Photo credit: Chris Gordon
Steve Oleksy played in 14 playoff games in professional hockey before tonight: with the Idaho Steelheads, the Lake Erie Monsters, and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. He had never played in an NHL postseason game, because, until March of this year, he was little more than an AHL role player.
Thursday though, he set up the game-winning goal in the Washington’s 3-1 victory over the New York Rangers to open up the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. And it was awesome.
Dat pass. (GIF by welshhockeyfan)
Seven minutes after Alex Ovechkin tied the game with — guess what — a power play goal in the second period, Oleksy scooped a loose puck in the defensive zone. In one slick move, Binky spun around and fired a beautiful 75 foot pass to Marcus Johansson, who was waiting at the far blueline. With a few strides and a wrist shot, the Caps had a 2-1 lead. Forty-six seconds later, it was 3-1.
24 minutes and 53 seconds after that, the home team held a 1-0 series lead.
“I was able to calm it down a little bit and get my head up,” Oleksy said after the game. “I waited an extra second to let him get going a little bit, allow him to get into stride.”
“He did a great job finding a lane there and giving me an opportunity to make that pass,” he added. I think they kinda lost him there for a second and he did a great job finding the spot. It allowed me a take a chance to make that pass. It was him that finished, he did a great job getting that shot away and scoring.
Since being called up as a relatively unknown dude from Hershey who likes to punch people in the face sometimes, Oleksy has become a pretty important player for the Caps, settling in to the team’s third pairing alongside Jack Hillen and getting a three-year contract with the organization. He only became a full-time AHL this year.
Steve’s been doing it all year,” Jason Chimera said of his play. “He’s been surprising a lot of people, but it’s not surprise to us.”
“It took a while for somebody to realize it,” added Karl Alzner. “It’s nice that they did figure out he could play. Obviously he’s stepping up the challenge right now. He’s got a good head on his shoulders. He’s a smart kid so he knows how to play — I shouldn’t say kid, he’s older than I am. He’s a smart guy.”
Video via @DCSportsBog
Oleksy also showed how tough he is too. Despite perpetually getting his face bloodied and bruised, Oleksy doesn’t miss shifts. Late in the second period Thursday, the defenseman took a shot to the jaw, crumbling to the ice in pain. He stayed on the bench and by the third was back on the ice. The dude has more guts than you, but after the game Oleksy downplayed the incident.
Screengrab by @dcsportsbog
“It’s part of the game,” he said. “It’s been a lot worse. I skated away pretty fast. I was excited. I figured I was in for about 20 stitches the way I cut.”