Two players skate onto a rink. Player A has 3 goals, 12 assists, 8 PIMs, 78 shots on goal and a minus-1 rating on the year. Player B has 5 goals, 10 assists, 8 PIMs, 32 shots on goal and an even rating on the year. They've each played 27 games, their first 27 for new teams. If Player A is considered a disappointment who is not yet living up to the expectations that come with his $2.5 million per year, what would you call the $3.4 million per year Dainius Zubrus, err, Player B?
What would Zubie do? Apparently not all that much.
Despite a lack of production from their big free agent acquisition, the Devils are appropriately on fire, winning eight straight games and racing towards the top of the Atlantic Division after a dreadful (for them) start. How are they doing it? Goaltending (of course), but also strong special teams and an offense that's been rejuvenated by the return to the lineup of now-captain Jamie Langenbrunner (11 points in ten games). During the winning streak, the Devs are out-scoring opponents by two goals per game (3.5 to 1.5), have connected on 23.5% of their power plays and have killed off 90% of opponents' extra man advantages.
And then there's Zach Parise and his 32 points. Indulge me this moment to cry over spilled milk and what nearly might have been, would you? Thanks. Let's take a quick look back at the middle of the first round of the 2003 Entry Draft:
Each of the guys flanking Eric Fehr has 126 career points. Fehr? Three. Ouch.
Speaking of injuries, the Caps will play tonight without Chris Clark, Boyd Gordon and now Michael Nylander. That's the team's top right wing, top defensive forward (and faceoff guy) and top center. Sweet. Oh, and the three goals Alex Ovechkin has scored in his career against the Devils is the fewest he has potted against any Eastern Conference opponent other than Montreal (against whom he has scored twice; AO also has just three against Pitt and Boston).
All that said, it's time for Alex Semin to start filling the net. Having most of this week off, number twenty-eight has had a chance to both shake off the rust and get healthy. No excuses. Step it up. And bring Viktor Kozlov with you.
Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
The organization's injury woes aren't limited to the NHL, as Chris Bourque is Hershey's latest injury (Josef Boumedienne, Dean Arsene and, of course, Fehr are already on the shelf), sidelined with "concussion-like symptoms." That's potentially worrisome for a guy who missed eight games in 2005-06 after suffering a concussion and being "unconscious for 45 seconds while he was carried off on a stretcher."... With the Caps likely to recall someone from Hershey today (could Ben Clymer return to D.C. or will the Motzko Motzko Man era resume?), the Bears have called up Owen Fussey (but hopefully not his acne) from ECHL Columbia.... The hockey world's most famous mullet will be in attendance for tonight's game.... Prior to tonight's game, the Devils will honor Scott Stevens' Hall of Fame induction. It's nice of them to wait until the Caps came to town to do so - or is it just being done now to rub it in our faces? Hmmm.... If you're dying to know what former Cap Yogi Svejkovsky's up to these days, click here....Finally, some Caps trivia: three players have scored 200 goals in a Caps jersey. The first two are easy (Peter Bondra and Mike Gartner). Name the third (hint #1: he scored his 200th for the Caps 14 years ago tonight; hint #2: it's not Svejkovsky). Click here for the answer.
Hart: Nik Antropov (3G, including the game-winner, 3 SOG, 4 hits, 2 blocked shots)
Ross: Anze Kopitar (4 points)
Norris: Tom Preissing (2G, including the game-winner A)
Vezina: Johan Holmqvist (W, 23 saves on 24 shots against)
Richard: Nik Antropov (3G)
Calder: Kyle Chipchura (G, 2 SOG, 62% faceoffs won)
Aiken: Jocelyn Thibault (L, 4 goals allowed on 14 shots against in just one period of work)