When Alexander Semin comes off the IR later today, Glen Hanlon will have a full, healthy roster to work with for only the second time this season. The results of the first two games? A 2-0 win over the Hurricanes and a 5-3 victory over the Lightning. This is significant for two reasons. First, because it gives us all some hope that things can turn around - with six of the Caps' next eight games at against Southeast Division rivals, it's nice to recall what this team, when healthy, can accomplish.
Perhaps more importantly, however, Semin's return to the lineup should officially mark the end of the excuse-making. Don't get me wrong, taking a 38-goal scorer out of the lineup is a big hit. Add in Chris Clark's, Tom Poti's and Boyd Gordon's absences, and injuries have undeniably played a leading role in the tragedy we've all watched through the first quarter of the season - not all excuses are illegitimate ones. But provided that Sasha is actually ready to go at something resembling 100%, we'll hopefully get our first extended chance to see the team that George McPhee has assembled, and we'll get to see how Glen Hanlon coaches 'em up.
Up until this point, it's been perfectly fair to judge each of the aforementioned members of the Caps brass on their job performance, but any such analysis has been somewhat incomplete. Sure, it's a GM's job to put together a team with enough depth to handle some injuries, and it's a coach's job to adjust when players miss time - both men can fairly be judged against those performance standards. But we all know that the "if we were healthy" talk has some measure of merit to it (obviously a significant amount of merit, in fact, to the powers that be), so now that the team is healthy, it's time to see what they - and the suits - can do to try to save this season.
On a side note, the team will have to make a roster move to free-up a spot for Semin's return - any guesses as to what that move might be? A new "injury" to one of the scratches? Someone put on waivers?
In some ways, tonight's game against Florida marks a new beginning for this Caps team - and it may just be the beginning of the end for some of them.
Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
The NHL has released it's preliminary draft rankings for the 2008 Entry Draft. Unfortunately, this list is becoming increasingly important to Caps fans with each passing week.... If you missed Martin Brodeur's save on Daniel Briere during the third period of Saturday night's game, make sure to check it out, especially the overhead shot (and don't miss Danny picking his nose and wiping it on his jersey).... Jakub Klepis is en fuego.
- Hart: Nicklas Lidstrom (G, 2A, +1, 5 SOG, 3 blocked shots)
- Ross: Nicklas Lidstrom, Nikolai Zherdev, Rick Nash (3 points each)
- Norris: Nicklas Lidstrom (G, 2A, +1, 5 SOG, 3 blocked shots)
- Vezina: Roberto Luongo (W, 29 saves on 30 shots against)
- Richard: 18 players tied with 1G apiece
- Calder: Josh Harding (W, 27 saves on 28 shots against)
- Aiken: Miikka Kiprusoff (L, 4 goals allowed on 21 shots against)