Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Man In The Middle

After colliding with the mountainous Zdeno Chara with around 11 minutes to go in last night's loss to Boston, Dainius Zubrus left the game and did not return. The Caps certainly could have used the Lithuanian pivot, especially in the four-on-four overtime period, but, more importantly, a healthy Zubrus is absolutely critical for the Caps in order to keep building on their early-season momentum.

In fact, the argument could be made that, to date, Zubrus has been the Caps' Most Valuable Player.

Olie Kolzig? While he'd probably get my vote, Brent Johnson has proven he's a capable back-up and in fact has a better Goals Against Average and a better Save Percentage than does Kolzig.

Alexander Ovechkin? Sure, he's got more points, game-winning goals, etc., than Zubie, but if there's one place the Caps do have some depth, it's down the left-side, with Alex Semin, Matt Pettinger, Ben Clymer and Donald Brashear behind AO on the depth chart (so much depth, in fact, that Pettinger and Tomas Fleischmann have been playing the right side rather than their natural portside positions).

Of course I'm not saying that the Caps would be where they are in the standings without Kolzig and Ovechkin. But they certainly wouldn't be there without Zubrus either. Consider:
If Zubrus is out for an extended period of time, one wonders if the Caps would be tempted to do something bold to fill the void his absence would leave.

UPDATE (11/16, 2:00 p.m.): Zubrus is probable for tomorrow night's game.


Tyler said...

I'm a total Johnny-one-trick-pony-note, but this is making GMGM's failure to address the C position all the more glaring. I'm not saying you sign a guy for three years -- Backstrom is obviously on the way. But it's been an obvious weakness for MONTHS. And now it might bite the Caps in the butt.

JP said...

Kinky. :)

But I totally agree.

I'm sure Ted's email inbox is overflowing with "Sign Allison" emails right about now.

Tyler said...

THAT is not the answer. There are Mites on Ice who skate better/faster than Allison.

JP said...

Oh, I couldn't agree more and would be adamantly opposed to signing him. I just know Caps fans, and I know the way they "think."

Victor said...

On a not-quite-related Zubie note...Have you watched him during warmups? He's interacting with the kids crowded 'round the glass, working on a bunch of new Caps fans. It's fun to watch.

A few games ago (Nov 6, Ottawa, IIRC), he punched the glass in front of one of the kids. There was no mistaking it was intentional and aimed at acknowledging the kid, and it totally made that kid's night.

Two night ago--there are several camera portholes in the glass around the arena, and one of them is in the aisle between sections 112 & 113, prime watching-the-warmups area. It's covered up w/ a piece of plastic during warmups, but Zubie butt-ended the cover with his stick (knocking it out), then picked up a practice puck and gave it to the kid standing there...and you know Zubie now has a loyal fan for life.

One other thing I've noticed during warmups: Zubie and Semen spend a lot of time (gently) crashing into their teammates lined up on the boards. It's fun to watch them playing loose like that.

JP said...

I think that his relationship with AO has helped him to feel more comfortable taking on more of a leadership role with the team, and it has certainly seems to have increased his "love of the game." It'd probably be impossible to spend that much time with #8 and not have some of that rub off.

Further to your point, it's amazing how much a pro athlete can make a kid's day - or make us adults feel like kids again.