Friday, December 12, 2008

Caps Dominate At Home

Capitals 5, Senators 1
Scoresheet - Wash Post

Imagine this, you are sitting in your cubicle, doing your job for a professional hockey team. When the general manager comes by early in the afternoon explains that the back up goaltender is injured and his replacement will not be in town on time. He tells you to be ready to strap on the pads. A pipe dream you say? Not tonight. Not for Brett Leonhardt.

Website producer, tall man, and college goaltender extraordinaire, Leonhardt got to live his dream of playing for a NHL team, even if it was just warm-up and a stint on the bench that only lasted 9 minutes into the first period. Normally, he can be easily spotted amongst the reporters with the team's camera getting the images for the Capitals' website (at six foot seven, he is hard to miss in general). Jose Theodore injured his hip in the morning skate and Simeon Varlamov had to travel from San Antonio and was not scheduled to arrive until the game had already started. That prompted George McPhee to ask the web producer to strap 'em on.

Leonhardt signed a Amateur Try-Out contract (i.e. no money contract - hey, he already is on the Caps' payroll) before the game and got the NHL's blessing to dress up and help out during warm ups before the Capitals game against the Ottawa Senators. The Capitals did have to get permission from the NHL to put three goaltenders on the starting night roster.

Now Leonhardt (or Stretch as he is nicknamed) is the hero of every recreational hockey player in the Washington DC area (hell, the whole western hemisphere for that matter). Now before you think that the Capitals' injury situation is so bad that they have resorting to pointing to random people in the stands at the phone booth to fill roster spots, Leonhardt has practiced with the team when either Jose Theodore and Brent Johnson where unable to skate and has played four years of Division III hockey.

The Players were very supportive of Stretch's surprise roster fill. Many players encouraged him in the locker room before they took the ice at Verizon Center. Sergei Fedorov told him that moves like this is why he loved this organization. After his role had been full filled, Leonhardt even took the color chair for a few minutes with Steve Kolbe for the radio broadcast late in the second period. He took credit for assisting on Ovi's goals. "He got a few past me in warm ups, so I helped him out," Stretch joked on air. It prompted Kolbe to make the case that maybe he should be a back up one night.

The storyline of the game had little to do with Leonhardt. Brent Johnson's played outstanding in net and Mike Green and Sergei Fedorov's return was a welcome sight. But Leonhardt stole the spotlight. Even if it were for warm ups and half a period of sitting on the bench.

Alex Ovechkin got his scoring touch back scoring two goals. Alex Semin also got back on the scoring column with a beauty goal of his own. Brooks Laich and Mike Green added goals as the Caps rolled over the Ottawa Senators 5-1. Feds return was a sucess as he made the score sheet with three assists.

The Caps' power play has been on fire. Tonight the Caps were 3 for 7 and shutting down the Senators on their struggling power play. Ovi scored both of his goals on the power play, Green scored the other.

Brent Johnson played another spectacular game, although most questions at the end of the night were more about Leonhardt's breif stint as a Capital than Johnny's impressive 32 saves. He is still favoring that hip. I would expect Johnny would get the start again tomorrow night in Montreal.

The tandum of Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin gave Senators' goaltender Alex Auld fits all night long. Alex would pass to Alex for a one timer when Alex would make the save on the Alex shot, which Alex got the rebound and shot it at Alex who Alex then passed to, um, Alex for a low shot against Alex... and Alex um... well I think you get the idea. The Caps could have easily been up 7 or 8 nothing against a Senator squad that played very lackluster and uninspired.

Leonhardt just about made every Sports news agency all over North America. Including a breif interview on ESPN, Larry Murphy telling Bruce Boudreau he should have played him on the NHL Network and the top story on The Caps win took second seat to a guy who got his 15 minutes.

Highlights by

Photo AP, Luis M. Alvarez - Brett 'Stretch' Leonhardt takes a shot during warmups at the Verizon Center.

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