A beat writer who covers the Capitals ran down press row right after Korbinian Holzer scored his first NHL goal, one that held up as the Maple Leafs’ game-winner in a 3-2 decision Tuesday night.
“Who is he?” wondered the writer.
Fans might be wondering the same thing, not of the rookie Holzer but of the entire Maple Leafs lineup. Who are these guys?
They are a team without any goals from Phil Kessel, a team without Carl Gunnarsson and Jake Gardiner — their best defencemen last year — on the blue line and yet finding ways to win and stay in the playoff race.
They are a team that can be frustratingly bad one night, with fans and critics believing they should tank the season to get a high draft pick. Then they are world beaters the next, playing a refined brand of Randy Carlyle hockey.
And they’re a team that suddenly looks like it has its goaltending figured out.
Rangy Ben Scrivens — with his manic, scrambly net presence — made his first start in six games. He held the fort to give the win-a-couple, lose-a-couple Maple Leafs a boost.
“You ask your goaltender to give you a chance to win and I thought Scrivens did that,” said Carlyle. “This is a big game for a guy that didn’t play that many in the NHL. This is a raucous building. The crowd is noisy. The Capitals have a lot of firepower and he responded.”
Scrivens was at his best in the third, making a pair of blocker saves late in the game after Mike Ribeiro had scored to get the Capitals within one.
“It’s good to have a good one,” said Scrivens, who’d like to tone down his game a tad. “I try not to be quote/unquote athletic. I try to be a little more in control. That being said, I’ll take the save any way I can get it.”
If there is a common thread connecting Leaf successes, it’s the way they have responded to Carlyle. He spent Tuesday morning urging defencemen to find a way to get the puck to the net, to contribute to the offence. He didn’t care how: hard shot, weak shot, any shot. He yelled as much from the bench during the game.