The Washington Capitals defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 Thursday night, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone who has been paying attention to hockey over the last couple of weeks.
While it can often be difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when a season turns for the better or worse, one seemingly innocent transaction has obviously changed everything for these two franchises.
Since March 25, when it was announced that forward Alexander Semin had signed a 5-year, $25 million extension with Carolina, the Hurricanes have gone 1-9 while being outscored 43 to 18.
Conversely, the Capitals have gone 7-1-1 since March 25 (including their current six-game winning streak), and they’re now the hottest team in hockey.
Coincidence? I think not.
Before Semin’s long-term deal was announced, Carolina was still in the hunt for the Southeast Division title with a 15-13-2 record, while the Capitals were mired in mediocrity at 15-16-1.
But since the day the Hurricanes front office had a change of heart and decided Semin was a player worth building around, they’ve suffered a catastrophic collapse while the Caps — obviously thrilled to be done with Good Sasha/Bad Sasha once and for all — are playing their best hockey of the season.
Still not convinced?
Look no further than the final moments of Thursday night’s win at the Verizon Center, when forward Troy Brouwer (who you might remember had a thing or two to say about Semin back when the enigmatic forward and the Capitals cut ties) gained control of the puck with 10 seconds left in a tightly-contested game.
The only defender in sight was Semin, who was a step or two behind. Brouwer hauled in the puck at center ice and skated towards Carolina’s open net while Semin began hacked and cross checking Brouwer repeatedly.
But because Semin was content to try and take a stick penalty rather than actually try and make a play on the puck, Brouwer continued en route to the open net and easily scored his second goal of the evening.
Of course, anyone who paid attention during Semin’s seven seasons in Washington knew how that would play out. Meanwhile, Hurricanes fans, I’m sure, were crossing their fingers and hoping one of their most talented players would come through when the game was on the line. And that’s when Semin is most effective — when you let your guard down and believe he can be a difference maker.
Truth is, he can be. Just not in the way you’re hoping for, Carolina fans.