Quintin Laing and the win streak
On Jan. 13, the Caps came back from three goals down to tie the Florida Panthers on the road, and then secured a win in the shootout. Quintin Laing took eight shifts, totaling about six minutes of ice time, during the win. It was the eighth time he had dressed in 11 games since returning from injury. And then?
"And the next 13 I've had a good seat for," Laing joked after Tuesday morning's practice.
Indeed, the winger was a healthy scratch the next time his team took the ice. The Caps put up six goals against Toronto in that game. All four lines seemed to be clicking. And as Washington put together the longest win streak in franchise history--14 and counting heading into Wednesday's game at Montreal--the lines have remained intact, leaving Laing watching from the press box.
Which means, as his team has attracted perhaps unprecedented national attention, Laing has disappeared from the public eye. Aside from being named as a scratch, he hasn't been mentioned in the press for about a month, according to Nexis.
Now, Laing is no benched superstar; he's a 30-year old career minor leaguer who's still happy to be in the NHL. But that hasn't stopped teammates from describing his attitude during this winning streak in remarkable ways. I'm not sure I've ever heard a pro athlete praise a teammate as effusively as Brooks Laich did Tuesday morning.
"I mentioned it the other day to Bruce, I said Quintin Laing is a saint," Laich told me. "That guy is a saint. He comes in every single day, and it's just like he scored his 50th goal of the season. I was talking to his wife about it at the Super Bowl party. I was saying I was concerned about Lainger, because he's not playing and I want him to play. But she said he comes home and he's the happy-go-luckiest guy. Even at home, away from the guys, he is just so proud of the guys and what they're doing.
"And what he does around the locker room, what you guys don't see, is amazing. He's one of the funniest guys we have in the room, he keeps everybody light, he pats everybody on the back. I can't say enough about that man. I think he's a saint."
Well, maybe a saint mixed with a dash of Wile E. Coyote. Remember, in the past 12 months, Laing been sidelined by a torn spleen, Swine Flu and a broken jaw. He's healthy now, but his team is on the streak of a lifetime, and no one really want to mess with that. "No one" here including Quintin Laing.
"He so puts the team in front of him," Bruce Boudreau said on Tuesday. "You talk to him, and you talk to his wife, and he says don't you change a thing. I mean, he wants to play, but they don't want to change a thing. And that's the kind of team player he is. You're not gonna find anybody better."
And you're not going to find many people in the Caps dressing room who'd disagree.
"That's kind of the way it goes sometime: you come back from injury, the team's winning like crazy, and you can't get in there," Mike Knuble said. "But I think everybody admires the way that he's battled when he's played, and how he's handled himself when he's not played here. And it's tough to watch for him, because you felt like he's probably making some progress as a player. It could just as easily be him with somebody else out."
Laing told me that of course it's more enjoyable to be playing, but that he's had fun watching this streak, and "at the end of the day, that's all that matters. Anything else would be kind of selfish on my part." Sometimes, a forward has been doubtful and Laing has thought he'd be playing until warm-ups. Often, he ends up working out on the exercise bike just after warm-ups, before settling in to watch.
When the team does well, he offers what he calls "a business cheer, I guess--a cheer from the inside." He says he's always in a good mood, because "what we do is pretty fun," and he said this streak will stick in his memory, despite his lack of participation.
Boudreau said he's "pretty sure [Laing's] gonna play very soon." And his teammates say Laing deserves to feel like he's a part of what's happening here, whether he's wearing skates or dress shoes on game night.
"Absolutely he does, as much as anybody," Laich said. "If I wasn't playing, if I was in his position, I'd be hanging from a noose in the middle of Constitution right now. I have so much respect for that man, for what he does for us that you guys don't see. I wish you could bring a camera behind the scenes and see what it is. But he means so much to this locker room."
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