Though they were heavily put as the underdog in this series, the Caps got out to a quick start in Game One– scoring two goals in the first thanks to Michal Kempny and Alex Ovechkin, then two in the second from Jay Beagle and Lars Ellers. While they had four goals, they had to hang-on, as Tampa Bay had two goals in the third and were pressing late, but Braden Holtby was equal to the task for the Caps 4-2 win in Game One of the Eastern Conference Final. The Caps won again without Nicklas Backstrom and hope to keep a good pace going for Sunday’s game.
With a ninth win, we get to number nine of the Caps history chart.
While he didn’t pan out as a Flyers’ first round pick, Dainius Zubrus started to live up to expectation when he got to Washington…but not just on the ice. Formerly one of the poster boys for Easton Hockey, Zubrus couldn’t transition his game to the North American style when he first game over. Zubrus was brought to Washington in 2001 and took off as a bit of an offensive threat– at least to the Capitals side of things, as they were going through their rough times.
In his six seasons with the Capitals, he hit season-highs in points and goals, netting three straight 20-plus goal seasons towards the end of his run with the Caps, before his trade to Buffalo. As I mentioned, Zubrus was part of the teams that were going through the rough phase of contenders to tanking and having a difficult rebuild ahead of them. However, Zubrus was traded away before he could see the full bloom of the rebuild.
Yet, the most important part of Zubrus’ tenure with the Capitals was what he was able to help a new young star for the Capitals, doing something that may not have been done for him when he came into the league. When Alex Ovechkin came over to North America, Zubrus was not only a mentor to the young winger, but he played the role as translator, roommate, and someone to get Ovechkin comfortable with the game. Once Zubrus was traded, Ovechkin’s production in his sophomore season slowed down a bit. As we know, he’s gotten back on track– but Zubrus made a big impact for Ovechkin coming over and maybe allowed the Caps to have their franchise face develop quicker because of Zubrus’ off-ice help.