Monday, February 18, 2008

A Team Holding Steady, and an MVP Reconsidered

After a long weekend away Up North, including a return trip that featured a series of wrong/missed turns in northern New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania (curses forever on Allentown), I’m pleased to return home to find the Capitals holding steady. There they sit, still in a second-place tie with Atlanta and only two points behind destined-for-not-first-place Carolina. One game in hand over the former and now back to two in hand over the latter. Holding steady. Good stuff.

Also holding steady: Alex Ovechkin as the league’s leading scorer, still a full solid point ahead of New Savior of Hockey Evgeni Malkin, despite apparently playing the last two games with the flu.

Brief aside on Malkin: It’s hard to poo-poo his recent hot streak of 25 points in 13 games, but it’s not hard to suggest we should all give real consideration to revoking Sidney Crosby’s MVP award from last season. An assumed premise of awarding the Hart trophy is that the MVP makes his teammates better. It’s astoundingly clear given Malkin’s sans-Sid performances the last several weeks that Crosby’s presence and media-imposed “shadow” did nothing but severely impede the development of Malkin. Yes, Malkin won the Calder last season, but was that nothing more than the hockey media’s way of repenting to their deity Crosby for not granting him his birthright of the same award the previous season? Did they do this even perhaps knowing that their MVP god was holding back his supposed prodigy? Is this ranting perhaps being propelled by the delirium resulting from a rather frantic and stressful seven and a half hour drive down the East Coast? Probably. Nevertheless, the Canadian media should immediately begin penning articles to the effect that Evgeni Malkin should be signed by the Maple Leafs or Canadiens, because his talent clearly deserves a greater stage than will be provided in Pittsburgh once Sidney retunrs. End of no-longer-brief aside.

So where were we? Oh yes, Caps still very nearly on top, Ovechkin still on top. Even the seventh or eighth seed Plan B looks good, with scant points between the Capitals and those positions should this Southeast Division title miraculously not prove as imminent as we believe it to be.

Two final positive items of note: it seems that secondary scoring we’ve been hearing is so necessary picked it up a bit while Alex was bravely fighting through his flu bug. Newly extended Tomas Fleishmann picked up a couple goals, and Alex S. took a break from hooking and slashing to record a game-winner. All the while, Olie Kolzig continues his recent run of success. I’m truly sad to have missed his reportedly masterful mastering of the Lightning. Look: the GAA is now below 3 (2.99)! And look out Johan Holmqvist and Ray Emery: you’re about to be vaulted in terms of save percentage. Like the Caps as a whole, Kolzig is on the rise late in the season after a rough start. We see that save percentage settling nicely in the respectable area of .900, just as we see the team settling in the most respectable area of #3 seed.

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