Sunday, March 1, 2009
After Tuesday's terrible loss to the Flyers, caused in part by a lack of discipline by certain players resulting in a slew of bad penalties, Coach Bruce Boudreau told reporters that some penalty-prone players could be sitting in the press box come Thursday's game against Atlanta.
Evidently, Alexander Semin took Boudreau's promise (if you know anything about Boudreau, benching wasn't a threat) seriously, because not only has he been virtually penalty-free the last two games, he's suddenly rediscovered the purpose of that stick in his hands.
Thursday night's game saw Semin chosen as the top star of the game after a powerplay goal with just over four minutes gone in the first period, followed up with an assist on Laich's powerplay goal less than a minute later. A second assist on Green's third period powerplay goal put Semin at three points on the night, top star of the game, and third star for the night on NHL.com.
Saturday afternoon's game against Boston, Semin had a weak tripping penalty against Zdeno Chara that Alex Ovechkin could be seen calming his teammate down about. But he'd already had an assist on Nicklas Backstrom's powerplay goal, and he followed that up with the unlikely shot from the blueline in overtime, the one that must have caught Bruin goaltender Tim Thomas offguard, as it trickled past him with only :22 gone.
After a superb start to the season, with Semin and Ovechkin going one-two on the NHL leaderboard, then the subsequent injuries that Semin seems all-to-prone to having, it's nice to see Semin regain his scoring touch. At times, he shows why he should be considered among the NHL elite, while other times, he is obviously still an immature player, learning to control his temper. It's times like the latter that the reason the Capitals keep Sergei Fedorov around become evident. If anything Fedorov has really helped with the development of players like Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin, especially in keeping Semin's propensity towards bad stick-related penalties to a minimum.
The other change in Semin's game has been more subtle, as it hasn't really resulted in penalties, nor has it resulted in goals. However, ever since his return from the pinched nerve he suffered after a bad hit by St. Louis's David Backes, Semin hasn't just taken cheap hits by the opposing team lightly, and in fact, has been more physical in his own play. Maybe he realizes that Ovechkin can't be his enforcer, as well as the overexuberant goal-scoring maniac. Whatever the reason, Semin's been throwing his shoulder at players that try to encroach on his puck, and of course, we all remember the "bongos". While it was definitely funny as all get-out, what I remember the most about that "fight" was that Semin finally stood up for himself, and since then, he hasn't been crumbling under so many cheap shots. Whether that's because no one else wants to be humilitated as Marc Staal was, or they just realize that he's not going to fold, who knows, but it's a nice change from the old Semin-who-just-falls-to-the-ice-with-a-back-injury nonetheless.
The Capitals are just about to take to the ice against Southeast Division rival Florida. It's snowing as far south as Atlanta right now, and that's a good sign, right? Because everyone and their mother has always said it would be a cold day in Hell before the Capitals had a real chance at the Stanley Cup... and if Atlanta isn't as close to Hell on Earth as anything else, what is?