Noteworthy Thursday Stuff
Here are few noteworthy items to tide you over till Saturday when the Caps play next. Funny how at this time of year with things going better than they have in years, the non-game days drag on and and it seems like forever till the next tilt.
I’ll start with my No. 1 stunner for the day. Wake up this morning and look at the Caps’ individual stat sheet for the season, and what jumps out at you? How about this: with 14 games remaining to play, each of Washington’s top seven defensemen — the seven most frequently used defensemen — is a plus or even in the plus/minus column. As best as I can tell, the Caps have finished an entire season with that distinction only twice, in 1983-84 and 1984-85.Jeff Schultz leads the pack at plus-7.
Next, I mentioned last night that the Caps have allowed but nine goals in their last six games and 37 in their previous 16. The last time the Caps surrendered as few as nine goals in a six-game stretch was more than five years ago, from Jan. 30-Feb. 12, 2003.
Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Viktor Kozlov are each a plus-9 in the last four games. Milan Jurcina has been a plus or even player in 10 straight games and is plus-10 during that period.
Plenty of folks are talking about how the presence of Cristobal Huet in town has “pushed” Olie Kolzig to be better since then. Maybe those folks just got to town themselves? Kolzig is 13-5-3 in his last 21 starts and is now one win shy of 300 for his NHL career.Now, I know wins aren’t enough for some folks. They insist on having real purty GAA and save pct. numbers along with those big Ws. Okay then. Kolzig is 5-3-2 with a 2.20 goals against average and a .923 save pct. since the beginning of February. The only stinker in the bunch was a 6-3 loss at Carolina on Feb. 23. Four of those goals came on the power play, and four or five came on rebounds. Finally, Kolzig’s lengthy NHL history shows him to be a better performer after the All-Star break (111-96-31, 15 shutouts, a 2.56 GAA and a .909 save pct. in 252 games) then he is before the break (188-196-55, 20 shutouts, a 2.79 GAA and a .905 save pct. in 456 games). Most of us have seen this movie before.
As I mentioned in last night’s late night entry, the Caps are going to miss David Steckel. Today’s practice was an optional one, so it was hard to tell how Bruce Boudreau and staff might re-jigger the lines in Steckel’s absence. I’m reading between the lines (no pun intended) here, but here’s how I see the basis for Saturday’s lineup against Boston.
Obviously, the Ovechkin-Backstrom-Kozlov trio stays the same. Sounds to me like Tomas Fleischmann will be back in, probably on the left side of a unit with Sergei Fedorov and Alexander Semin. If that is indeed the case, we also know that the centers of the other two lines will be Boyd Gordon and Brooks Laich. Five wingers are available to complement the flanks of the Gordon and Laich lines: Matt Bradley, Donald Brashear, Matt Cooke, Eric Fehr and Quintin Laing.
I’m guessing Laing might work his way back in as one of those wingers, simply because his average of 2:47 per game in shorthanded ice time is third among the team’s forwards, behind only Gordon (4:04) and Steckel (3:46).
I’m not as obsessed with the combos as Tarik and some of you other folks, so I’ll leave any further tea-leaf reading up to you. And add the disclaimer that my hunches could be off, too.Uncategorized