Saturday, April 19, 2008

Game 5: Caps 3 - Flyers 2

“It’s work hard, or go home, and working hard is a lot more fun.”

-- Eric Fehr, speaking after the game on Caps radio

That’s pretty much today in a nutshell, as the Caps worked from beginning to end (with a few anxious moments in period three in-between) to stave off elimination – that, by the way, is the only time that verb is used – in a 3-2 win at Verizon Center this afternoon.

Let’s just dive into the game – sort of like a Capital taking aim at a Flyer – ok?

-- Sergei Fedorov, Cristobal Huet, and Vaclav Prospal might have been awarded the game’s three stars, but Bruce Boudreau might have nailed it on the head in the post-game press conference when he opined that Donald Brashear might have been the best player on the ice in this game. It says a lot about the kind of game it was…in 6:52 of playing time, Brashear had seven hits and was pursuing Flyers all over the ice. He even had a couple of scoring chances for good measure.

-- And, speaking of the kind of game it was…82 hits were recorded, the Caps credited with 44 of them. Only Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Poti failed to register at least one among the skaters. Matt Bradley, Matt Cooke, David Steckel, and Brashear had 20 of the Caps’ number.

-- In other sports, when the big part of your game isn’t there, you have to make up for it by doing the other things…in baseball, if you’re not hitting, you have to play good defense; in basketball, shooters gone cold have to pass and play defense. Alex Ovechkin is in a goal scoring drought, but he was not lacking for effort in the other aspects of the game…three hits, a blocked shot, and a lot of time pestering Flyers in their zone as they were trying to break out with the puck. Watching Ovechkin, it would be tempting to say he’s holding the stick a little too tight, but such is not the case. He is this close to breaking out with a multi-goal game. In this one he got the puck in better scoring areas for one-timers and wrist shots, but just couldn’t find the back of the net behind goalie Martin Biron. We did like his flipping Jim Dowd into the Flyer bench.

-- Just an observation…does Alexander Semin look more comfortable out there with Nicklas Backstrom as his center, instead of Sergei Fedorov? When the latter was centering the second line, it seemed Semin was skating almost in reverence to who it was on his right, tying his game in knots. Now that he and the rookie are paired, both look rather comfortable with one another (although we’re starting to think Backstrom could be comfortable centering Jason Alexander as much as Semin or Ovechkin).

-- The Flyers had one shot – one – in 25:37 of game time spanning the first and second periods. It was as complete an exhibition of team-defense as the Caps have displayed this year.

-- You might not know it, but the Caps welcomed an NHL player today – Eric Fehr. The youngster launched seven shots at the Flyer net (ok, only one made it to the net), but in ten minutes and change of ice time, he also had a couple of hits, played diligently in forechecking in the Flyers’ end, and wasn’t backing down from anyone. We don’t think Fehr will be sitting any more in this series.

-- 33-17…that’s not a good number, not the first one, anyway. That is the turnover result for the Caps and Flyers (giveaways yielded plus takeaways by the opponent).

-- The Caps seemed to have better awareness of where Daniel Briere was when he was on the ice. Look, Briere is a small guy playing in the NHL…he hasn’t gotten to this level without figuring out how to avoid the bigger trees in the forest. You’re thinking some Cap should plant him? It’s a nice thought, but put it out of your mind. Being aware of where he is and denying him chances is what the Caps need to do, and did a better job of today.

-- The Caps had 26 shots (only six in the third period, to the Flyers’ 21)…Ovechkin, Semin, Fedorov, and Backstrom had 19 of them.

-- Mike Knuble is out for the remainder of the series, suffering a significant hamstring injury when his skate hit a rut while he was killing off a penalty in the second period.

-- “The squeaky wheel gets the grease, there…their coach has been complaining since the start of the series about that stuff.”

...Flyers’ coach John Stevens, commenting on the goaltender interference call on Scottie Upshall in the third period. There seemed to be a lot of “squeakin’” going on by Flyer players on the ice, though.

-- The shot chart was stunning…the shot pattern for the Caps indicated many more shots in scoring areas than was the case for the Flyers…

-- Steve Eminger had another solid game…three hits, two blocked shots. He was on the ice for the Hatcher goal, but that was more of a coverage problem at the top of the zone. And, Eminger is something of a good luck charm…the Caps are now, what, 16-6-1 when he’s in the lineup?

Another quote from Stevens, speaking about what to expect on Monday…

“We’re gonna dictate from the drop of the puck”

It’ll be loud, it’ll be hostile, it’ll be ferocious…

…but we’ll see you, Tuesday night.

From Which Dreams Are Made

Capitals Rise from the Ashes, Defeat Flyers in Electrifying Seventh Game

Washington (peerlesspress), April 23. The Washington Capitals completed a remarkable comeback from a three games to one deficit in their first round playoff match with the Philadelphia Flyers, beating the Flyers 5-4 in the third overtime period last night in Washington.

The Capitals became the 21st team in NHL history to rebound from a 3-1 deficit to win a playoff series. This is the second time they have accomplished the feat, the other also at the expense of the Flyers in 1988.

The game winning goal was scored on a penalty shot in the third overtime, awarded when defenseman Derian Hatcher was whistled for closing his hand on the puck in the goaltender’s crease. Alex Ovechkin, whose hat trick in Game 6 in Philadelphia set the stage for a thrilling conclusion to this series, was picked by Capitals’ coach Bruce Boudreau to take the potential game-winning shot.

The deafening roar of a capacity crowd on its feet spurring Ovechkin on, the MVP-favorite skated in on Flyer goaltender Martin Biron, and using an old trick of kicking his leg up in the air before shooting, he snapped a forehand over Biron’s glove, knocking the water bottle off of the netting and the Capitals into the second round of the playoffs. The Capitals will face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round.

Ovechkin’s heroics capped a furious comeback by the Capitals that eerily resembled the comeback they fashioned when the defeated the Flyers by the same score in Game 7 of their first round series in 1988. The Flyers raced to a 3-0 first period lead on goals by Daniel Briere, R.J. Umberger, and Jeff Carter, turning the Verizon Center crowd quiet. However, the Capitals found life when Steve Eminger found the back of the net early in the second period on a drive from the left point.

Just over a minute later, Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom worked a give-and-go play to pull the Caps within a goal, Semin converting the return pass from Backstrom on a backhand deke past Biron.

The Caps tied the game with less than a minute remaining in the second period on a power play. Sergei Fedorov, working from the half wall, worked the puck to Backstrom at the Flyer goal line. Backstrom wasted no time in feeding the puck to Ovechkin at the left wing circle hash marks, from where Ovechkin one-timed the puck past Biron’s blocker.

The Flyers regained the lead at the 10:46 mark of the third period on a goal-mouth scramble. Mike Knuble recreated his game-four winning goal by batting home a loose puck over Capitals’ goaltender Cristobal Huet’s left pad.

The Capitals tied the game for the final time with less than three minutes in regulation as Ovechkin raced down the left wing, drawing two Flyers to him as he entered the offensive zone. His way blocked, Ovechkin pulled up and found Viktor Kozlov coming late into the zone. Kozlov stepped around defenseman Braydon Coburn and fired a wrist shot through Biron that had the Capitals leaping off their bench and the Verizon Center fans in a frenzy.

The overtime periods were not without their moments. Daniel Briere had a breakaway late in the first overtime, but whiffed on a shot attempt. Mike Richards had an open net in the second overtime after a drive was kicked aside by Huet, but he misfired when he shot the puck off the heel of his stick, breaking his stick in the process.

In the third overtime, the Capitals mounted a serious threat when the Flyers were unable to clear the puck from the defensive zone. Mike Green twice intercepted clearing attempts to keep the offensive pressure on. Shaone Morrisonn then knocked down a clearing attempt, feeding the puck along the boards to Sergei Fedorov. Fedorov took a step in the direction of the Flyers’ net, then snapped a pass across to Ovechkin in the left wing circle. Ovechkin’s shot hit Biron in the mask and popped into the air. When the puck fell into the crease, a mad scramble ensued, and Derian Hatcher found himself within arm’s reach of the puck and Fedorov about to pounce. Hatcher reached out and pulled the puck under his body, upon which referee Mike Hasenfratz pointed to center ice, signaling a penalty shot.

After a few moments of suspense, Ovechkin skated slowly to center ice, alone in his thoughts as the crowd noise shook the building. Ovechkin at first could not hear the referee blowing his whistle to give Ovechkin the signal to take the shot, and the referee had to skate over to Ovechkin to send him on his way. With a short hop, Ovechkin got underway, skating slowly in on Biron, who had come almost to the hash marks to defend the rush. Ovechkin had the puck on his forehand and offered a leg kick to try to distract Biron. The goalie did not flinch, but then Ovechkin closed his stick to suggest he was going to his backhand. Biron edged ever so slightly to his right to defend the move, and it was all the opening Ovechkin needed. He snapped the puck over Biron’s glove with a forehand to send the water bottle flying, and the comeback was complete.

The Capitals poured off the bench to greet Ovechkin, and Biron skated dejectedly to his bench, having been the losing goaltender in each of the last three games of this series.

The Capitals, given up for dead after a heartbreaking double overtime loss to the Flyers in game four of this series, put themselves in a position to take this series with a 5-3 win in game five, in Washington, and then a wild 7-5 win in Philadelphia in which Ovechkin registered his first six-point game in the NHL (hat trick, three assists).

Notes…Ovechkin – held to a single goal in the first four games of the series – scored six goals, including the penalty shot game and series winner, in the last three games of the series. Martin Biron, who allowed only 11 goals on 111 shots in the first four games of the series, allowed 16 goals on 105 shots in games five, six, and seven. Steve Eminger scored a goal for the fourth consecutive game. This is the Capitals’ first playoff series victory since defeating the Buffalo Sabres in the Eastern Conference final in 1998.

photo: Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 5, Caps vs. Flyers

You're going to see and hear a lot today about "desperation" and the Caps fighting for their playoff lives, when in fact, the whole idea is this...'s a game you've been playing and dreaming about since you were kids. Just go out and have fun, boys...

Caps 5 - Flyers 3