If You Want Money, Go to the Bank

We all know it by heart at this point - that famous Brooks Laich quote from almost two years ago now: "If you want money, go to the bank. If you want bread, go to the bakery. If you want goals, go to the net."

That's the motto around which Laich has built his game (and most of his 16 goals this year); it's also the foundation for just about the entire career of offseason acquisition Mike Knuble. The idea is simple: with so many talented snipers in one lineup, the puck will eventually make its way to the net, which will inevitably lead to rebounds ripe for the picking. It's not new or pretty, but it works. 

What is new is the way in which it has worked itself deep into the Capitals' game plan...with just about everyone getting on board.

It's been a gradual change, something that's built up steadily over the course of the season, to the point where in the last two games - and with increasing regularity over the last month - we've seen a number of goals scored from right in the goalie's front yard. Which naturally on the scoresheet show up as slappers from the point, but that's another issue.

These goals are coming from Knuble and Laich and Eric Fehr, but they're also coming from less than usual suspects, guys with names like Alexander Semin, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Even Tomas Fleischmann is getting his shots on net from close range, rivaling only Knuble in average shooting distance. And it trickles down even further when guys like Shaone Morrisonn and Jeff Schultz are getting on the board for practically the first time since John Carlson was in diapers because of other guys going to the net and creating a screen.

It's a noticeable shift away from what used to be the gameplan, the "prettier is better" mentality that for too long mired the team in a series of over-passing, overly cutesy plays with little to show for it - and it can probably be traced back to two factors.

First, the importance of that Knuble signing can't be overemphasized. Not only has he added that missing puzzle piece to the top line, making them even scarier than before, but he's also clearly been an influence on the rest of the team. It's not just Knuble-esque players like Fehr and Laich that have benefited from watching a master at work, either, although the two of them are clearly learning from and adjusting their game to match his. Everyone is taking notes, to the point where Knuble is often not alone by the time he gets to the blue paint.

But second (and more important) is that the whole team seems to be buying into the idea that to win takes more than talent. It takes hard work, a willingness to sacrifice the body, an ability to accept punishment for reward. It requires never giving up on the play, following the puck until the whistle blows or the puck crosses the line - whichever comes first, and not a second before.

Last spring they saw their season end too soon partly because they simply had no answer for the net presence of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Everyone on that team, from the fourth-liners all the way up to Sidney Crosby, made a distinct effort to get in the goaltender's face and make life difficult. How many times did we see #87 planted in front of the goal...and how often did he cash in as a result? 

The Caps have seen what it takes to win, and now they're doing it. Every player to a man has bought in. It's not a coincidence that as a result the offense has become the most potent in the NHL. When you can combine the dirty, hard-working goals from in tight with the gorgeous goals oozing with skill, that's an attack that's hard to defend against. Just on this win streak alone, there have been almost as many of the former as the latter.

Ugly goals are becoming the norm around here - and as Caps fans, there is no more beautiful sight.

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