The Caps-Rangers game earlier today was an instant classic. There was an amazing last second game-tying goal by Nicklas Backstrom, a brilliant OTGWG by Alex Ovechkin, and a clutch stop by Braden Holtby and Nate Schmidt on a shot near the goal line. But if there was one play that stuck out to me more than the rest, it was Karl Alzner‘s unselfish shot block.
Let me set the scene. In the second period with the Caps up 2-0, Alzner broke up a J.T. Miller scoring chance with a diving pokecheck. As the play continued, Miller received the puck back from a teammate and looked to score again. Alzner, still laying on the ice from his previous heads up play, did something remarkable.
He threw his arms and body at the wrist shot, despite having his back towards the shooter. To me this is like a solider diving towards a grenade.
The shot could have struck Alzner square in the back of the head and did some major damage. Thankfully it hit him in the shoulder and he was no worse for wear.
“Talk about sacrifice,” CSN Washington analyst Craig Laughlin said. “On second look Karl did this on purpose. Do these guys ever as a group want to win. What an effort showing that great sacrifice to make the block.”
Laughlin later explained that there was little to no protection in the area where the puck struck Alzner. “A strap and a thin piece for the shoulder pad,” he said.
Alzner finished the game with a game-high seven shot blocks.
Consider this. The Caps are now 16 points ahead of the New York Rangers for the Metropolitan Division lead. Despite how far ahead they are, they keep making unselfish plays like this. It’s almost as if each regular season game is like game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals.
It’s that kind of desperation, sacrifice, and hard work that makes a champion.
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