Despite the brooding, sullen, scarf-wearing images we were shown on the 2nd episode of HBO's Caps Pens 24/7 last week, George McPhee must be feeling pretty good these days.
McPhee has been preaching patience and development in Washington for quite some time now, and it seems to be paying off. No, we haven’t won a Stanley Cup, and yes, it’s only December – but taking a look at the Bears and Caps performances lately – he’s been right all along.
Last night the first goal for the Caps was scored by Hershey call-up Jay Beagle. Andrew Gordon has filled in nicely as well. Don’t even get me started on Mathieu Perreault. In fact, pucksandbooks over at OnFrozenBlog puts it nicely here, noting “The Caps have won four of their last five games, and in all four wins Hershey reinforcements have played star- and hard-hat-earning roles.”
With all of the injuries and ailments piling up in DC, who’d have thought that the ones to lead the charge back to the win column would come from some of the less experienced players in the system? If you ask a Bears fan, they’ll smugly tell you that they did. That this is what we’ve known they have been capable of all along. Andrew Gordon and Jay Beagle have a knack for morphing their games and adapting their style of play to any situation that’s thrown at them. You want finesse? They can do that. You want grit? No problem. Shots from high in the slot? Check. Camp in front of the net for rebounds? Also not an issue.
The other difference maker called up to the Caps has been Mathieu Perreault. He lights a spark with every recall, but people are always questioning his ability to sustain his intensity. When Perreault was first recalled, the same sentiments rang out that I’m frankly quite tired of. Why is it okay to claim Perreault can stay as long as he maintains his highest performance and energy level while our multi-million-dollar stars were consistently turning in pee-wee performances night after night? I’m much more likely to forgive a $700,000 player for a few mistakes and an off night than a core of $5 million + players.
While the impact of recalls has been huge in Washington, the same praises are being shouted from the rooftops in Hershey for a bunch of guys slated to skate in the ECHL this season. Last night in Chocolatetown four South Carolina Stingrays made a huge impact for a deeply depleted team. Defenseman Johann Kroll along with wingers Dmitri Kugryshev, Maxime Lacroix, and Nikita Kashirsky made their presence known. The Hershey Bears handed the Binghamton Senators a mighty blow with a five goal differential for a final score of 6 -1. While finals of that margin were common for the 2009-2010 Bears, they’re not so easy to come by for this year’s squad – which makes the victory that much sweeter. While AHL vets accounted for a majority of the production last night, 2 goals resulted from the hard-working reinforcements in the 2nd period. An unassisted goal by Kugryshev jump-started the “kids” early in the 2nd period, but the moment of beauty came when Kashirsky scored with assists from Kugryshev and Lacroix. It was a showcase of hard work, crisp passing, and driving the net. These kids came to play.
The successes at each level have reminded me of one of my favorite quotations, penned by English poet John Milton.
“What reinforcement we may gain from hope; If not, what resolution from despair.”