Friday, December 12, 2008

Taking it all in stride.

Karl Alzner never could have imagined his NHL debut being quite like this.

Alzner would join a Washington Capitals defensive corps featuring of Tom Poti, Mike Green, Jeff Schultz and John Erskine - or more like replace, as all those aforementioned have been out of the line-up.

This has paved the way for Alzner and his AHL mates to display their skills at the NHL level, which so far has been impressive.

On paper it doesn't take a skeptic to point out the flaws on the Capitals blue line. Having a whopping five AHL players - none of whom have played a lick of NHL hockey - as well as lacking offensive production as Alexander Semin and Sergei Fedorov are still shelved, would lead many to believe this team is in trouble.

However, quite the opposite has transpired.

The Capitals have been able to remain a respectable .500 club the past 8 games, as they've worked tediously at patching the holes as the number of man games lost continues to climb.

All of which came to a crescendo Tuesday night as the Capitals toppled the Eastern Conference's hottest team, the Boston Bruins, 3-1.

Alzner and company have proven they should not be judged by their pedigree - but more so - by their undiscovered talent.

In fact, Alzner has begun drawing comparison to the great Calle Johansson, as one of the Capitals more stable defenders in recent memory. He, like Johansson, displays a blend of patience, skill, smarts the ability to simplify his game, all of which has shown the veteran savvy that this 20 year old possesses.

Sean Collins, a 25 year old rookie, continued his solid play since being called up last week. He has proven that if necessary, he could handle loads of ice time.

Tyler Sloan has been hit or miss, but can be effective so long as he can minimize mistakes in the defensive zone.

With the return of Tom Poti on Tuesday night and that of Mike Green on the horizon, it seems only fitting to give credit to this rag-tag bunch that managed to keep the team afloat in their absences.

Alzner, Collins, Sloan, Helmer, Lepisto. All have played a large part in this teams success these past few weeks, and there's a good chance that fans will look back on this stretch of games come April and reflect on how valuable playing .500 hockey was.

There's an old saying that adversity doesn't build character, but reveals it. If so, Capitals fans can rest assured that if their team faces another set back - they'll be in good hands.

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