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Sunday Roundup/Caps 7, Sabres 4

[ Recap - Postgame Coverage]

I often not-so-secretly envy the Buffalo Sabres and the way they've built their current team - speed, depth, work ethic, etc. - and hope that the Caps are following that playbook during their rebuild. On some nights, that development looks better than others. Last night, it looked nearly picture perfect when measured against the team that is setting the pace in the Eastern Conference. A few points:
  • The Caps have chased the opponent's starting goalie in three-straight games now.
  • Ben Clymer's goal to regain the three-goal lead less than a minute after Buffalo had cut the lead to two late in the first was huge and kept the team's confidence high.
  • The Caps won 60% of the faceoffs in the game - obviously that's very good.
  • Secondary (and tertiary, etc.) scorers continue to step up (love me some Matt Pettinger) and the overall team depth was impressive. With Dainius Zubrus not dressing, Alex Ovechkin getting kicked out of the game early in the second period and losing Richard Zednik to injury during the second, it was great to see the team's depth hold up on and off the scoreboard.
  • It's nice to win a game when Olie Kolzig isn't at his best.
Now on to the "meat n' potatoes" of last night's discussion fodder. I understand that Sabres fans are emotional after watching their team have a touchdown hung on them by a team that is "the picture of mediocrity," but let's get some of the particulars out on the table regarding the controversial Ovechkin-on-Briere hit early in the second period:
  • Ovechkin is not a dirty player and has no history of being a dirty player (despite "Ovechkin is a 'gutless piece of shit'" claims flying around the Internets).
  • The hit was dirty and deserving of a five minute major and a game misconduct in my opinion (decide for yourself below). But Briere wasn't hurt (and indeed for some reason accepted some culpability for the situation, saying "at the same time, I've got to take part of the blame, too. You've got to protect yourself a little bit better than I did."), the Sabres scored on the PP (irrelevant, I know) and the Caps had to play the rest of the game without their best skater. To me, it sounds like a punishment that appropriately fit the crime.
I understand that Lindy Ruff and his crew have to fire up the mock outrage over the hit - and I would fully expect Glen Hanlon and the boys to react the same way if someone did the same thing to a Cap. But because of AO's lack of history here and because he didn't hit Briere nearly as hard as he could have (and both skaters were skating almost parallel to the boards rather than directly towards the boads), any suspension would seem pretty silly to me (what good does a suspension do - does it send a message to an otherwise squeaky-clean player that he needs to keep playing squeaky-clean hockey?). AO is, however, on notice now and needs to be smarter going forward. If he pulls a hit like that again, give him a couple of games off to think about it. But this isn't exactly Hunter-on-Turgeon. If you must give Alex a game or two, however, I won't be raising much hell about it - the League is undoubtedly and immeasurably better off without hits like that in it.

Daily Awards
  • Hart: Jeff Hamilton (3G, including game-tying goal with :34 left in the third and game-winner in OT, A, +3 in 4-3 win)
  • Ross: Jeff Hamilton (4 points)
  • Norris: Randy Jones (G, A, +1, 4 SOG, 2 blocked shots)
  • Vezina: Roberto Luongo (W, 40 saves on 41 shots against)
  • Richard: Jeff Hamilton (3G)
  • Calder: Fredrik Norrena* (21-save shutout win)
  • Aiken: Johan Holmqvist (L, 3 goals allowed on 7 shots against in just 8:06 of work en route to being yanked for the second straight game)
* Though technically not eligible for the Calder due to age, Norrena's performance was still worth noting, so consider it noted.