Practice Makes Perfect Endings

I ended up with a free half hour yesterday, thanks to an unusually quick doctor’s appointment. Seizing upon the good fortune, and the proximity to South Mountain Arena, I popped into the last half hour of the Devils practice. Watched the first power play unit work out a bit, and saw lots of practice on play below the hash. Heard some shouts when shots missed wide, and it’s a good sign when it’s someone other than the coaches doing the yelping. As the players were leaving the ice, Elias fired two buckets worth of pucks into the net, one-timing a store’s inventory of rubber with perfect consistency. It was a thing of beauty to watch.

Practice makes perfect. We say it to our kids repeatedly, and we mean it. With tonight’s game against Montreal tied 1-1 deep into overtime, the Devils had a face off in the attack zone. Gomez won the draw, to Rafalski, to Elias, who just exercised the muscle memory from yesterday. A thing of beauty to watch, especially with a lonely snowman — all of 8 seconds — left on the OT clock.

Elias has 5 points in 3 games in a 6-day span. Zajac is playing Calder-quality hockey, but the rookie to watch is Johnny Oduya. Quick hands, quick feet, and a great view of the ice. It’s remarkably hard to find out anything about him, other than he was drafted by the Capitals in 2001, and never signed a contract, playing in his native Sweden instead. hockeydb.com shows only two players with that surname, one of whom happens to be his brother, Fred “Knuckles” Oduya. So if he says his brother used to fight with him, there’s some circumstantial evidence to that effect. Aside from showing up with 3 assists and a handful of penalties in online reports, he’s hard to find via search engine (the brotherly love reference was 3 pages Google-deep).

Here’s the tip-off to why he’s a winner — I asked him for an autograph as he was leaving the ice (which he gladly provided), and he gave me a look like (a) he was surprised I knew his name (b) he was surprised someone wanted his autograph and (c) that it was pretty cool. Thanks, Johnny, it was pretty cool of you, attitude and style wise.