Experiment

Talk to enough goal scorers, and you realize that a lot of them have catalogues of goals in their head. They can tell you who they beat, how they beat them, where the shot went, what the move was. The whole deal.

I got to wondering if it worked the other way, too, with goals against. Not so much with goaltenders, but with defensemen. And especially with defensemen who haven’t been scored on in a while.

Luckily, I had a few good specimens in the Caps locker room. First stop, John Erskine’s stall. 

Johnny, do you remember the last time you were on the ice for an even strength goal?

“I have no idea. I don’t really think about that. Part of my job is to be a stay-at-home defenseman and help keep the puck out.”

You can’t tell me if it was two games ago, six games ago, you don’t don’t remember anything about it?

Pause.

“Probably before I got hurt. Why, do you know?”

Yeah. I looked it up. Feb. 23 in Carolina. Eleven games played ago. Not bad at all, even though Erskine doesn’t log the ice time of a top four defenseman.

Steve Eminger’s stall is right next door. He comes off just after Erskine does.

Emmy, when’s the last time you were out for an even-strength goal against?

“Uh, that’s a tough one.”

Long pause.

“You gotta help me out here. You gotta go back. Florida, Tampa … I don’t know who I played before that, though. You’re giving me a stumper, because I missed the five [games] before those.”

When it’s been a while, are you conscious of that? Or when it has not been a while? I’m just trying to get a defenseman’s perspective here. 

“I usually know, though. I usually know. I can’t remember who I played against before that Tampa game, though. I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve been on for one for a while, though. Not to blank myself, but I think it’s been a while.”

Yeah, it has been. Seven games played, dating back to Feb. 16 in Tampa. (Once I told him, Eminger quickly spilled every intricate detail of the play, a third period goal by Vinny Prospal against the Lightning.)

I’m sure if I would have asked one of the other defensemen — one of the guys who have been out for an even-strength tally against more recently — they probably would have had a better memory of it. I thought it was interesting that Erskine didn’t seem interested in remembering, and that Eminger said he usually knew.

Sure, neither guy has played every game recently and neither guy logs top four ice time. But if Shaone Morrisonn and/or Jeff Schultz are unable to go on Friday, we’ll likely be seeing more of Erskine and Eminger than usual. Good to know they’ve been effective of late.

While we’re on the subject, it’s worth mentioning that the entire Washington defense (and the team’s goaltenders, of course) has allowed only 20 even-strength goals in its last 20 games, and one of those was an empty-netter. It’s no coincidence that the Caps are 15-4-1 during that span. 

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One Comment on “Experiment”

  1. Mike L Says:

    The team needed to tighten up in their own end, and while they’ve had some shaky periods (Chicago anyone?) they’ve had far more strong efforts.

    With Philly coming in, they need to play tough in the defensive end, but they can’t get let down if they give up a goal or even two in the games. Philly scores a lot of goals, and they also allow a lot of goals. Their goaltending has been ok lately (Biron has played well recently), but they have limited Stanley Cup experience (the only ice time Biron has seen in the playoffs was during warm-ups with the Sabres 2 years ago.)

    The Caps should be able to push the tempo against Philly, and try to get into high-scoring high-speed up-tempo series. If a game is going to become a “first to 10” affair, I like my chances with Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin, et. al.


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