Two games often don't tell us much. Two games is admittedly a relatively small sample size, one that doesn't paint the whole picture - but it can give us a glimpse of what's to come.
And through two games that's what we've gotten of Tomas Fleischmann over the past two nights. Just a glimpse, but a promising one, at his ability to possibly overcome what has been his biggest obstacle: untapped potential.
Flash's tenure with the Caps has been plagued by bouts of inconsistency, separated by, well, "flashes" of brilliance. He's changed linemates, gone up and down in ice time, worked on both the power play and penalty kill, and put up a near-twenty goal season. He's also received the consistent praise and unwavering loyalty of his coach - often despite a much more critical response from fans.
But after battling deep vein thrombosis this summer, spending most of the early fall skating by himself to avoid injury and shuffling up to Hershey for a brief conditioning stint (no, not this kind - a real one), Fleischmann finally rejoined his team Thursday night and took the ice alongside Chris Clark and Keith Aucoin for the Caps' tilt against the Thrashers.
Throughout the game he displayed those bursts of skill we've seen before, albeit with a bit of telltale rust mixed in. He threw three shots on net, with four others missing or being blocked, and he was even credited with a hit. Sure, the timing was a little off but the shot was there; the stride was tentative at times but the speed was there. And the hands...well, they probably never left. It was a return that by all accounts exceeded expectations, and it seems it was only the warm-up.
Last night, in just his second appearance of the season, Flash stepped out onto the ice and made a statement.
While the top line spent their time making overly cute plays and his team slogged through sloppy ice and an uneven performance, he marked his return to the Verizon Center with two goals in an all-around great performance. And while the two goals were nice, it was the total effort that cements this as one of his better nights as a Cap. It was both reminiscent of and yet nothing like the Flash of days gone by.
Fleischmann has pretty much always had a reputation of being easily pushed off the puck, less than willing to fight the battles along the walls or in front of the net. In other words, not the toughest of customers - but apparently a summer of having nothing to do but work on his strength was exactly what he needed to fix that.
Because in just under fourteen minutes of ice time he looked like anything but a pushover. He was strong on the puck and consistently crashed the net; both of his goals came from right in the paint, workmanlike efforts combined with a pair of ridiculously soft hands. He no longer bounced off of people when they hit him but held his ground - and the puck. And he won battles all over the ice, playing with a physical edge that had previously been missing from his game.
Of course, time will tell if the performance by Fleischmann against the Islanders was a sign of things to come or merely a one-time deal fueled merely by the adrenalin of returning to action. He could return to his old ways and have his two-goal showing and the physical, energetic play that accompanied it, become a mere footnote to what ultimately was a losing effort.
Or perhaps, with consistent (and more skilled) linemates, some more ice time and a few more games under his belt, Fleischmann could finally do what so many are unable to do - live up to his potential.