And The Award Goes To.....
The Golden Globe Awards were Sunday, but I am talking Caps hockey here. The 2008-2009 season has now passed its halfway mark. The Washington Capitals have achieved its best franchise start through 41 games (27-11-3-58). So if there were a mid-season award show for the Caps, this is how I would arrange it.
The Alexander Ov..er, Most Valuable Player: Alexander Ovechkin. I don’t think there is any surprise here. “Ovie” is second in the league in goals and third in points. There have been many games were he has taken this team on his back and carried them to victory.
Deserves a little more credit for his play Award (gets points and makes plays but does not receive attention for it): Nicklas Backstrom. He is one of the best passers in the league, as evidenced by his 33 assists overall and 22 points on the power play. He gets better and better as the season moves on. I would not be surprised to see at least 75 points for him come season's end. Sophomore slump, what’s that?
Most Dramatic player Award: This award is for the player who was talked about the most, not for his play but his words and actions. The obvious choice for the award is Alexander Semin. Alex committed the ultimate crime by insulting the NHL’s poster boy, Sidney Crosby. “ What’s so special about Crosby…” As if that was not enough, in a recent game against the Rangers, Semin unleashed a bongo solo on Marc Staal who had been hounding him all game long. He did not tie his sweater down so it got him kicked out of the game and he became the laughing stock of the team and the league.
Pleasantly Surprising Award: Tomas Fleischmann. Last season “Flash” was unimpressive scoring a measly 10 goals and 20 assists. I thought that he should have been traded. This year however, he has come out with a new number and new confidence. He already has 14 goals, which is a career high, and he does not look like he is going to stop there. It is looking like I will have to eat my own words about trading him by the end of the season.
Most disappointing (i.e., Player who should be traded): Michael Nylander. He came into this season completely healthy after missing 41 games last season with injury problems. In the 40 games he played last season, he had 11 goals and 26 assists. In 42 games this season, he has just 4 goals and 17 helpers. His play has been pretty sloppy this season and in the past few games he has made a couple of turnovers that have led to goals against the Caps. He just does not seem to fit here anymore and I 'm sad to see it.
MR. I DON’T KNOW Award: This is the award for most inconsistent player, the easiest choice of them all. Jose Theodore. His first game was a flop, as he gave up the first four goals of a 7-4 loss to Atlanta opening night and then was removed. He then won a couple and then he lost a couple and it repeated. Then he had a six-game win streak and I thought he turned the corner. Then he lost to Columbus and Edmonton, in which he gave up several he should not have.
I do not know what to think with him because he has some pretty amazing games, like the shutout against the Canadiens, or the game against the Flyers in DC. Then he goes and gives up garbage goals and takes a loss. He was really lucky that the Caps were able to overcome the four-goal deficit in New York because that would have been his third straight loss and second straight game of four goals against.
The Best Bear Award: Due to injuries, a total of 34 different players have suited up for the Caps so far this season. Eleven of those players have come from Washington’s AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears. Defenseman Karl Alzner has been extremely calm in his play and aside from a few mistakes has shown he can play in the NHL.
Goalie Simeon Varlamov played in just two games so far, but looked stunning in each game; the future is bright for the Caps in the goaltending department. Varlamov is aggressive in his playing style, I like to call him the Ovechkin of goalies.
Most Memorable Win(s): It is impossible to pick just one win that was the most memorable so far this season. Definitely at the top of the list would be the game on Dec. 23 in New York where they came back from being down 4-0.
The Oct. 25 against the Stars, a 6-5 overtime thriller, was a very exciting and fun game to watch. The 5-1 victories over the Hurricanes in Carolina and Vancouver in DC were memorable because they were both full 60 minutes of real Capitals hockey.
Most Forgetful Defeat(s): There are three major losses that stand out: the Nov.1 5-0 against the Buffalo Sabres, because it was a horrible performance for Jose Theodore.
The humbling 7-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks, which showed that the Caps may not quite be a Stanley Cup caliber team yet, but they did lose at least three players to injury during the game, and were already missing Mike Green and Semin.
Finally, the 7-1 loss to the Flyers in Philly Dec. 20. The thing that sticks out most about that game is the fact that the Caps had 25 shots on goal in the first period and were extremely dominating, ending up with 48 total shots (also. Donald Brashear pounded Riley Cote twice in the game).
Runner-ups : The 5-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings. Come on, it’s the Kings! The 5-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers. I had the displeasure of attending this game, and man were the Caps sloppy, making bad passes and turnovers. The Oil are really struggling on the penalty kill, and yet the Caps could not score. I was very ticked off after the game.
Most Memorable goal(s): I only have two, but there could be plenty of others. Eric Fehr scored against the Atlanta Thrashers Nov. 26 after some of the most amazing passing I have seen this season (I was actually at the game when it happened). It was perfect execution of the offensive triangle down the ice.
And we can not forget Ovechkin’s amazing goal against the Sabres in DC a month later. Alex took a little chip from Bryan Helmer and flew down the ice, moved inside-out of the Buffalo defenseman and put the puck five-hole on goalie Patrick Lalime while falling down.
Most Memorable Hit: This hit amazingly did not come from a Caps regular, it actually came from a Hershey call up by the name of Tyler Sloan in his very first NHL game. The hit came in the Caps only game against the Calgary Flames, back on October 21. Daymond Langkow was skating up the ice with the puck when Sloan drilled him in the open ice, quite a statement for somebody in his first game. It was a perfect, clean hit.
It has been an amazing first half, and a long time coming for me, after the years of fire sales and missing the playoffs. Now with every other DC team struggling, the Caps have quickly become DC’s best hope for a championship and have already sold out more games than all of last year. The next home games, against Boston and Detroit, are already sold out as well.
The fans this season have been important, as the Caps are 18-2-1 at home. It looks like they will continue to have the increased fan support for the rest of the season. The Capitals should be one of the teams to beat when playoff time rolls around. Could a Stanley Cup be in the future? Who knows, but it should be fun watching to find out.
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