark days of November stated he might be), though we do wonder when some of those underestimating power rankings will pull the Caps out of the 20s and into the teens, with an ultimate Top 10 destination. We also await massive and multiple retractions/apologies from irksome stains such as MSNBC’s Bob Duff for their playoffs-are-not-worth-watching-without-Sidney attitudes. No Penguins = no star to showcase, Bob? How about the guy who is about to score 60 (perhaps 70?) goals, 110+ points, and does it all without a single dive? Is he still less important than Evgeni Malkin, “the most essential hockey player known to humanity?” Stop writing embarrassing columns. And change your name, so you don’t sully the good name our own Bobtimist Prime, not to mention the world’s finest brew.

Regardless of attention and respect across the US and Canada, it would seem this comeback team is catching on a little more at home. Mike Wise has his second recent column column on the Caps in today’s paper. I’m listening to a Junkies podcast right now and they’re talking about players on Edmonton and Anaheim, plus some specific details from recent Caps games. It’s been going on for at least three or four minutes. This from four guys who have voiced their disdain for hockey over the years and at times have outrightly refused to discuss the sport at all. It’s more hard evidence (along with little upticks in attendance) that local attention is slowly turning towards the hockey success story building here. Optimilitia members knew it all along, though, right?

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