- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 15, 2003

The misconception is that the Jaromir Jagr the Washington Capitals traded for in July 2001 finally has arrived.
No doubt, the club will gladly accept the accomplishments the right wing has registered during the last two games five goals, six assists, 11 points, plus-6 defensively.
But the Jagr the Caps went after two seasons ago is not the spree scorer who led the team to wins over Florida and the New York Islanders. The Jagr they wanted was the guy who had a birdie every other hole, not a guy who had one eagle and a dozen bogeys.
That he is hot is not even open for discussion.
"He's just in a zone right now," said teammate and longtime friend Robert Lang. "What we have to do is put him out there as much as we can and just ride the horse."
"I don't feel any different," Jagr said. "I feel even slower than I did before. Heavier."
"He'd just been plugging along, not as strong as he's been in the past," said wing Kip Miller, a linemate here and in Pittsburgh. "The first 20 games I thought he was playing good. I think he got a little tired mentally and I don't think his game was where he wanted it. Now he's flying."
"No," Jagr snapped when asked if he regained energy during the recent five-day break. "It depends on how you look at it. People think when you score goals, you're playing good. That's not necessarily true. Personally I think I played a lot better in the first 20 games than I do right now. But the goals weren't there. I wasn't hot, the team didn't play good. We missed so many chances, we just didn't score."
"I thought he was outstanding in the first 20 games and I've said that all along," said coach Bruce Cassidy. "Offensively I thought he was our best player."
The first 20 games being referred to are actually the first 21. Jagr had 11 goals, 24 points, was plus-3 and scored the game-winner in four of the Caps' nine victories. What was being reported at the time was the team's struggle to score more than two goals a game and the fight to hit break-even. His 11 goals came in 11 games.
Therein lies the man's scoring history. In 917 previous NHL games, Jagr had only nine three-goal games, none as a Cap. He could be counted on to give you a goal at least every other game and 100 or more points a season, statistics deemed more valuable than those produced by a player who scored eye-catching totals two or three times a season but didn't spread the wealth around.
Nonetheless, the soon-to-be 31-year-old felt "the organization was waiting for this, [owner Ted] Leonsis was, that's for sure. The fans, they only see the highlights [on TV]. They don't see the whole game. And that's an advantage for goal-scorers because ESPN will show the goals, they're not going to show the saves. They're not going to show the mistakes, they're going to show the highlights and say 'Oh, how good he is.'"
But it takes more and Jagr has been chipping in both ways.
"What he's done the last few games is phenomenal but the bottom line is you're going to win with defense," said goalie Olie Kolzig. "The reason we've gotten points in our last 13 games is we've limited the number of quality chances and shots, we've always had a third guy high. And that means being responsible in the offensive zone, too."
It was only a few days ago that Jagr was questioning whether he should be on the All-Star team, never mind a starter, which he is. He said he wasn't playing that well, hadn't been having an All-Star season.
The night he said that he went out and led the rush that produced 12 goals against Florida; he had seven points for the second time in his career and also tied the club record for points in a game. In two games he has moved from off the screen to 10th place among scoring leaders (albeit 21 points behind front-runner Mario Lemieux), fifth in goal-scoring with 23.
"God gave me this gift to play hockey and I feel if I don't play good because I got the talent, I didn't do my job," Jagr said. "There is pressure because I know I can do it. That's the worst thing. I know I can do it but you have to find a way to make it work. I know I can do it because I did it before. You've got to have patience but that's easier to say than do sometimes."
"The puck went in for him the other night, that creates excitement and you are able to take it to the next level," said Cassidy. "And we all know he has the ability to take it to the next level. He's magical in that regard."


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