After being on the road much of the month, I'm finally home to watch the Caps in the playoffs. I missed their best game of this series, the 3rd one at Bell Centre, but I was thrilled that the Caps finally seemed to get their game back. The team infuriated me in the first two games, even though they won the second one on the crucial game tying goal by the rookie John Carlson
. I wear number 74 with pride. He's one of the unlikely heroes in this series, so far.
Carlson, a mere 20 year old blue liner, and called by Caps defenseman, Tom Poti, the "best defenseman on the ice" in the playoffs has been impressive. After racking up 76 points playing juniors for Dale Hunter's London Ontario Knights last year, he made a pit stop in Hershey, to play 16 games for the Bears while winning the Calder Trophy.
This year, Carlson played in Hershey with a brief side trip to beat the Canadians in the World Junior Hockey Championships with his no look game winning goal. That gave the U.S. the gold medal for the first time in five tries and was the subject of many conversations I had while in Canada in February. I didn't take my 74 jersey to watch hockey in Canada and I swore I wouldn't rub Carlson in, but when two Canadians ask you, "Do you even know who the hockey team is in Washington?," they were destined for an earful. I looked at Jeff, who gave me his "go for it" look and responded, "Do you recognize the name John Carlson because that's the jersey I now wear to Caps games?"
They laughed because they knew then that we knew hockey. "You mean the one that inspired the newspaper headline, 'Canadian pride dented,'" they said. That cracked me up. Carlson has made quite a name for himself in his short career.
I'm not surprised. Carlson intrigued me when he was drafted 27th overall in the 2008 entry draft. Once I saw him play at rookie development and training camp, I knew he was going to be special. But, I can't say, back then, that I expected him to be playing for the Caps this playoff season with the poise and confident play of a veteran defender. Now, I'm relieved he's here. The Caps need him.
The other unlikely hero, so far, is the much maligned by the Caps faithful, Boyd Gordon. That Coach Boudreau selected the quicker, right-handed checking forward to go against the Habs speedy lefties over David Steckel proved to be the right call. Gordon stole the puck for a short-handed goal in game 3 to start the scoring in the 2nd period. In Wednesday's game, he took the puck short-handed again and lofted it smoothly to Mike Knuble who bashed it into the net.
Gordon struggled with back problems, earlier this year, and only played 36 games during the regular season. But, he's proving his mettle in this playoff series and that's the only thing that matters.
There is no question that the Caps offensive stars, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, are doing their part, and their young goalie Semyon Varlamov is doing his part in net, but it's the unlikely heroes that this team needs to keep moving forward.
I hope the Caps put it away tonight.
Let's go Caps!
p.s. Thank you Ottawa Senators for making the Pittsburgh Penguins play through 7:02 in the 3rd overtime and then winning the game! Let's go Sens.
Labels: Boyd Gordon, John Carlson, Washington Capitals