As I noted Monday at FanHouse, reigning NHL MVP Alex Ovechkin was going to be out of the lineup for a few days now that he's left the U.S. to head back to Russia to be with his ailing grandfather.
That's going to be one heck of an adjustment for the Washington Capitals. After all, Ovechkin loves hockey so much and has been so durable, that he's only missed one game in his entire career before now. Missing last night's game snapped his consecutive game streak at 203.
Picking up the slack in his absence is going to be a job for the entire roster. Then again, with Ovechkin gone, it's going to be natural for other teams to pay some extra attention to Alexander Semin, a player who going into last night's game against Nashville had piled up 14 points in just eight games.
It didn't matter. Semin got the job done anyway in a 4-3 shootout win over the Predators. And he did it with the sort of style and flair hockey fans in Washington are getting very familiar with.
If you want to know what the difference between Ovechkin and Semin is, think of it like this. When I see Ovechkin, I think of a Russian T-72 main battle tank rumbling across the countryside, gunning its engine at 60 mph, firing its cannon at anything that moves and running over anything else unfortunate enough to get in the way.
Semin is an altogether different experience. He's more like a fighter jet laden with precision guided bombs and rockets, swooping and diving through the enemy defense looking for a weakness he can exploit to blow apart the whole shooting match.
Just such a moment came in the first period with the game tied 1-1 and Washington down a man. Head coach Bruce Boudreau started to use Semin and Ovechkin on the penalty kill this season because he wanted the opposition to play with the fear that either player could turn the tables and score a power play goal. It was then that deep in his own defensive zone, Semin sprung right wing David Steckel with a breakout pass up the middle of the ice so perfect, even he couldn't screw up the scoring opportunity as he mishandled the puck all the way through Dan Ellis' five-hole.
Semin followed that up with a power play goal in the third period off a slap shot where the winger seemed a tad off balance. It didn't matter, as he still managed to rocket the puck past Ellis and into the top left hand corner of the net. And when he was called upon in the shootout, he deked Ellis down to the ice, only to calmly lift a backhand into the top of the net for Washington's first tally.
So while nobody is foolish enough to think that the Washington Capitals are the same team without Ovechkin in the lineup, they shouldn't be so foolish to think that they still can't be deadly.
In Alexander Ovechkin's Absence, Alexander Semin Keeps Rolling originally appeared on NHL FanHouse on 2008-10-29T13:46:00+00:00. Please see our terms for use of feeds.