Capitals Must Make Room for Alexander Semin


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↵Back in junior high school math class, a lot of my friends hated word problems. For one reason or another, I always liked them. So to salute all of my old buddies I grew up with on Long Island who struggled together with me through algebra, here's my own hockey-themed word problem: ↵

↵"Last night the Washington Capitals scored five goals against the Vancouver Canucks on Monday night and won the game. How many points did Alexander Ovechkin score?" ↵

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↵Given last season that Ovechkin had a part in just under 50% of all the goals the Capitals scored, you'd be forgiven if you guessed that the young Russian netted at least one point against the Canucks. Unfortunately, you'd be wrong. ↵

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↵Though nobody is panicking yet, and really shouldn't be, Ovechkin, who was held pointless last night, has only two goals and no assists so far on the season -- a total that has him tied for fourth place in team scoring with five other teammates. ↵

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↵But that means that the real story so far has been Washington's other Alex -- Alexander Semin. Though he arrived first in D.C. before the lockout and precipitated a dispute with the team that presaged the conflict between Alexander Radulov and the Nashville Predators, Semin has been overshadowed in Washington by Ovechkin's mad rampage during his first three seasons in the NHL. No slouch himself, Semin made his own mark two seasons ago when he scored 38 goals in just his second season in the league, though he only scored 26 last season in a campaign that was disrupted by a nagging high ankle sprain. ↵

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↵But this year, while Ovechkin has gone pointless in two of Washington's three games, Semin has posted points in all three, and leads the team in scoring with three goals and three assists. And while Semin isn't the only NHL player to get off to a fast start this season, it's been easy to see that through these first three games that his maturation into a superstar is well underway. ↵

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↵When I talked to Semin last night after Washington's 5-1 victory through an interpreter, he was typically modest, saying all the right things about his play and his teammates. Then again, this is the same player who in a number of stretches over the last two season could lose focus at times and take foolish penalties at the most inopportune moments. ↵

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↵But the rest of the league needs to know that's not the Semin we've seen so far this season. Yes, there were two highlight reel goals last night, but you also need to know that Semin is far more committed to being a total player, and has completely transformed his game away from the puck. As the media scrum broke up around Semin, one reporter in the crowd told him that there was a large contingent in the press box who felt that the winger deserved to wear the team's hard hat -- an award created this season by team captain Chris Clark that's given to the player who worked the hardest on the ice. ↵

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↵That reporter was right. And when the Caps play the Penguins on Thursday night in Pittsburgh, the conversation that usually centers around Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Ovechkin needs to make room for Semin. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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