24 April, 2014


Suddenly, It’s a Short Series Again

We’ll get to Boyd Gordon’s remarkable shorthanded, late second period heroics in a minute. But first, you can see the way this whole thing in the East is setting up, can’t you? The Caps are all but certain to move on, vanquishing the 8th seed and drawing next the 7th — Philly — in a bid for a berth in the Eastern Conference finals. Could you draw it up any more benignly — going through an 8 and a 7 to enter hockey’s final four?

Actually, you can, because on Wednesday word arrived that the Flyers’ best player, Jeff Carter, was donesy for the duration of the postseason. And Simon Gagne — admittedly only a fraction of his once lethal presence on the wing, is shelved for weeks. Both will undergo surgery on Friday.

And looking out just a little further, it’s difficult imagining the offense-challenged Bs taking down Pittsburgh in round 2, meaning, of course, you know who versus you know who again in a spring fling of high hatred — but with the Eastern conference crown at stake. That’s assuming of course that the Caps can manage to do what the New Jersey Devils cannot this spring — hose down the white-hot Dan Carcillo. And so the Caps’ progression this postseason very well could offer a dreamy takedown of tormentors past — both Pennsylvania franchises.

Such showdowns would make some in the league hierarchy happy, don’t you think?

I watched game 4 last night in the delightful company of my blogger buddy Pepper downtown. We agreed in mid-pitcher that a you-know-what earned through the trials of persevering against you know who would make a late spring celebration all the sweeter. Inspired by even more intake, we also agreed we’d make a pilgrimage to Western Pa. this summer solely for the purpose of publicly urinating on their new rink.

But we mustn’t look too far ahead; a suddenly rejuvenated Flyers’ team won’t be an easy out (or put another way. . . sans Carter, Gagne and a netminder, it will). But with each passing day this postseason I become more and more convinced of the claim that Al Koken made on ‘Washington Post Live’ the other day — that only the Washington Capitals can take down the Washington Capitals in the East.

Wednesday night’s game was very much in doubt deep in period two, with the Habs leading 2-1, and the Caps took a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty in the waning moments of the frame, affording Montreal’s dazzling power play an opportunity to break the game open a bit. Instead, Boyd Gordon gathered a clearing pass off the near boards from Tom Poti, led a shorthanded charge up the ice on a two-on-one with Mike Knuble, and deftly delivered a crossing pass onto the tape of Knuble, somehow eluding the stick of a sprawled out Josh Georges, which Knuble banged home to knot it up at 2 with just 6 seconds to play in the period.

For the second consecutive game in the series Boyd Gordon was a shorthanded catalyst, and at a critical juncture in a game.

All of Montreal’s surging momentum stopped in that instant. A frenzied Bell Centre crowd was hushed. Foreboding set in. The second intermission wasn’t a time so much for the Habs to regroup as it was a respite for a suddenly prosperous Capitals’ club to identify a final frame’s opportunity to head home up three games to one in the series. They’d been outshot 21-9 in the middle period and yet escaped in a deadlock. The third was a must-prosper period for the hosts, all the pressure squarely on their sticks.

“Again, we played great short-handed and Gordo, what can I say about him? He’s a hard-working guy and when he makes a play like this it means a lot for our team,” Ovechkin said afterward.

If Gordon swung the game’s momentum with his shorthanded playmaking, it would be Ovechkin, again skating every shift to a chorus of boos in Bell Centre, who would ignite the series-swinging surge. He’d already staked the Caps to a 1-0 lead in the first, removing the albatross of an O-fer power play to date in the series. Picking up a drop pass from Alexander Semin, he powered in against Hall Gill and lasered a wrister past Carey Price’s right pad before either Gill or Price knew what hit ‘em.

The very next shift the Capitals’ fourth line would deliver breathing room, Matt Bradley making like a 60-pt. setup guy and sheer-willing his way with the puck through an amalgam of Habs behind Price’s cage. He found Jason Chimera (strong again) on the far side of the low slot, and Price had no chance. 4-2 Caps, game, set, and series.

Semyon Varlamov, a hero in game 3, was actually more impressive in game 4. He stopped 36 shots on the evening, his once much-maligned glove hand his best defense throughout much of the Habs’ 21-shot attack in the second period. He is again in spring staking a strong claim to being the Capitals’ foundation of the present and future in net.

“He was the difference,” Knuble noted.

A series that started in so sour a fashion for the Caps suddenly can end as quickly as commonly forecasted Friday night. Closeout games are the hardest to win, and every game in this series has been fiercely contested. But there appears no satisfactory answer in net for the Habs against these high-flying Caps. The Habs are without hope, and 22,000 exited Bell Centre last night knowing it.



28 Comments

  1. Ari wrote:

    The overconfidence of Caps fans is absolutely shocking. How many 3-1 series leads have we blown? Ok, the argument goes, but this team isn’t those teams. But those teams weren’t each other either. What did they have in common? The Caps crest on their chest.

    Great few games, no doubt. Boyd Gordon is a friggin’ god. But let’s please not count any chickens.

    22 April, 2010 at 8:00 am | Permalink
  2. Victor wrote:

    Fair point, Ari. But *this* Caps crest hasn’t blown any 3-1 leads, and, as you said, this team isn’t those teams, in more ways than one. At certain times, those teams had a self-doubt that blew those leads; this team is playing with a swagger and confidence (and yes, at times, over-confidence–see game 1) that suggests to one and all (except you) this lead won’t be blown. I will concede Montreal might win tomorrow night. After all, as Buffalo is learing, the games are played for a reason..but take the series? I’d bet a paycheck–barring cheating on a scale that would make even Bettmann blush, no way does Montreal come back to win this series.

    22 April, 2010 at 8:31 am | Permalink
  3. Hittman wrote:

    Man another great game! I had to partially watch the ESPN GameCast and then tried to listen to the remainder on the radio–AM 1370–until it cut out around the 198 exit on 95. Anyone know if there’s a better radio station to hear these games? Still, I was in a late-night meeting and I basically jumped outta my seat when I saw that Knuble had scored with :06 left. Judging from the replays, Ovechkin is suddenly scoring HIS type of goals again. And Knuble…this guy is finally doing exactly what he was signed to do: score clutch goals.

    22 April, 2010 at 9:12 am | Permalink
  4. Chubbs wrote:

    This just in — On Frozen Blog is rooting against the Caps. How else to explain this we-have-the-habs-and-flyers-and-penguins-beat post.

    Have we never heard of a playoff jinx around here?

    I’ve been around long enough to see my share of postseason collapses — a number of them from your fair national capital, I might add.

    It’s perhaps a tad early to start proclaiming the Caps’ path easy when said path has not yet even been set.

    The Caps will do away with Montreal, no question.

    The Pens will dust off the Sens, no doubt.

    But don’t discount the Devils quite yet, particularly now that Carter and Gagne are gonzo for the rest of the post-season.

    How about we hold off on the prognosticating until the match-ups are set… And that we do it on a round-by-round basis, as each arrives, rather than cast upon these Caps a jinxed blanket that could cause them to collapse.

    Because if it happens, I’m coming right back here to blame it all on you! (Kidding — a little bit.)

    Go Caps Go.

    22 April, 2010 at 9:17 am | Permalink
  5. Hittman wrote:

    CHUBBS makes a good point. The Bruins won last night. If the Devils somehow rally to defeat the depleted Flyers, then the Pens would face the Devils. That would be wonderful for the Caps. The Devils won EVERY matchup against the Pens in the regular season. LETS GO DEVILS.

    22 April, 2010 at 9:57 am | Permalink
  6. penguin pete wrote:

    i think he’s second to sid.
    i think his celebrations grating.
    i think his first goal last night may have been the hardest wrist shot ever taken.
    however, i think i have found a dark, cold place in my heart to love alex ovechkin…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7Pv9VD_5Ew&feature=player_embedded

    22 April, 2010 at 10:03 am | Permalink
  7. vt caps fan wrote:

    P&B – this series ain’t over. I’ve been a caps fan all my life… one game at a time.

    As much as we want to look down the road – DON’T. Our history has never been kind to us. So let’s just take it one game at a time.

    BELIEVE

    22 April, 2010 at 10:36 am | Permalink
  8. Avi wrote:

    Look Montreal isn’t a team that should compete with us.But for times have looked like the better team.What scares me though is Mike Greens play he has been awful,defensively and isn’t really contributing offensively either.Without Green coming back to where he should be we could be in trouble down the road.C’mon Greener step up already.

    22 April, 2010 at 10:48 am | Permalink
  9. nafyekcoh wrote:

    We should be looking into the future no farther than game 5. The grind line is playing great and Varly had another strong game. However, there is certain defensive line that needs to step up, along with the 2nd O-line.

    Montreal is still a strong team (displayed in 2nd period) and now they are facing elimination. Could be dangerous to look any farther than game 5.

    22 April, 2010 at 11:21 am | Permalink
  10. Geo wrote:

    Green had some good shots last night late, stepping up down the middle of the rink. I expect it’s only a matter of time on that. I agree though he and Schultz often still looked like statues or “table hockey” players. When I watched highlights at NFL.com, the Versus announcers were going on and on about those two seeming like they didn’t want to hit or check anybody.

    I know Green/Schultz can play better D, I just don’t understand they seem to not be playing the way they had in the regular season.

    But I’m happy they won, wins are all that matters right now. :)

    22 April, 2010 at 11:47 am | Permalink
  11. Sherrie Van Houten wrote:

    As a Red Wings’ fan who was there during all the years when the Wings were can’t miss and then proceeded to check out in the early rounds, I’m begging you: take it back. Please. I can’t believe you wrote this.

    22 April, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Permalink
  12. DCPensFan wrote:

    “Montreal’s dazzling power play an opportunity to break the game open a bit”

    The only thing dazzling about that particular powerplay was the lackadaisical skating the Habs displayed. Inexcusable.

    Varly was amazing — both in the quality of his saves, and the way he made it look easy.

    22 April, 2010 at 12:02 pm | Permalink
  13. Ted wrote:

    I remember 1992 after Game 4 when we blew out the penguins. We were playing the best hockey in the league at the time, and I felt certain a Stanley Cup was in the bag. Then came the most monumental collapse ever. Granted it was against a team capable of coming back, but we were great that year and had no excuse to blow it. This series is far from over and we must finish it tomorrow night.

    22 April, 2010 at 12:16 pm | Permalink
  14. Marjolaine wrote:

    It surprises me that the team that finished in first in the East (and I think with the most points overall?) had some struggles with a team like Montreal who just barely made it to the playoffs and struggled all along. It’s clear that playing with weak teams in your division all year helped you maintain a lead. Ovie, by the way, didn’t do much with the Montreal series unless he is saving his best for tomorrow. You won the series b/c of Varly — very clear to all.

    I can’t wait till you face the Pens (if both of you meet) because I want to see Boudreau’s face turn to a big red tomato head like last year.

    Go Habs, Go!

    22 April, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Permalink
  15. Joran wrote:

    @Marjolaine

    Ovechkin not doing much? Granted, he was invisible Game 1, but since Game 1, he’s broken out with 4 goals in 3 games, with 4 assists. What more do you want?

    You can pinpoint some underperformers, Mike Green, Alexander Semin, Tomas Fleischmann, but Ovechkin is pulling his own (massive) weight.

    Montreal seemed like a difficult matchup; the Capitals generally struggle against the trap and prefer to play a more back and forth type game. Montreal’s defensive corps has always given Ovechkin fits with Hal Gill and Markov especially. Finally, it’s playoff hockey; this isn’t the NBA where number one seeds are guaranteed to advance.

    During the pressure situations, the Capitals excelled and the Canadiens folded. That’s why they’re up 3-1 and why they’re going to finish it off in game 5.

    22 April, 2010 at 5:28 pm | Permalink
  16. Marjolaine wrote:

    @joran: oh, you will finish it off in game 5, there’s no doubt about it. Capitals had a hard time with Montreal ALL year, not only in the playoffs. I remember the games well, check out the stats for yourself.

    As for Ovie, I really don’t think that four goals is great for superstar. Our own Andrei Kostitsyn scored three goals when you beat us 6 to 5 and he’s not superstar. Superstars really pick up the pace at playoff time compared to regular season, and I don’t think he did. Look at this game 1 — no goals, no shots! What??

    Anyway, good luck to you all, I would like to see the Caps win only because I like to watch Boudreau jump up and down when they win. He reacts like a little boy and it’s very endearing.

    22 April, 2010 at 6:29 pm | Permalink
  17. OvieTracker wrote:

    Two points:
    –the Caps/Habs series will only become a short series IF the Caps close the deal Friday night
    –let’s not ignore the Sabres/Bruins series. IF somehow the Devils come back to win the series with the Flyers, and IF the Sabres re-group to put away the Bruins, and IF both the Caps and Pens take their series, that means the top 4 seeds in the East will advance to round 2. The end result–hat means the Caps vs Pens in the EC semifinals again, same as last year

    22 April, 2010 at 7:52 pm | Permalink
  18. All of you giving me grief for the sins of Caps’ postseasons past, shame on you! These aren’t your father’s Capitals. Those clubs didn’t have Ovi. Or Varly. Or Carly. Remember, it took a Koharski screwjob to bump us out of the first round in ’08, and grotesque PP discrepancy to get Sid & co. through last spring. I confess I was anxious going to the Cathedral for the first time in the postseason, but the zebras did all right by us. These Habs can’t score 5-on-5 — what are you wringing your hands about?

    22 April, 2010 at 11:25 pm | Permalink
  19. Section 425 wrote:

    Hoping that the loyal followers of On Frozen Blog will join me in an effort to finally put an end to the anthem-booing in Montreal. We shouldn’t just quietly respect the Canadian National Anthem on Friday night. We should sing it with all our hearts, 18277-strong. Booing of the Star-Spangled Banner will only end when Montreal fans are thoroughly shamed, and that will only happen when the Canadian media turn on them. Let’s get their attention. Let’s be such great fellow travelers that shame is the only appropriate reaction to the booing. And let’s go Caps!

    23 April, 2010 at 12:39 am | Permalink
  20. Sherrie Van Houten wrote:

    I never mentioned the Caps’ history. It doesn’t matter what it is. You NEVER look beyond the next game in the playoffs, let alone 2 rounds down the road. I repeat: I can’t believe you wrote this.

    23 April, 2010 at 1:01 am | Permalink
  21. Hittman wrote:

    Well let’s be serious: there’s no such thing as a jinx. At least not by a blogger. The only person that could jinx this team is AO himself. And he appears to be the anti-jinx due to being the greatest LW in history.

    23 April, 2010 at 10:27 am | Permalink
  22. doc wrote:

    Game night and I hope the Caps win so they can get closer to the Pens so then again, I can enjoy the Pens putting them to Pasture with their Golf Clubs again. Go Caps Go!!!!!

    23 April, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Permalink
  23. OvieTracker wrote:

    Game on, Caps. Put the Habs away quickly. Establish dominance early and leave them reeling, begging to be back in La Belle Province or the golf course, whichever they prefer.

    I’m rooting for a Caps/Pens Eastern Conference Finals matchup with a much different outcome than last years EC semis.

    And it’s worth repeating–GO CAPS!!!

    23 April, 2010 at 7:23 pm | Permalink
  24. doc wrote:

    Hey the Game is on so where is the Dominance at ?? First period, Yes I do want a rematch of the Pens/Caps Eastern Conferance Finals matchup just like last year Go Pens Goooo!!!!!!!!

    23 April, 2010 at 7:58 pm | Permalink
  25. OvieTracker wrote:

    And just as suddenly, it’s a long series now.

    Boo hiss! What a pathetic game and pathetic effort. So much for closing out the Habs early. What a huge disappointment.

    And the players who’ve been AWOL are still absent. This can’t continue if the Caps want to make some noise and go deep.

    Oh wait, first they have to finish off the Habs, which now has become even more difficult.

    23 April, 2010 at 9:48 pm | Permalink
  26. Marjolaine wrote:

    @Ovietracker: I’d change your name to Capstracker if I were you, your guy Ovie is not playing the playoffs too well.

    I think the Caps will win only because of our lack in mental stamina. When we’re winning and you guys tie it up or start leading, we deflate. Other than that, we have been a constant challenge and have outplayed the Caps in almost all games.

    If and when you face the Pens, the games will be an easy win for them. Crosby is playing so well. What, 13 points so far? Ovie should be worried.

    23 April, 2010 at 11:22 pm | Permalink
  27. Ari wrote:

    Ahem.

    26 April, 2010 at 10:58 pm | Permalink
  28. OvieTracker wrote:

    To a certain someone who I won’t even bother to address by name: I’ll keep the name I have, thank you very much. How about YOU changing YOUR name, or better yet, how about an attitude adjustment?

    26 April, 2010 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

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