Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Now THAT'S a response

Just when it seemed the Caps season had hit its low point, they delivered a rugged, hard working performance and finally lock down a lead, securing a 1-0 win over the Panthers. Nevermind that the game itself was mostly forgettable. Nevermind that the Caps were outshot and generally outplayed. There were only three things that mattered from last night. First, the play of the Russian Machine, who simply would not be denied. The second was the shutdown performance of the man who took his teammates to task only two days ago, Olie Kolzig, who reminded players and fans alike why he above all others has the right to call any and everyone playing in front of him out when he sees fit. And finally, the Caps were able to win two points at home in regulation, not surrendering the early lead created by an Ovechkin strike in tight.

Kolzig was an absolute monster in goal. Not only did he make several sterling saves, but he also commanded control of the entire defensive area around the crease. He stopped shots, he cleared rebounds, and he swallowed the puck when the defense needed to regroup. He continued to set the gold standard for effort and will to win, playing between the pipes like a man possessed. The only time he seemed to tire even momentarily was during stoppages in play, and he snapped back to full attention as soon as the puck was dropped. As has happened so often this season, Olie was the difference between winning and losing. A lesser goaltender would have folded under the weight of Florida's advance. Not Kolzig. His pride wouldn't allow it.

The Russian Machine also made his presence known all night against Florida. He was in constant motion, attacking the Florida zone from all angles at high speed. He played physically and with power, knocking players off the puck and attacking defensemen head on. Although he had several shot attempts blocked, he still managed to deposit a quick snapshot into the net off a pass from Brooks Laich. He generally treated his opponents the same way he treated his Ipod earlier this week. He broke them down.

This game was important from another standpoint. It was the team's best chance to get a win at home before the end of the season. The Caps last game before the season's end comes Saturday against a geared up for the playoff Buffalo squad, against which a win will be hard to secure. And it's important to the confidence of the players and coaches not to simply slide into oblivion at the end of the year. It was also a great gift to the fans that have stuck with this team through some very, very dark times. But rest assured Caps fans, there is light at the end of the tunnel. We'll have to wait until next year to see it, but it's coming.

The Caps now hop on the bus and head down to Atlanta, where they take on the Southeast Division leading Thrashers tonight. Game time is 7 PM.

No comments: