Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Tom Poti is my hero

There is no doubt who the Caps top acquisition was in free agency this past summer, and it's not who most people expected. Michael Nylander's signing may have made the biggest splash (thanks in no small part to his spurning of Edmonton and the coverage that followed), but Tom Poti has been the single most important signing of the season.

Take last night, for example. Poti played an absolute monster of a game, playing almost 22 minutes, blocking a sure goal by dropping into a semi-butterfly on the goal line behind a fallen Brent Johnson, scoring a goal by rushing the puck into the offensive zone and firing a shot high and tight into the net past the blocker of Norrena to knot the game at 3, and making a pretty cross ice pass to Ovechkin on overtime to produce the game winning goal. That's a lot of work for one guy (and a lot of words for one sentence).

Despite playing hurt for most of the year, Poti has been the anchor that has kept this defense in place. He plays extremely well positionally, but has been unafraid to play the body at every opportunity, even when it was clear that his shoulder was suffering as a result.

While his plus-minus rating is not stellar (even), he leads all Caps defensemen in minutes played and blocked shots, and his ability to make quick effective passes have kept the Caps from being pinned deep in their own zone, which they too often were last season. And while last night marked his first goal of the season, his offensive zone presence and passing ability have been invaluable. If the Caps are able to claw their way into a playoff spot, he'll be the first person not named Ovechkin whose play will be a deciding factor.

Other notes from last night:

Bill McCreary won't be getting any flowers from Caps defensemen for Valentine's Day. First he runs a pick on Shoanne Morrison, then he misses a clear goal by Tom Poti that had to be sent for review to be corrected. Everyone makes mistakes, but if the Caps D didn't feel persecuted after last night's "performance", they never will.

The Russian Machine - he must score. And he does, at a ridiculous pace. I don't think there was a person watching OT that didn't know the game was over as soon as they saw Poti pass the puck into space for Ovechkin. And the Machine didn't disappoint.

Rick Nash is fast. REAL fast. And unlike most speedsters, he has no problem controlling the puck at full speed. When he feels like playing hard, he's among the game's best.

Eric Fehr looked like a guy who hadn't played in the NHL in months, but he did show glimpses of what he's capable of as a player. He was a load to move in front of the opposing net, and created some dangerous scoring opportunities. And in the third, skating agains the boards and about to be ridden into the boards by the Columbus defensemen, he used what can only be referred to as a swim move, flipping the puck by the defenseman before angling his upper body past the D and using his arm to literally shove himself past. Now THAT's a power move, and it's something that's been sorely missed since the absence of Captain Clark.

Overall, an exciting game with a solid 2 point result. Hopefully the Caps will be able to take the momentum from this victory and break out to a quick lead against Philly tonight before the adrenaline wears off.

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