Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Capitals over Wild, 4-1

Capitals 4, Wild 1
One of the worst fears a general manager has when he bring in new players at the trade deadline is that it's going to have an adverse effect of his team's chemistry. Well none of the Capitals new additions have arrived yet, but the team certainly seemed enthused as they came out and played one of their most focused and crisp games in recent memory, picking up a 4-1 behind a four point effort from Brooks Laich.

The addition of the several new players was not entirely without controversy however, as the issue of where the acquisition of Cristobal Huet puts current Capitals goalies Olaf Kolzig and Brent Johnson. Despite what Versus commentators Keith Jones and John Vanbiesbrouck seem to think, I doubt Olie is still the number one in Washington as I just can't see a team trading for a goalie who's tied for 11th in the league in save percentage and going to become a free agent with the intention of having him back up the goalie with the worst save percentage in the entire league (rank: 43rd).

I also doubt Jones' assessment that Kolzig would be a given a chance to show he's the number one and that Kolzig would step up his game under competition and pressure. Kolzig has had the chance to prove he's still a number one all season, and has even seen the bulk of the playing time although his save percentage has languished at or near the bottom of ranked goalie for much of the season. I doubt he will turn things around with the acquisition of Huet - if Kolzig were going to elevate his game at a crucial time, he most likely would have already done it as the team fights for a playoff spot. And again, despite what Jones seemed to think, I don't think Olie is going to get a ton more chances for what he has done for the team over the years. And that's not a problem

If Cal Ripken still wanted to play baseball, would the Orioles put him in the lineup every day based on his past achievements? If Darrell Green wanted to play football would the Redskins still send him out to cover the opposing teams number one receiver? If Peter Bondra still wanted to play in the NHL would the Capitals play him on the first line and ask him to quarterback the powerplay? Of course not. No matter how great a player is in their prime, their comes a point at which they're no longer good enough to be their team's go-to guy, or even to earn a place in the starting lineup. I believe Kolzig has reached that point and while the Capitals should still treat him with class, retire his number and offer him a front office job when he officially hangs them up, it doesn't make sense, nor is it fair to the fans or the other players, to put the team in a position where it's more likely to lose just to pay back one man for what he has done for the team. It makes sense to admire, respect and have sympathy for Olaf Kolzig as a man, but it should affect hockey personnel decision to a small degree. George McPhee knows this, and I'm willing to bet Bruce Boudreau does too.

DMG's 3 Stars
(1) Brooks Laich - 2 goals, 2 assists, +4
(2) Olaf Kolzig - 34 saves on 35 shots (.971 save percentage)
(3) Eric Fehr - 1 goal, +4


"I was shocked, because I didn't think it was broken, the goaltending here"

-Brent Johnson on the trade for Cristobal Huet. The Capitals are ranked 29th of 30 NHL teams in the save percentage this season.

Quick Hits

  • In addition to Laich and Fehr, Tomas Fleischmann was a +4.

  • What was with Vanbiesbrouck's weird obsession with trying to convince everyone that Alex Semin and Alex Ovechkin look a whole lot alike?

  • I'll never understand how the NHL keeps track of hits, because the scoresheet says the Caps only had 10 (led by Milan Jurcina's three).

  • The Capitals were very crisp, rebounds didn't seem to pose the same threat, there weren't a lot of good chances for the Wild right in the front of the Caps net...and John Erskine was a healthy scratch. Somehow I don't think this is a coincidence.

  • Each team had as many fighting penalties as all other penalties.

All photos AP/Getty by way of Yahoo!

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