Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Cut Above

Craig Anderson cuts his hand making dinner after last night's whooping of the Washington Capitals. can't make this stuff up, can you.

The team has been pretty lucky, injury-wise, so far this season. Michalek was out with a concussion, and both Phillips and Gonchar spent some time on the injury list. But if there is one player who has been single-handedly carrying this team so far this season, it's Erik Karlsson. No wait, I mean Craig Anderson.

Look at last night. Craig Anderson stopped 33 of 35 shots on goal. The two Washington goalies combined to stop 19 of 25 (with one empty-netter at the end of the game). So yes, "Mister" Anderson was the man last night. But let's review: Ottawa gave up 35 shots on goal. Unless the goalie is the man, the end result could have been much, much uglier.

With all respect to Alex "back from the goalie graveyard" Auld*, the problem in Ottawa has not yet settled down to something you could call weak goaltending. Even if Auld is only average, it is going to get ugly. If he's merely human, we'll probably get the opportunity to watch "Goalie Of The Future" Lehner get lit up like a pinball machine a couple of times again.

This team has got to play better in front of their goalies. Only then can we start appreciating** how good the goaltending we have actually is.

As far as the standings go, however, I feel pretty good. The only teams with genuine chances to catch Ottawa are Toronto, Winnipeg, and Washington, and I think the gap that Ottawa has now will permit them to retain a place in the playoffs by playing only .500 hockey through Anderson's absence. It pains me to say it, but Toronto isn't as bad as the last-10 makes them look, while I think Winnipeg's last-10 numbers of 5-4-1 are probably a bit above where they should be.

* = stupid nickname, I know, but what you going to do?

** = although it is nice to watch Toronto demonstrate that they are no better than Ottawa at refraining from fitting goalies under the bus at the first sign of trouble.