Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Significance of Weightlessness

When I heard about the new hashtag for the year, #ALLCAPS, I thought, "meh."

I didn't really get it. Since I'm one prone to use caps lock a lot on Twitter, particularly about hockey, I thought maybe it was an allusion to that? I didn't understand the "we are #ALLCAPS" messages because I thought, "well, I don't play for the team, so, not really?"

However, after the parade and rally on Tuesday, I finally understood it. Watching the Capitals party through the weekend, and seeing them continue to act like over-excited children at the parade was an unexpected joy. Seeing the players' celebration shenanigans of the weekend, hearing their heartfelt speeches at the rally, and their invitation for all of us (US) to sing along with them to "We Are the Champions," I finally understood what they really meant.

Every single moment of this celebration has been shared with the fans. Whether it was through the players' individual social media accounts (Instagram stories have never been more fun) or splashing around with fans in a Georgetown fountain, the Caps have truly wanted to celebrate this championship WITH their fans. To invite their fans to become involved and feel like a part of it all. Heck, at some point during the weekend, TJ Oshie handed the Cup off (like, all of it) to a group of fans to hold over their heads.

I've never seen a team do anything like it. They very well could have kept this celebration to themselves. The fact that the players had the presence of mind to realize that not only they wanted it, but WE wanted it is amazing. And they didn't hold back on letting their personalities shine. Thank God they didn't hold back.

I remember back in the Young Guns days that people used to blame Ovechkin for the Capitals' faults because he "partied too hard." Every weekend, there were new photos of him downing vodka shots at Russia House with Alexander Semin, not to mention the infamous photos from the boat in Turkey in the offseason. Some even suggested that Ovechkin's relationship with his own mother was to blame for the team's downfalls. Beginning several years ago, the light playfulness Ovechkin used to share with fans and the media died down a bit. His answers in media scrums became clipped, and his tone during interviews was usually stoic.

Sure, he'd still goof off at practice every now and then, but it was evident that the scrutiny, year after year, was getting to him.

Cut to Tuesday.

The Stanley Cup weighs 34.5 pounds, yet every time a Washington Capitals player hoisted it over his head at the rally, it was a reminder that the Cup represents a weight lifted.

I can't describe how happy it made me to see the old Ovechkin. The one who doesn't give a shit what words might fly out of his mouth in front of the media. The fun-loving one that enjoys being a goofball with his friends, dancing around in the club or even in the locker room at Capital One Arena before the parade. The one that dives into a public fountain and starts breaststroking.

It was everything seeing TJ Oshie drink a beer through his damn jersey and pouring it on his head upon his name being announced. It was everything seeing the unlikely hero, newly-shaven Brett Connolly just wordlessly head to the front of the stage and chug a beer.

It was everything seeing Nicklas Backstrom truly smiling for the first time since I've known him. He hasn't stopped smiling since. To see him share this with Alex Ovechkin, his long-time friend and teammate, has been so special.

It was everything seeing Philipp Grubauer, who I've been a fan of since he was 17, sprint off the bus during the parade and wave a DC flag over his shoulders and not let the dang thing go THE ENTIRE TIME. It was everything seeing Devante Smith-Pelly get all the recognition he deserves, particularly in the form of at least one, if not two "D-S-P" chants.

It was everything watching Nathan Walker, the first Australian to ever play in the NHL, score a goal in the NHL, get a point in the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, and win a Stanley Cup get overturned by Ovechkin and Wilson. It was everything seeing Jakub Vrana make his case for favorite new-ish player when we hadn't seen all his personality before.

This team of wonderful dorks had been so missed. They've been stifled for so long, and seeing them let loose has been the best thing about winning the Stanley Cup.

Despite the lack of sleep, the intense sunburn and subsequent sun poisoning, the days missed from work, I wouldn't have missed this parade for the world.

Friday, June 8, 2018


"You know the Capitals, the hockey team? I heard about this promotion where you can get cheap tickets with a student ID. Let's go to a game!"

Those paraphrased words came from my coworker and friend Jennifer Baarson one day in February 2008. Both of us were working at a non-profit on 20th and M, my first job out of college. On the day of the game, we took an extended lunch break to Metro quickly over to the then-Verizon Center, went to the box office, flashed our student IDs (even though both of us were out of college) and got lower bowl seats for $30.

I played hockey in high school but had never been to, let alone seen on TV, an NHL game. Growing up in Chicago during the Bill Wirtz Era meant the Blackhawks were a completely foreign concept to me. At the Capitals game that night, I had no idea how much fun hockey was. Brooks Laich and Shaone Morrisonn scored in the first period. "Lol that guy's name is Semin." "I've heard about this Ovechkin guy." The Minnesota Wild scored in the second period, but goals from Eric Fehr and another from Brooks Laich sealed up the 4-1 win.

It was February 26, 2008. It is not an overstatement to say that is the day that changed the course of my life. It's the day I became a Capitals fan.

When I look back on it now, things progressed very quickly, though it didn't seem like it at the time. I went to my first Capitals playoff game that same season, Game 7 against the Flyers. It was my first taste of postseason heartache. That next Christmas, I got my first Capitals jersey as a gift -- Alexander Semin's #28. Less than a year later, I started this blog. I found Canadian junior hockey and started studying up on prospects. Soon, people were asking me to write for them. Like, reputable people. Only 18 months prior, I'd been making bodily function jokes about a player's last name.

2010 Capitals Convention -- with said bodily function joke-named player

So, I joined the ranks of the media, one of a few bloggers who regularly got credentialed. And I loved writing. I loved it and I was good at it. I started getting more attention. Once at development camp, a now-former Washington Post beat writer asked me everything I knew about a particular prospect. Me.

I never asked for credentials for games. I preferred to sit with the fans, yelling for goals, wearing a jersey, and joining in the occasional "ref you suck" chant. Side note, the Capitals were the first team in the NHL to credential bloggers and create a standard to regulate blogger credentials. I want to take this moment here to thank Nate Ewell (and later Sergey Kocharov) for supporting bloggers and giving press credentials to a little nobody like me.

There was at least one year that I went to nearly every home game. It was the last full season before I left DC.

A variety of circumstances took me back to Chicago in 2011. Around here, I continue to get a lot more questions about how I became a Capitals fan ("but... aren't you from here?") but my love of the Capitals hasn't diminished in the slightest. In fact, below is a photo of the car I got when I returned home (and I still drive it today).

My car is actually named "Ovie"

Even after I got back to Chicago, I was still writing for one outlet as the Southeast Division beat writer, even though I didn't live remotely near the Southeast Division. While I was searching for a full-time job, I was looking into graduate school. Doing a lot of sports writing had me looking into something I'd never considered before. I started researching sports administration/management graduate programs, and found that Northwestern University had one. I applied and got in. I could do this; I could actually have a career in sports. I never would have even thought of it if it hadn't been for the Capitals.

Years passed, and years of heartbreak and disappointment can take its toll. In this season, my 10th year of fandom, I watched the least amount of Capitals hockey since I became a fan. I don't know if it's the disillusionment or the quantity of TV shows that are out there and I apparently need to watch, but for whatever reason, I just didn't care much about this season. Of course -- the one year the expectations weren't high, that's the year they win it all.

Once the playoffs started this year, I began watching every game again (with the exception of Game 4 against the Lightning, months prior we'd bought tickets to see Deadpool 2 that night). Once the Caps got to the third round, the first time since I became a fan that I'd ever seen them reach that level, and against the Penguins no less, I was in disbelief. Then the Capitals made it to the Stanley Cup Final. I was STILL in disbelief. Now, they're Stanley Cup Champions. Still, disbelief.

When less than a minute remained on the clock in Game 5, I slammed my laptop shut, turned my phone on silent and turned it upside-down so I couldn't see notifications. As the clock wound down to zero, I started sobbing. Nothing has been more satisfying than seeing Alex Ovechkin lifting that 35 lb silver shiny Cup over his head. Ovechkin and Backstrom, the only two left on the team from when I became a fan, skating around with it broke me (in a good way I guess).

It's been a wild ride. I'm beyond excited to get on a plane Monday and see the parade in person.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Full Circle with Nathan Walker

photo by Chris Gordon, from 2012 development camp

On July 14, 2012, I was back in DC (for the first time since moving back to Chicago in November 2011) on a weekend trip and asked the Capitals media relations department if I could have media credentials for development camp. They said yes, and so I returned to the media area of Kettler Capitals Iceplex on that Saturday morning, and after the players left the ice, I asked to interview an intriguing 18-year-old camp invite with a surprising country listed under his hometown: Australia.

Today, that player made history. Twice.

Nathan Walker became the first Australian to ever play in the NHL, and then the first Australian ever to score a goal in the NHL -- in his first game!

I never published an article based on the conversation I had with Nathan Walker that day in 2012. I think I felt kind of bad about it because one of my questions was basically "why didn't you get picked in the draft?" and I was afraid I hurt his feelings. Back story: Nathan Walker was first eligible for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, even ranked as high as #21 among European skaters before the draft. Yet, he was not selected in that draft. He wasn't selected in the 2013 draft either. The Capitals did later select him in the 3rd round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, the last draft for which he was eligible.

Walker came as an invited player to the Capitals' 2012 development camp, and caused a bit of a stir with his unusual story. Walker was born in Wales, raised in Australia, and moved to the Czech Republic at the age of 13 (by himself) to embark on his hockey career.

I remember when he walked up to me (since I'd requested to talk to him) that day in July, the first things I noticed were that a) he is surprisingly short (I'm 5'6" and he wasn't much taller) and b) despite his unusual back story, he seemed genuinely surprised that someone requested to speak to him.

When he speaks, his accent is not strictly Australian; there's a bit of Welsh in there. It's definitely not an accent you usually hear on your digital recorder while pucks fire off boards in the background. He got into hockey when he was six years old because his older brother was playing. "I was the little brother, I always wanted to do what he was doing. I guess I just followed in his footsteps," he told me.

I asked him why he opted to go to the Czech Republic to play when he was 13, and he said his coach in Australia told him that "if you want to go anywhere in hockey, you've gotta go now." He left his family in Australia and went to live in Europe, in a country whose language he did not know, without his parents, because his coaches saw that he had potential. It speaks volumes about his drive and his work ethic.

When I asked about what his expectations were coming to development camp, he said, "I want to show them that I really want to play hockey." I asked if he had thought about playing in the Australian league (AIHL), but he said, "I played there a few games, last season, before I got injured straight away. I don't think I want to do any of that."

I suggested, "So you're really wanting to go for a higher level," and he enthusiastically agreed, "Yeah, yeah, yeah."

Today, five years later, he played at the highest level like he always wanted. And he won.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Throwback: Anaheim Ducks Kick Off "Movember"

Originally written by Erika Schnure for Hockey Primetime, 11/1/2011
Re-posted in honor of Teemu Selanne's induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame

The Anaheim Ducks kicked off the month of "Movember" in style Monday, holding a "Shave Off" event in downtown Washington, DC while they are in town to play the Washington Capitals on Tuesday. The famously-mustachioed George Parros headlined the event, joined by Saku Koivu, Corey Perry, Teemu Selanne, Matt Beleskey, Sheldon Brookbank, Ryan Getzlaf, Jonas Hiller, Francois Beauchemin, Andrew Cogliano, Kurtis Foster, Dan Ellis, and Luca Sbisa.

The Ducks got a professional shave at The Art of Shaving's downtown DC store to get a clean start on their Movember facial hair. Movember, with which many NHL players are involved, is an annual event during the month of November during which men grow out their facial hair and raise awareness and money in support of men's health and cancers.

The cause is particularly close to Saku Koivu's heart. In 2001, Koivu was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and missed most of the 2001-2002 NHL season while undergoing chemotherapy. In remission since, Koivu said that Movember is an entertaining way to raise awareness and money for cancer research. "It's a fun way of getting awareness out and getting a couple laughs," Koivu said. "Obviously with the 'stache, boys look a little different.

"It's obviously a cause that's really important to me because it's in my history. It's so important to have the knowledge out there... Hopefully we can make a difference."

Last year was the Ducks' first year of involvement with Movember, and this year, Koivu said it was very easy to convince the rest of the team to participate. "George (Parros) brought it up about a week, two weeks ago and said, 'The month of November is coming up, and do you guys want to be still in it?'" Koivu said. "And everybody (agreed). That wasn't a tough one."

Corey Perry got particularly involved, clipping off half of Parros' mustache before his professional shave began. Luca Sbisa thought Parros unrecognizable once his shave was finished, jokingly introducing himself to Parros after he unveiled his clean-shaven look.

Perry shaving Parros' mustache (photo by Erika Schnure)
Parros after his shave (photo by Erika Schnure)

Goaltender Jonas Hiller brought along his special "Movember" mask, featuring roster shots of all the current Ducks, with various facial hair styles imposed over their faces. Hiller will wear the mask throughout the month of November, and it will be auctioned off in December to support the Movember cause.

Hiller's Movember mask (all photos by Erika Schnure)

Koivu expressed displeasure over the facial hair chosen for his image on Hiller's mask. "I wasn't really happy about that," Koivu joked. "I don't think I look too good with the mustache, but that picture there is like, I don't know what he was thinking."

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Loss and Sports Fandom

(I wrote this a week after the Capitals got knocked out of the playoffs, but left it in my drafts)

I reflected a bit on this on Facebook the night of the loss, but over a week after the Caps lost game 7, I feel like I have a little more clarity.

I found the Capitals on February 26, 2008, back when the Capitals still did Student Rush promotions. The first NHL game I ever saw (and I spent just $30 on a lower bowl seat) was against the Minnesota Wild, and the Capitals won handily. Brooks Laich scored two goals in a 4-1 victory. I was in the 7th or 8th row of a mostly empty arena.

At the time, I was a few months out of college, only a few weeks away from eventually getting laid off from my non-profit job, and I thought I'd be working there for a while. I was barely thinking of what I would want to do in the future.

All I knew was that this team inspired me. I started this blog in January 2010, writing about a Tomas Fleischmann appearance that was basically a recap post for the people that were not able to attend. Little did I know that starting this blog would change my life forever.

Soon thereafter, people started asking me to write for them. Some of them asked me to write for them for money. I got media credentials for practices. My articles started getting featured weekly on the front page of

I came back home to Chicago and applied to Northwestern University's Master's of Sports Administration program and got in. I now owe tens of thousands of dollars to student loan corporations getting this degree so that I could hopefully work for a sports team, ideally doing community relations.

I'm not pointing all this out to brag or anything. I'm just trying to emphasize that none of these monumental events would have happened if it were not for the Washington Capitals. I have a deeply personal connection with this team because they changed my entire life.

This team and their wonderful media relations department is how I got to have my very first interview be with Philipp Grubauer during his first development camp. My first in-season roster-player interview was with Matt Hendricks. I regularly got to hold my recorder in front of guys like Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green, and Nick Backstrom.

I take it personally when they lose. I know how much these guys care. I've never personally been there for a clean-out day, but I've seen plenty of their interviews.

They're the reason for so much good in my life, so much direction. So yeah, they're a little bit important to me. And it's devastating to see them get knocked out of the playoffs, especially when they were the odds-on favorites, to see them continue to be mocked and made fun of.

This group of guys this year was really the best I have seen. It wasn't like years before when they added people like Jason Arnott or Martin Erat (I don't want to talk about it) expecting that they would make a big difference. In the past few years, the Caps have brought guys like Justin Williams, T.J. Oshie, Daniel Winnik and Kevin Shattenkirk into the mix. Guys that have improved the lineup during the regular season.

As a fan, obviously I want my team to win. But of course, at the same time, I don't want to see this team get blown up.

I wish I didn't care so much. And people might say I'm stupid for caring so much. But if this team had never come into my life, my life would be a very different thing.

Sports fandom is stupid but there is a reason.

And frankly, this team changed my entire life. I went back to school for a master's in sports administration. My dream job became one with a sports team. If I had never cared about the Capitals, my life would have been so much different.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Throwback: Five American players to watch at the 2012 World Junior Championships

Originally written by Erika Schnure for Red Light District, 12/7/2011

On Monday, USA Hockey announced their preliminary roster for the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championships in Alberta. 29 players are on the preliminary roster, and by December 22, they will be trimmed to a final 22. There are eight players returning from 2011's team, but it's some of the newer players that could be the biggest surprises. Here are five new guys on Team USA to watch in this year's tournament.

1. John Gibson, Goaltender
Last year, Jack Campbell and Andy Iles shared goaltending duties on the roster, but Campbell was the main man in net, as Iles spent just over nine minutes on the ice in total. Campbell's high draft selection (11th overall by the Dallas Stars in 2010) could be attributed to his impressive first appearance on the international stage, playing for USA in 2010's tournament. He followed it up with another amazing performance in 2011, hence Iles' limited ice time.

But if there's anyone that could challenge Campbell for the primary spot in the net for the tournament, it's John Gibson. A second round (39th overall) selection by the Anaheim Ducks in 2011, Gibson cut his teeth with the U.S. National Development Team starting in 2009. This fall, he headed to Kitchener, Ontario to become the starting goaltender for the Kitchener Rangers. Through 19 games played with the Rangers, he has 12 wins, a 2.58 goals against average, and .931 save percentage -- better statistics than Campbell.

The Pittsburgh native also has international experience. He was the starting goaltender for Team USA in the 2010 World U-17 Hockey Challenge, and recorded the best GAA and save percentage of any goaltender in the tournament. Though Gibson admits he didn't even know the World Juniors tournament existed until last year, any opportunity to represent the USA is something he takes seriously. "It's important to me," Gibson told The Record (Kitchener). "Any time I can represent my country, I want to do that."

Kitchener coach Steve Spott agrees that Gibson could very well end up the starter come tournament time. "I believe he’ll push Jack Campbell for the starting position," Spott said. "I believe he's going to give USA Hockey's coaching staff a lot to think about. He's just a money goaltender and will be a tremendous asset for them in that tournament."

2. Seth Jones, Defenseman
The youngest player on the preliminary roster (born Oct. 3, 1994), Jones comes from pro athlete stock. His father is "Popeye" Jones, who played in the NBA for 12 years and now serves as the assistant coach for the New Jersey Nets. Seth was born in Texas during Jones' three-season stint with the Dallas Mavericks. Seth definitely takes after his father in terms of size -- at 17 years old, he is 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds.

Jones, a two-way defenseman who spent last season playing with the U.S. National Development Team, caught the eye of Team USA general manager Jim Johannson in the team's summer evaluation camp. At the time, Jones was just 16 years old, and was already drawing comparisons to NHL All-Stars. "He reminds of me of Erik Johnson to a degree," Johannson said. "He is just an all-around solid player. He's the real deal. Good instincts in all areas and he plays the game in all zones."

Jones isn't even eligible for the NHL Draft until 2013, but he could earn himself a spot on the final roster for Team USA. NHL general managers are already champing at the bit to get Jones drafted to their team, and if he survives the cuts, his play in the tournament could catapult him to the top of the rankings for the 2013 draft.

3. Jarred Tinordi, Defenseman
Though two years older, Tinordi is much like Jones in several personal aspects. He is another product of the U.S. National Development Team, and his father too was a professional athlete. But hockey insiders are much more familiar with Tinordi's father -- former NHL tough guy Mark Tinordi. Like his father, Tinordi is a gritty, physical -- and huge (6-foot-7) -- defenseman.

Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the first round (22nd overall) of the 2010 draft, Tinordi had originally committed to play at Notre Dame, but opted to go the junior route and signed with the London Knights. Last season with the Knights, he had 14 points and 140 penalty minutes.

Tinordi was part of Team USA in the 2010 Under-18 World Juniors, and won a gold medal in the tournament with the team. In addition to his skill, his leadership qualities are highly-touted. He captained the USA U-18 team, and currently serves as captain of the Knights. His size and work ethic could make him a valuable presence on the blue line.

4. Brandon Saad, Left Wing
Chicago Blackhawks fans are already very familiar with Saad's name -- the 2011 second-round (43rd overall) pick was a pleasant surprise in this fall's training camp, earning him the opportunity to play in two regular season games with the Blackhawks in October. After his two game appearances, he was sent back to his junior team (Saginaw Spirit), but he had already made a big impression on USA general manager Jim Johannson.

Because of the draft and commitments with the Blackhawks, Saad was not able to attend the summer's World Juniors evaluation camp, but Johannson had no issue with including him on the preliminary roster. "The bottom line with him is being able to show us that he wanted to be a part of the program and that his level of play was going to be what we were looking for," Johannson said. "He got off to a great start with Chicago and played a couple games with the 'Hawks. But more importantly for us, when he went (back) to Saginaw, he performed well, he's competing in all aspects of the game that we saw in him as a younger player and what he needed to improve on. He's shown that."

Since returning to Saginaw, Saad has 19 points in 11 games. Though he and Tinordi are rivals in the Ontario Hockey League, they were teammates on the American U-18 team that won gold in 2010.

5. Austin Watson, Center
Watson is one of the rarer players on the preliminary roster that have never been involved in the U.S. National Development Team, but don't count him out based on that. He made a name for himself in his first season in the Ontario Hockey League as a member of the 2009 Memorial Cup-winning Windsor Spitfires. Watson began his sophomore season with the Spitfires, and could have won a second Memorial Cup, but he was traded to the Peterborough Petes to close out the 2009-2010 OHL season.

Watson was drafted in the first round (18th overall) of the 2010 draft by the Nashville Predators. He's praised by scouts for his offensive ability while being able to play a grinder-style role, blocking shots and sacrificing his body to make plays. So far this season with the Petes, Watson has 28 points in 28 games.

In this deep pool of possible players, Watson could be a long shot to make the final roster, but his positive, team-first attitude may be his X factor.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Throwback: Caps power play resurges

Originally written by Erika Schnure for Red Light District, 10/25/2011

In the second half of the 2010-2011 NHL season, the Washington Capitals' power play went from one of the best in the league to practically non-existent. From February 2011 through the end of the regular season, the Capitals' power play went 16-for-88, just 18.1%. In the playoffs, it got even worse, ending in a 14.2% over nine games.

Coach Bruce Boudreau said that once the power play started to tank, it just got worse from there. "Last half of last year was a lot of 'panic-ville.' I think guys were holding their sticks too tight, trying to make the pretty plays all the time," Boudreau said. "When you're an offensive player, and you don't have the numbers that you're accustomed to, and every day people are asking you, 'How come your scoring's down?' Your confidence is down and you're not comfortable, and then you're trying harder. It may not look like you're trying harder, but you're trying to put square pegs into round holes, and you're doing things that you shouldn't be doing."

The poor power play of last season was a true departure from previous years. The Capitals finished second in the NHL in 2008-2009, and first in the league 2009-2010, with both seasons at 25.2% success on the power play. After the substandard success rate of the latter half of the 2010-2011 season, the Capitals finished the year in 16th place with 17.5%.

Now, seven games into the current season, the Capitals' power play is singing another tune. They're current first in the NHL on the power play, going 8-for-27, good for a 29.6% success rate while allowing zero shorthanded goals. That includes a 30.0% success rate at home.

What's so different about this year that is leading to an effective power play? Boudreau says that the players have stopped trying too hard and have returned to simple plays that work. "We're just getting back to what we're doing," Boudreau said. "I think with them seeing some success at doing what they're doing, they're going, 'Wow, let's just continue what we're doing.' Hopefully, it stays the same."

If you ask winger Mike Knuble, he attributes the success to the structure of the power play units. With Mike Green and Dennis Wideman healthy (both struggled with long injuries last season), the two offensive defensemen set up on the point, while fellow first unit components Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Troy Brouwer to cycle down low. Troy Brouwer was camped in front of the net while Mike Green scored two power play goals in Saturday's win against the Detroit Red Wings, and Knuble says crashing the net as Brouwer did is the key.

"There's times when we've gotten away from the net and you wonder why the power play is struggling. Then you look at the film, it's because you're not around the net enough," Knuble said. "So it's good to see that we have a net presence, it's the way to do things. It's the way that a power play should be executed. The skilled guys on the outside then you have somebody around the net that can finish and get in the way. It's a part of our success."

Boudreau and Knuble agree that last year's poor power play could have also been attributed to the separate lengthy losses of Mike Green and Dennis Wideman. "I think (Green's injury) had something to do with it," Boudreau said.

Knuble heaped praise on his teammates, saying, "It's great to have healthy Mike (Green), he's very sharp with the puck, and makes a lot of things happen. And Wideman I think, when he arrived last year (at the trade deadline) after Mike went down (hurt), he was tremendous, really was quarterbacking everything. When he went out of our lineup (injured) that was a big hole, too."

While it could be that Green and Wideman are healthy, the renewed power play success is more likely attributed to the fact that that the team isn't trying too hard, staying away from the pretty passes that go nowhere. Aside from a return to simplicity, Knuble also points to a more intangible, psychological reason for the power play progress.

"Guys are hungry right now on the power play," Knuble said. "Everyone who's moving the puck around is hungry and not just killing time and trying to look for the pretty play. Work hard and if you get an open shot, take it."