A visibly tired Caps team did all of the little things right Thursday night, beating the Leafs 2-1. Heading in to the All-Star break, the Caps are now just three points away from the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and one point behind Carolina for the Southeast Division lead. (Curiously, the Caps were in a similar position at the break last season: three points out of the eight spot and behind first place Carolina, by nine points.)
- David Steckel's boarding penalty with just over two minutes remaining in a 2-1 game was the cause of great agita. With no Steckel available on the PK and facing a 6-4 man advantage, Brent Johnson came up big with several stops in those final two minutes, earning him the #1 star of the game. (It's fuzzy, but I remember once hearing Chico Resch claim that, "a goalie is your best penalty killer.")
- Once again, the Caps defensemen took it to the Leafs. Steve Eminger got things going five minutes in to the first period with a crushing check on Tomas Kaberle. Then Poti on Blake. And Green on Tucker. (Shaone Morrison, a healthy scratch, was quite probably checking Kyle Wellwood, somewhere in the press box.) The Caps registered 22 hits, with Milan Jurcina responsible for six.
- Jurcina has become a monster of late. The hesitancy which marked his play not so long ago is now gone. Winning breeds..., a rising tide..., and all that.
- Have yet to crunch the numbers to verify this, but it seems that in the last few weeks Caps defensemen [Mike Green, aside] are taking more shots and getting more shots on net. Stats, to come. As will comparative numbers on blocked shots. The Caps added 17 more Thursday night, Jurcina and Quintin Laing (Q!) each with four.
Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
The 2008-09 NHL season to open in Stockholm and Prague....And play an 84-game schedule?....Brian Burke to the Leafs?...Sid's Winter Classic jersey sold for $45,000 at auction. His game-worn jersey for the Hockey Fights Cancer fundraiser is a bargain at $14,100. And Ovechkin's is a steal at $7500. Bid early and often....Happy 46th, Cheli.