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Week to Week, The Caps Can Become a Greater Team

Caps Nation must be crestfallen.  The official, and officially vague, news that Alex Ovechkin is week to week forces us all to contemplate life without Alex

Well, one Alex that is.  And that's hinting at one reason why, though the health and speedy recovery of the leader of the Washington Capitals is front of mind, this calamity presents an opportunity to be seized.  A moment to galvanize the rest of the group in the room.  Make no mistake, these are exciting times for the Caps.  They will grant us far greater insight into whether or not this 2009-10 team is Stanley Cup-worthy than any individual honors can.

Had Mike Knuble's and Quintin Laing's heroic efforts in the third period (putting aside the former's minor infraction) on Sunday vs. Columbus resulted in victory, I would have deemed that win the most significant to date in this campaign, and perhaps it would remain amongst the most significant victories by season's end.  We saw glimpses of comprehensive effort and desperate play.  A new clarity of vision.  There was no backstop in #8.

The Penguins, not so long ago, lost their leader in Sidney Crosby from, essentially, January 18, 2008 to March 27, 2008, a span of thirty-one games (he was, of course, in the lineup for three games between March 4th and March 9th, including the "Black and Gold" weekend that Caps fans will not soon forget).  The Pens forged an impressive 16-8-4 record during that stretch of the season. 

But what's most significant is that, before that high-ankle sprain forced Crosby out of the lineup, his team was a respectable 26-17-4 (earning an average of 1.19 standing points per game).  From January 19, 2008 to the end of the 2007-08 season, the Pens went 21-10-4 (an average of 1.31 standing points per game), surging to a #2 seeding in the Eastern Conference.

Further to the point, look at how the Pens' "secondary" scorers' production improved in the absence of #87:

2007-08 Scoring Through January 18, 2008

Player GP G A PTS
Petr Sykora
55 13 13 26
Ryan Malone 51 10 8 18
Jordan Staal 56 5 4 9
Maxime Talbot
38 7 4 11

2007-08 Scoring After January 18, 2008*

Player GP G A PTS
Sykora 26 15 22 37
Malone 26 17 16 33
Staal 26 7 8 15
Talbot 25 5 10 15

Regular season only.

So may this 2009-10 Caps supporting cast improve itself.

It's time for Alexander Semin to shoot first . . . and reclaim his own superstar status.

It's time for Tomas Fleischmann (perhaps on a top line?) to possibly crack the 20-goal per season pace, and beyond. 

It's time for Chris Clark to find some semblance of an offensive game again, working consistently with more offensively-gifted linemates.

It's time for the coaching staff, and the members of the power play squads, to invent new strategies of extra-man attack.

It's time for the organization to again test it's heralded offensive depth, including those waiting in Chocolate Town for just this moment.

It's time for the defense, currently sitting at 21st in the league in GA/G, to get a little tighter, a little meaner, its passes crisper, its checking more, well, finished.  Those top scoring lines won't as easily get that goal back.  Ditto for Messrs. Theodore and Varlamov.

It's time for a sixty-minute effort, and not a "fifty-one minute" one.

In short, it's time to get one step closer.