Mike Knuble on being like cattle
Two years ago this month, Mike Knuble scored the game-winning double-overtime goal that put the Caps down 3-1 against the Flyers. He said it was by far the biggest goal of his career, and it came from maybe a couple inches in front of the net.
"When he gets planted there," Daniel Brière said at the time, "nobody's going to move him."
That's what the Caps were after when they signed Knuble last summer. He went on to score 29 goals this season, many from a distance roughly equal to Alex Ovechkin's tooth gap -- Knuble estimated that his longest goal of the season came from 15 feet out. These are unglamorous grunt-work sort of goals, the hockey equivalent of copy-editing a Mike Wise "Caps bandwagon" column.
But Knuble wasn't brought to Washington to feast on leftover scraps during January and February. He was brought here to wipe clean the Tupperware in April, May and June, even when the Tupperware is filled with crusted-over week-old lentil chili. Okay, that's not the greatest metaphor. Knuble, you got anything better?
"I think I know what they want out of me," Knuble said. "That's something I really can achieve, and something I don't have to overachieve to do....It's not always easy to snap pucks around the ice and execute pretty plays all the time [in the playoffs]," Knuble continued. "Guys like Brooks [Laich] and I, that's what we've done very well this year. We go to the net. We're like cattle. I mean, you know where you're gonna eat down there, so you're gonna keep going back."
So he's saying his style isn't pretty?
"Well, I hope it's appreciated," Knuble said. "But we're not making any highlights. On SportsCenter, we won't be on many clips probably. You might see the name in the blurb on the ticker, but you won't see the goal."
Even if it isn't TV friendly, though, teammates love this kind of stuff, as you might guess.
"We tell him if you add up all your goals it probably wouldn't get to the blue line," Brendan Morrison pointed out. "And he doesn't care. I mean, I wouldn't care either if I was scoring that many goals."
"Oh man, he's your poster boy for a playoff player," Mike Green said. "He's a guy that will go to the front of the net and score those gringy goals....He's the guy that'll go to the net to score those goals, and there's not many guys that'll do that. He's a gringy player. He'll go to the dirty areas to score."
"It's truly amazing how he scores his goals," Eric Fehr added. "If I can score a few goals like that in the next couple years, I'd be really happy. They just hit him and they go in. People that watch it think it's luck, but he's been doing it for five, 10 years now, so he obviously knows what he's doing."
At 6-foot-3 and 223 pounds, Knuble outweighs all but two of the Montreal defensemen. But somehow he seems to play even bigger than that.
"He's just a solid rock," said Green, who skated against Knuble during that 2008 series. "Honestly, I don't know what it is about him, you just can't move him."
"He's big and he's strong, and in seven-game series, guys like that wear you down," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It just makes sense that the bigger stronger guy is gonna feel better than a guy that's small, for want of a better phrase."
Knuble frequently makes fun of his goals, talking about how unsightly they are, but no one much cares at this time of year. That's sort of why he's here. If cattle wasn't an apt enough animal simile for him -- and Boudreau has also called him "a moose" -- Knuble has another way of explaining why he spends so much time on hanging around the net.
"You know where you're gonna get rewarded," he said. "Like a dog, right? There's the treat, go get 'em."
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