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Thursday Roundup/Leafs 3, Caps 2

Photo: Graig Abel
We're going to try our damnedest not to pile on. Really.

Eh, it's just not possible: if Britney wants custody of her children, she's going to need to learn how not to behave in front of a judge. We joke, of course, because if we didn't, thinking about the Olie Kolzig rebound that led to Mats Sundin's game-winning goal – with 29.2 seconds remaining in the game – would drive us to pull out our eye teeth.

Hyperbole aside, one wonders if the late game meltdown by Kolzig will lead to a loss of confidence not only by him and Bruce Boudreau, but by his teammates as well. (Interestingly, no players are quoted about the play in Tarik's WaPo story.) With Brent Johnson getting the start Thursday, and the upcoming 4-day All-Star break, Olie will be living with this game for at least a week.

Nearly as maddening as the rebound, was Alex Semin's play during the Leaf's rush. His defense was, well, indefensible. Is he really the player you want on the ice in the final minute of regulation in a tie game on the road?

Enough with the ugly. On to the good.
  • John Erskine had one of his best games of the season. He had great positioning, made smart decisions with the puck, and had two highlight reel checks (including an open ice hit on Darcy Tucker that knocked him flat on his tuchus). Erskine's play didn't go unnoticed: he logged over 21 minutes of ice time, well above his season average of 15.19.
  • The Caps were the more physical team from the start, outhitting the Leafs 20-12. With Jeff Schultz a healthy scratch, Steve Eminger made the most of his minutes with strong play along the boards. (Just ask Alexei Ponikarovsky, who left the game early in the 1st period after receiving an Eminger check into the dasher.) Tom Poti continued his chippy play of late. Good. Getting baited into a roughing minor by Dominic Moore? Not good.
  • Alex Semin's swimmer-like goal celebration in the 2nd period is the only kind of dive from him we can endorse.
  • Nicklas Backstrom is becoming quite saucy with his saucer passes. His 3d assist Monday night in Pittsburgh was pretty, for sure. Last night, during a 1st period power play, Backstrom made a cross ice pass to Mike Green that was a work of art: from circle to circle, through two defenseman, with one bounce and on to Green's tape for a quality shot on goal. (Somewhere Coach Bengt Gustafsson is smiling proudly. Backstrom's teammate from the '07 World Juniors team, Anton Stralman, had a gorgeous assist in the 1st period on the Chad Kilger goal.)
  • Speaking of Swedish things of beauty, Backstrom's hair is not one of them. We can admire and appreciate his fidelity towards his stylist back home in Gävle, but not the hårstrå. He's looking more like Chaka every day.
The Air Canada Centre was Nassau Mausoleum North last night; filled with resigned, despondent Leaf fans. (The first "Go, Leafs, Go!" chant wasn't heard until well into the 2nd period.) Game 1 of the second Cliff Fletcher era saw timely goaltending by Vesa Toskala and patient team defense. We'll see if the Leafs can maintain that defensive discipline tonight against a Caps team that has yet to lose back-to-back games under Boudreau.

Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:

More power rankings love for the Caps....Alain Vigneault is not a fan of the Beech. Washington Hershey is. Again....The DC DMA is watching the Caps on TV....An 8-4 barnburner last night at the CHL Top Prospects game....Army, Air Force players to be mic'd up and heard live by viewers. "Let's go boys!"