If there's anyone in the hockey world who still questions who the best player in the NHL is, send 'em a tape of last night's game.
Five minutes into the second period, the Caps found themselves in a 4-0 hole on enemy ice and playing in front of a goalie in whom they seemingly had about as little confidence as he had in himself. At the risk of being overly dramatic, the Caps could have packed it in, blamed the injuries and hoped to get healthy over the Christmas break. But they didn't - because they have Bruce Boudreau behind the bench and Alex Ovechkin... everywhere.
Ovechkin potted a fluke goal more than half way through the game to cut the lead to 4-1, then had one of those shifts that teammates rally behind and opponents fear. At the time, it was mentioned in the Open Thread (definitely worth reading, by the way), that "the shift was great, but you kind of hate to waste one like that especially down three," to which I responded, "Setting an example is never a waste." And it wasn't:
Some thoughts on a true pre-Christmas miracle:
- Shaone Morrisonn scored the OT game-winner - his first goal since February - on his birthday. Unreal.
- It was easy to scapegoat Jose Theodore early, but Tomas Fleischmann's decision not to backcheck on the first goal, the forwards' inability to get out on the second goal and Ovechkin's poor backcheck (see? I criticize) on the second Ryan Callahan tally deserve blame as well. And down the stretch, JT60 came up large times. He gutted it out last night, and hopefully can take some away confidence from the game.
- Viktor Kozlov had a minus-4 rating through 25 minutes, but was Robin to AO's Batman in the comeback - a force with whom to be reckoned.
Nicklas Backstrom had three primary assists on the first three Caps tallies.
- The Rangers had been 59-for-65 (90.8%) on the penalty kill at MSG before allowing two power play tallies in 5:23 of the third period.
- Back to Ovechkin, along with his two goals and single assist, he 13 shots on goal (and another ten that didn't make it to the net), four hits (I'll take the over), two takeaways and no giveaways... all in just 22:02, nearly a minute under his season average.
- The D-pairing of Karl Alzner and Milan Jurcina struggled early (and often, really), combining for a minus-six rating and minus-21 Corsi Rating.
- You can see why Alex Giroux scores a lot of goals in the AHL - he cherry picks and had a wide array of not-ready-for-primetime moves that probably work on crappy minor league netminders.
- Andrew Gordon's NHL debut wasn't particularly noteworthy.
- I'm spent.
So the Caps get a couple of days off to heal, perhaps enjoy some time with family and friends, and savor a fantastic win... and remember how nice it is to have the best player in the world on their side.
Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
Craig Custance gives Gabby and AO their year-end due.... Stefan Della Rovere: "Difficult for opposing players to contain."... Sticking with Caps prospects at the WJCs, Dmitry Kugryshev, inspired by OFB, is now a blogger.... This is who you get today for not commenting on yesterday's Cap of the Day.... Patrick McNeill is playing well in Hershey (and gets a shout out in Bear Tracks).