If the NHL were prison, Cory Sarich would have to walk behind Alex Ovechkin, holding his turned-out pocket. So would Sean Burke. But it's not prison, and I'm not even really sure I know what that means. OK, I'm pretty sure I know what that means. Point being, El Ocho showed the whole hockey-loving world last night exactly what makes him the League's best and most valuable rookie when he repeatedly beat Sarich and other Lightning blueliners with his patent-pending burst-down-the-left-side-duck-the-right-shoulder-fend-off-defenseman- roof-the-puck move. Sure, he only scored once on it. With just over a minute left. To tie the game. That he won in the shootout. On national TV. But if that move didn't put even the most ardent Sid Crosby-backer on notice, nothing will (make sure to check it out in the Postgame Notebook video highlights).
But individuals don't win games, teams do, and for that reason it's important to recognize Brent Johnson's superior effort in goal and Andrew Cassels' two assists in the final 11 minutes after being largely invisible for the first 49. And, as a team, the penalty kill was great (4-for-4) and the power-play clicked as well (1-for-5). All in all, an excellent win.
The WaPo's recap is here, and, unless I'm mistaken, the online version of the WTimes doesn't contain a recap. It's a shame because I was (and still am) wondering two things: 1) why wasn't Ovechkin on the first power-play unit for most of the night? and 2) why didn't AO come out when he was announced as the game's first star (perhaps he was giving an interview?)?
In other news around the League:
- By now you've heard that the Ducks were able to rid themselves of Sergei Fedorov's contract, sending him to goal-starved C'bus for a couple of warm bodies. Here's the Toronto Star's analysis.
- Hart: Saku Koivu (2G, including OT game-winner with :04 left, A, +1)
- Ross: Saku Koivu (2G, A)
- Norris: Bryan McCabe (2G)
- Vezina: Martin Gerber (W, 35 saves on 36 shots against in Ottawa!)
- Richard: Fredrik Modin, Saku Koivu, Bryan McCabe (2G each)
- Calder: Alexander Ovechkin (Game-tying goal, game-winning shootout goal)
- Aiken: Martin Brodeur (L, 4 goals against on 24 Buffalo shots)
- Last night's game: Ding! Ding! Ding! I nailed the Kings-Preds game, and as a result get to reach into Bob Barker's pocket and pull out a crisp $100 bill. Ewww. Current record: 3-2.
- Tonight's game: A few interesting games out there tonight, including Vancouver in San Jose and the Battle of Pennsylvania, but we'll go with the Wings visiting the surging Flames in a matchup of division leaders. The Wings suffered their first road loss (7-1-0) last time out, and head into Calgary where the home team has a sparkling 8-1-1 record. Our prediction? Big money... big money... no whammy... stop! 4-2 Wings.
- Bonus pick: St. Louis at Columbus. This game stinks so bad it is crying out to be picked. Will St. Loo's 11-game winless streak continue against the only other team in the NHL that doesn't have at least twice as many points in the standings as they do? Yup. 3-1 Jax.