Monday, May 11, 2009

David Steckel brings the Caps home for Game 7

Being a Caps fan is not for the faint of heart, particularly, if you've watched this team for as long as I have.  There are two many overtime losses, too many playoff losses to Pittsburgh and too many years that the team was neglected by its owner when they wouldn't put a truly competitive NHL team on the ice.  To this day, I will never forget how badly outmatched the Caps were in their only finals appearance against the Detroit Red Wings.  To have your heart ripped out in the post season seemed like an annual occurrence.  See last year's game 7 against the Philadelphia Flyers for the most recent example.

Then, came Ted Leonsis, General Manager George McPhee and the ultimate gift for a fan, a young Russian rookie named Alex Ovechkin.  Ovie was soon joined by Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green and Alexander Semin settled into playing here and being a Capital with his Russian teammate.  They became the young guns. 

Add to that, Semyon Varlamov, the young rookie net minder who has played six more playoff NHL hockey games than he played in the regular season and generated a .925 save percentage and a 2.28 GAA.  His athleticism and acrobatics in net on some of his saves are eye popping to watch.  And, Varlamov's calm cool demeanor make me sure the Caps have found their goalie of the future.  He's living up to his billing as I've been reading about him for quite some time and saw him last summer at the Caps rookie development camp.

Then stir in the heart and soul players of this Capitals team like Matt Bradley who will gladly take a punch to rile up his team, Brooks Laich who knows how to camp out in front of the net and last night, David Steckel who has played huge, huge, huge in these playoffs with the overtime game winning goal to force game 7 last night after missing his overtime opportunity in game 5. Coach Bruce Boudreau keeps saying Steckel is a big game guy.  I believe him now. 

And what does all of that get you?  The "cardiac Caps" an affectionate moniker widely used to describe these Capitals and it makes it painful for me to watch them, at times.  Like last night.  Ovie thinks the fans enjoy this, but I don't.  I merely want them to win.  And, by a lot of goals.

Instead, the Caps are facing another game 7, another win or go home game, against a team I hate with intense passion.  I thought I'd be okay if the Caps only won one series this year, but I won't.  I'll be heartbroken.  Just like last year.

Let's go Caps!

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Ovie takes the game with Varly's support

The phone booth crowd rocked the red in a deafening cacophony of Caps fan cheering, screaming, blaring horns, taunting Fleury and going nuts.  That was my most sublime live hockey experience ever.  To watch Alex Ovechkin take over a game from the Pittsburgh Penguins with his two goals for the hat trick in under three minutes starting at 12:53 in the third period was awesome.  The only thing better will be watching the Washington Capitals life the Stanley Cup and, no, that's not a prediction about this year.  See my tagline.

Simeon Valamov, leading in GAA with 1.51, continues to impress and kept the Caps in the game last night too often for comfort.  His sprawling side to side saves look like something you'd see in Olympic gymnastics. 

David Steckel got another important goal last night, too.  Coach Bourdreau says he gets up for big games.  He is most definitely showing that during the playoffs.

I loved that game even though playoff hockey is killing me as a fan.  These one goal games and being tied in the 3rd are way too stressful.

The Capitals move to Mellon Arena to battle the Penguins in their barn tomorrow night.

Let's go Caps!

p.s. Oh, and yes, Sydney Crosby had his own hat trick and played a good game to keep his team competitive, but I'm a Caps fan and have no interest in writing about him - enough other NHL venues take care of that :)

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Saturday, May 02, 2009

Cardiac Caps Outlast Penguins 2-1

In a game as exciting as promised with the last 3 Art Ross trophy winners on the ice, the Caps escaped with a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Sydney Crosby scored first at 4:09 in the first on a shot that the young net minder Simeon Varlamov should have had, but I'm going to cut the rookie some slack on that one.  The defense certainly wasn't helping him out early in the game as the Caps spent far too much time battling the Penguins in the defensive zone. 

Varlamov let in a deflected goal at 12:54 in the second period.  I worried about what that might do to Varly's confidence, but I forgot that worry when he made that highlight reel save on Sydney Crosby's shot.  Crosby had a wide open net until Varly threw himself back towards the other side of the net and deflected Crosby's shot right at the goal line with his stick.  That stop saved the game and got him another #1 star.

Other observations:
  • Caps were terrible on faceoffs, winning only 47%.   They kept throwing everyone out of the circle.  I loved Alex Ovechkin's shot off the faceoff.  
  • They also had 22 giveaways to the Penguins 6.  They need improvements on those stats to win this 7 game series.
  • The Brooks Laich - David Steckel - Matt Bradley line is awesome.  They are battling hard, crashing the net and that resulted in a goal by David Steckel to tie the game at 1-1.  Steckel deservedly got the 2nd star.
  • I'm glad Ovie and Mike Green learned that in the playoffs you sometimes need to dump the puck in.
  • Nicklas Backstrom's, 2 assists, patience in feeding Tomas Fleischmann early in the 3rd period resulted in the game winning goal.  Backstrom just gets better and better.  
The last 17 minutes of that game were excruciatingly painful to watch as I just wanted it to be over.   Thankfully it ended with the Caps still up 3-2.

I'll be Rocking the Red Monday night at the phone booth.

Let's go Caps!

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