Wednesday, January 7, 2009

While Alzner shines, Jurcina is having his best season ever

When the Caps defense was shaken up by injuries, many wondered which call-up would rise to the occasion.

All eyes have been on Karl Alzner, the Capitals fifth overall selection in 2007, who dominated in Hershey and is now making his mark in the NHL.

What you may not realize is that Milan Jurcina will likely eclipse his best NHL career point total ever by the end of January.

When the Capitals acquired Jurcina in 2006-07 from the Bruins, he had two goals and an assist and was a minus five through 40 games. He finished the 06-07 season with two goals and seven assits and was a plus five. So in 70 games, he was 4-8-12, breaking even on the season.

He was a promising prospect but many wondered what the Capitals saw in Jurcina. At 6-4, 233, Jurcina was often chastized for not using his enormous size to break up plays. His turnovers and lazy play earned the ire of fans and some wondered if trading Jurcina would allow for Karl Alzner to take his place.

Fast forward to today. Milan Jurcina is one of four players to have been in all 41 games. He has three goals, seven assists and is a minus three. Now factor in the intangibles, Jurcina has improved his physical game with 75 hits (second to Ovechkin) and 72 blocked shots.

To top it off, Jurcina is being called upon in big games, logging 21 minutes in both Flyers bouts and a season high 23 minutes against Montreal on Nov. 28th.

There's no denying that Karl Alzner helped elevate Jurcina's level of play, but you have to give credit where it's due. Jurcina is finally becoming the defender that the Capitals hoped when they acquired him.

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