Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Alex Ovechkin, second from left, and the Washington Capitals have been scoring heavily.
Alex Ovechkin, second from left, and the Washington Capitals have been scoring heavily.

Goaltending is overrated

Like the Washington Capitals, all teams must realise scoring is what wins them games, writes Sam McCaig.

The Washington Capitals are doing it again.

Alex Ovechkin and his high-scoring mates are off and running, pouring in goals and piling up victories faster than anyone in the league. It is an impressive display of speed and skill, of team chemistry and player camaraderie.

Of course, we've seen this razzle-dazzle act from coach Bruce Boudreau's boys before - like last season, when the Caps cruised to the Presidents' Trophy as the NHL's regular-season champions, only to be upset in the first play-off round by the 16th-seeded Montreal Canadiens.

It was a supremely disappointing conclusion for Ovechkin and the Caps; after watching Sidney Crosby and the Penguins march to the Stanley Cup in 2009, Ovie and his mates surely figured it was their turn. But Washington's explosive offence was nullified by Jaroslav Halak's superior goaltending while the Caps' defence and goaltending was mediocre, at best.

The Caps, though, did not make any moves of significance in the off-season, choosing to believe that the team's young roster would learn from the experience and exposure, and return with renewed determination in 2010/11. That seems to be the case, so far. But the real questions for the Caps will not be answered until the spring, when the NHL's "real" season begins.

So, what to make of the fact the Caps have won nine of their past 11 games, scoring at least five goals in six of those contests? That is an output worthy of Wayne Gretzky's Edmonton Oilers of the 1980s.

The problem is that the Caps do not have someone like Grant Fuhr in net. Semyon Varlamov has been sidelined by injury and back-up Michal Neuvirth has handled most of the workload. And while it has been great for Neuvirth to get the work, a Varlamov-Neuvirth tandem does not intimidate anyone. They are young and improving, but they are not there yet.

The Capitals might point to last year's Cup final, when Chicago won it all with first-year NHL stopper Antti Niemi in goal and the unwanted Cristobal Huet serving as the back-up. The Philadelphia Flyers, the East's representatives in the final, got there with waiver-wire pick-up Michael Leighton and career back-up Brian Boucher in goal.

The subtext to all of this? That, perhaps, goaltending is not the be-all and end-all that we have assumed for all of these years, especially if you have an abundance of talent elsewhere in the line-up. It appears the Capitals are going all-in on this anti-assumption, trusting in Ovechkin and Co to score their way out of trouble.

 

sports@thenational.ae

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Chris Burch will play fly-half as part of a new-look back line for the UAE national rugby union team that will face Singapore at The Sevens grounds in Dubai. Sarah Dea / The National

Chris Burch to lead UAE’s charge against Singapore

he UAE’s bid to safeguard their place in the second tier of Asian rugby against Singapore next week will be piloted by a player who was contemplating retirement from the sport at this time last year.

 Seiichi Shimomura, centre, is part of a Japan squad that is the gold standard for sides such as the UAE, here in a Asian Five Nations rugby match at Dubai on May 10, 2013 and Singapore aspire to reach. Marwan Naamani / AFP

UAE and Singapore are rugby teams with a similar tale to tell

The UAE versus Singapore in rugby: a battle to see whether our expatriates are better than their expatriates, surely? Well, maybe not for much longer.

 Southampton owner Katharina Liebherr is pictured before the Premier League match between Southampton and Liverpool at St Mary's Stadium in Southampton, southern England, on March 1, 2014. Glyn Kirk / AFP

New Southampton owner leading club’s resurgence from the shadows

Katharina Liebherr keeping with family tradition and letting others dominate the spotlight

 Sharjah Cricket Stadium's colorful past was never like this – the IPL match between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Delhi Daredevils was loud, raucous and commerical. Pawan Singh / The National

No need for rose-coloured glasses when Sharjah Cricket Stadium host IPL

Sharjah still plays well as India's home away from home when it comes to big-time cricket, but the commercial overtones were in overdrive.

 Jorginho accepts the challenge that lies ahead for Al Wasl's improvement, and the club says it will give him time ... if they see results.  Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Wasl will give Jorginho time but results in Arabian Gulf League are needed

Al Wasl officials said they will provide Jorginho, their new coach, sufficient time to change the club’s fortunes while also warning that his fate ultimately will depend on results.

 Mickael Barzalona riding Sudden Wonder, left, to victory in the Tattersalls Millions Trophy at Newmarket racecourse on April 17, 2014 in Newmarket, England. Alan Crowhurst/ Getty Images

Godolphin boosted by performances of two fresh horses at Newmarket

Be Ready underwhelms in Craven Stakes during otherwise successful day for stables

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National