With all of the incredible talent on both teams in this Caps/Pens series, perhaps the most important this far is the Washington Capitals David Steckel. Coming into this series, you’d have thought that Ovechkin and Crosby were playing one-on-one. Then of course, there were those two Russian guys, Semin and Malkin. That being said, the measuring stick for the Caps has been in the hand of #39.
Steckel’s main contribution is in the face-off circle. He has been spectacular on face-offs, winning 63.5% in this series. That’s 54 wins in 85 chances. Not too shabby.
David Steckel is also a key cog in Washington’s penalty killing unit. His size and long arms make him a real asset when down a man. He uses his reach to cover a lot of ice, poke checking, blocking passing lanes and shots, which is why his 4:02 of shorthanded ice time is third in the league for the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Those are both great contributions to the team, but in this series, its been his offense that has been the difference. Steckel has scrored three times and the Capitals are 3-0 in those games.
The 6’5″, 225-lb Winsconsonite started off the scoring for the Caps in this series, 13:10 into Game 1. The Capitals went on to beat the Pens 3-2.
In game 2, it really did seem like it was Ovie vs. Sid, with both players recording a hat trick. The Caps won 4-3. The difference: David Steckel, playing tough in front of the net gobbled up a Tyler Sloan shot that bounced off of Kris Letang right onto his stick, and slammed it through Marc-Andre Fleury’s five hole.
Then of course, came the game winner in game 6 to eevn the series and force a deciding game 7 on home ice for the Capitals. Steckel could have won game 5 in overtime, but fanned on the shot missing an open net. Then he took a penalty that led to the Penguins third goal in game 6. Being the big-game player he is, he begged his teammates to give him a shot and they did. He repayed them ten-fold.
The Caps had the face-off to the left of Marc-Andre Fleury in the offensive zone, and who better to work it than David Steckel, who was 10 of 14 in game 6 to that point. Stecks won the face-off to Brooks Laich and drove to the net. Laich, from his knees, passed the puck to Matt Bradley against the boards who passed it back to Laich for the one-timer. Steckel put his stick out and deflected the Laich’s shot in midair, past a butterflied Fleury for the game winner.
So yes, Simeon Varlamov will need to stand on his head again. Semin and Kozlov will need to play the same inspired hockey they played at Mellon Arena on Monday night. And, of course, Ovie will need to be Ovie, but the difference will be David Steckel.