Washington Capitals winger Mike Knuble scores his goals in front of the net

By Dan Steinberg
Thursday, April 15, 2010

Two years ago this month, Mike Knuble scored the double-overtime goal that put the Caps down three games to one against the Flyers. It came from maybe a couple inches in front of the net.

"When he gets planted there," then-teammate Daniel Brière said "nobody's going to move him."

That's what the Caps were after when they signed Knuble last summer. He went on to score 29 goals this season, many from a distance roughly equal to Alex Ovechkin's tooth gap -- Knuble estimated that his longest goal of the season came from 15 feet out. These are unglamorous grunt-work sort of goals, the hockey equivalent of copy-editing a Mike Wise "Caps bandwagon" column.

But Knuble wasn't brought to Washington to feast on leftover scraps during January and February. He was brought here to wipe clean the Tupperware in April, May and June, even when the Tupperware is filled with crusted-over week-old lentil chili. Okay, that's not the greatest metaphor. Knuble, you got anything better?

"It's not always easy to snap pucks around the ice and execute pretty plays all the time" in the playoffs, he said. "Guys like Brooks [Laich] and I, that's what we've done very well this year. We go to the net. We're like cattle. I mean, you know where you're gonna eat down there, so you're gonna keep going back."

Ah yes, the glamorous pursuit for cattle feed. In other words, he's saying his style isn't pretty?

"Well, I hope it's appreciated," Knuble said. "But we're not making any highlights. On SportsCenter, we won't be on many clips probably. You might see the name in the blurb on the ticker, but you won't see the goal."

Even if it isn't TV-friendly, though, teammates love this kind of stuff. They love making fun of Knuble's highlights, too.

"We tell him if you add up all your goals it probably wouldn't get to the blue line," Brendan Morrison pointed out. "And he doesn't care. I mean, I wouldn't care either if I was scoring that many goals."

"Oh man, he's your poster boy for a playoff player," Mike Green said. "He's a guy that will go to the front of the net and score those gringy goals. . . . and there's not many guys that'll do that. He's a gringy player. He'll go to the dirty areas to score."

(No, I'm not sure what "gringy" means, but I assume it's like the stuff under your fridge. Or maybe the stuff on top of your week-old lentil chili.)

"It's truly amazing how he scores his goals," Eric Fehr added. " They just hit him and they go in. People that watch it think it's luck, but he's been doing it for five, 10 years now, so he obviously knows what he's doing."

At 6-foot-3 and 223 pounds, Knuble outweighs all but two of the Montreal defensemen. But he plays even bigger than that.

"He's just a solid rock," said Green, who skated against Knuble during that 2008 series. "Honestly, I don't know what it is about him, you just can't move him."

Knuble frequently makes fun of his goals, talking about how unsightly they are, but no one much cares at this time of year. That's sort of why he's here. If cattle wasn't an apt enough animal simile for him -- and Coach Bruce Boudreau has also called him "a moose" -- Knuble has another way of explaining why he spends so much time hanging around the net.

"You know where you're gonna get rewarded," he said. "Like a dog, right? There's the treat, go get 'em."

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