Concerning the Caps' Tertiary Scorers
Forget the primary scorers. Heck, forget the secondary scorers. The guy who got this train rolling back in Game 5, with disaster still whistling its way down F Street, was Matt Bradley, a man whose five regular-season goals were tied for 12th on the team.
(And a man who insists on calling me "Bloggy," but that's a different story.)
Bradley struck twice on Friday night, and was the first to start puncturing the Lundqvist mystique. And as a result of his offensive prowess, he has a new nickname inside the dressing room, courtesy of Brooks Laich: "Wesley." As in, "Snipes."
Which is why I headed to Bradley for help in dissecting one of Washington's prettiest offensive plays of the series, a tic-tac-toe three-on-one passing clinic from Tom Poti to Boyd Gordon (14 regular-season points) to David Steckel (19 regular-season points) back to a streaking Poti (three regular-season goals), who finished with style. The Wizards should be lucky to zip passes so well on a fast break. So the question is, what in the name of the Hanson Brothers was that all about?
"When you get three highly offensive guys like those guys on a three on one, magic happens, you know?" Bradley said with a straight face.
Other Caps reacted with a similar side of glee. Different circumstances, obviously, but not entirely unlike the reaction from the bench when a romping college basketball team gets a late-game three-pointer from the 5-foot-11 walk-on.
"Oh, that was sick," Mike Green said. "Especially [from] those guys. But the funny thing is, all those guys were gonna pass the puck, none of them were shooters, so that was their tic-tac-toe."
"Honestly, I was a little surprised, yeah, I was," Brian Pothier said. "It was beautiful, you know, a picture perfect three-on-one. It was one of those ones on the bench, after it happens you look at the guy next to you like, 'Whooooa, where did that come from?' "
Because, by reputation at least, these three guys aren't exactly the Caps' version of Phi Slamma Jamma.
"I mean, you don't see three guys like us usually make that play," Steckel admitted.
"Maybe that's why they were able to do it, is because they weren't thinking," Eric Fehr surmised. "As Gordo would say, they blacked out and made the play."
Laughs aside, several players told me that every NHL player is capable of a bit of offensive magic; that all of them were once scoring superstars whose games had to be overhauled, or at least re-tuned, to adapt to NHL realities. And that a smooth three-on-one from a defenseman and two checkers shouldn't necessarily be a shock.
"Sometimes we look at these guys and say wow, they don't usually score," Bruce Boudreau said. "You know what, they're NHL players....So I'm not surprised by anybody in the NHL being able to do anything."
"They have the skill to do it," Green added. "I think they don't really get in that position very often to do that. But that's the thing, when they are in that position, they do have the talent to make the play."
And indeed, Gordon had a 33-goal season in the WHL. Steckel put up 30 goals and 31 assists during a season in Hershey. Bradley scored 23 and 22 goals in his first two AHL seasons.
"I was first line and first power play, all those things," Bradley said. "But as you get further up in hockey, if you're gonna do that you better be super-skilled. And if not you better figure out quickly what else you can do to carve a spot for yourself in the NHL."
"I think we're all capable of making nice plays," Gordon said. "I mean, obviously maybe not consistently, or like Ovie obviously, but I guess it IS possible. And it's something that we CAN do, and something we need to do if we want to continue to win....
"I mean I put up decent numbers in the last couple years of juniors, but things kind of change sometimes," Gordon continued. "And you get to the NHL, and it doesn't work out scoring-wise like you maybe envisioned, and you get a different role. But I mean, that's fine. That's the way it is."
Steckel told me he still has a jacket from his pee wee team that's filled up with hat-trick patches and playmaker patches, that it felt like he was always receiving a patch back then.
"Now I'm more of an energy guy," he said. "Not that I don't try and score goals, but look at guys like Ovie and Semin. They're very talented and skilled players in the National Hockey League. I'm not one of those guys any more."
Yeah, but could he be, if that's what he wanted?
"I don't really think so," Steckel said. "I don't think I have the toe drag like Semin does, where I could toe drag somebody 360. I mean, I could try, but it probably wouldn't work as much. I'm guessing I'd lose the puck."
So they're left with their pee-wee jackets and their WHL highlight reels, and now they're the guys who give the quotes in the dressing room about the importance of secondary scoring, and the importance of taking a bit of pressure off the superstars.
"I mean, for the most part any guy that's in the NHL was successful offensively at some level, you know?" Bradley said. "When you get here, you kind of have to change your roles, and maybe tone down your offensive..."
"Genius?" I suggested.
"No, maybe not genius," Bradley said. "But what you try offensively, anyways."
Posted by: ThisGuy | April 28, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: honed | April 28, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: popopo | April 28, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: RedBirdie | April 28, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: AmyS1 | April 28, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: thusler | April 28, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: jhorstma | April 28, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: RedBirdie | April 28, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.