Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Midnight...


And the coach that carried a resilient bunch of precocious kids, led by a scruffy-bearded world-class talent and a goalie who was equal parts spell-binding and spectacular through the first 12 games he played in the playoffs, turned into a pumpkin that carried a young (second-youngest average age among the eight surviving teams in the second round) collection of talented kids not quite ready for the biggest stage, backstopped by a goalie who finally showed the cracks you might have expected to see earlier on in a just-turned-21 year old.

The better team won. There is no other argument to be made here, not after a 6-2 pasting of the Caps by the Pittsburgh Penguins in a Game 7 that never matched the pre-game hype after the first few minutes. The Penguins showed considerable resiliency of their own, having come back from an 0-2 deficit in games, having lost a tough overtime decision in Game 6, and having lost their best defenseman for almost three full games, yet they still came out on the long end of the seven game series.

The Penguins were deeper, stronger on the puck, more aggressive, and more able to impress their will on games. That they won this series is no fluke, not the product of officiating or bad bounces. They were simply – and ultimately – better.

And the Caps? Their goalie of the future in the present – Simeon Varlamov – finished the game on the bench, and their Norris Trophy candidate defenseman finally went as far as he could go. All that is left with respect to Mike Green is an announcement of what injury he had that all but crippled him in this series. We suspect he suffered a shoulder injury in the Ranger series that affected everything from his shooting, to his passing, to his ability to carry the puck. He played only one shift in the third period and did not play in the last 17:58 of the contest. All the Caps had left was Alex Ovechkin, but not even his broad shoulders could carry the load against a Penguin team that had contributions from up and down the roster.

So, the Caps can take their razors out of their medicine cabinets, and the Penguins can contemplate facing Boston or Carolina. One gets the feeling that this is only the first of what will be many meetings between these clubs in the playoffs over the next decade. All other Eastern Conference teams are now on notice that hereforth, any road to the Stanley Cup finals goes through Pittsburgh and Washington.

But this was Pittsburgh’s night and Pittsburgh’s series. To the Penguins and their fans, congratulations and good luck in the weeks ahead.

10 comments:

Hooks Orpik said...

Always tough to talk about the season ender, and as expected this was all class, Peerless. If there was "all-blogging" honors, you'd definitely make the first team. Congrats on a good season for your team and a great one for you personally.

And I concur with this statement:

"One gets the feeling that this is only the first of what will be many meetings between these clubs in the playoffs over the next decade".

Cheers and thanks for all the work you put in this season.

Anonymous said...

If there are more playoff meetings to happen between the Caps and Pens during the next decade, may the Caps win at least some of them.

Flying Cloud said...

"All other Eastern Conference teams are now on notice that hereforth, any road to the Stanley Cup finals goes through Pittsburgh and Washington."

Sad that this particular journey ended this way.

That said, Peerless, your commentary is informative and inspiring all season, and gracious now in defeat. Here's hoping you will defer a well-deserved holiday to advise us of imminent free agent shenanigans and the implications for next season. Must look ahead.

Lara said...

More gracious than I would have been! :) Great job as always, Peerless. Living up to your name.

The Peerless said...

Thanks, Hooks... and congratulations, not just on advancing, but for getting onto a bigger stage for your work with Pensburgh. The Pensblog might be like having cake and ice cream, but if I want meat and potatoes, I read you and your partners. Have a great season.

SuzukiSandy said...

An ignominious end to yet another whirlwind season. And yet we have so much to look back upon and to look forward to. I tip my hat to you, Peerless, for making the victories that much sweeter and the losses easier to swallow, and since we had more of the former and less of the latter, it cannot be considered a total loss. Keep up the superlative work in the off-season, something tells me you'll be busier than ever, which bodes well for all of us.

Godspeed Peerless, you are very much appreciated.

Hazzychan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hazzychan said...

As usual, you give pretty good posts here and in JPs corner of the internets. Unfortunately, I couldn't say that there, since disagreeing with DMG means getting banned.

However, I have to disagree with the general consensus that Pittsburgh was the better team, not because I'm a caps fan, but because I just sincerely don't think they were. When you're given almost twice as many power plays through a series, if you don't look like the better team, you're doing something wrong.

I completely blame the pisspoor, lopsided officiating for this series. It was just godawful and cost the caps the series, no question. They had spent, what, 16 or 18 minutes down a guy to all of 4 up a guy in game 3? Just a wee bit lopsided, don'tcha think? And what's worse is that it's a little obvious what was going on. Had Washington won that game, it was 3-0 for the series and a probable sweep. What sort of "epic showdown of the league's best 2 players!" would it have been if we'd just swept? Yeah, I know, "conspiracy theory omgomgomgogmogm" but let's just stop ruling out foul play when the argument for it is so incredibly sturdy. That's not to say, necessarily, that it was intended for Pittsburgh to win the series, but certainly to keep them from being swept. And I feel that in doing just that, the Caps got screwed out of their chance to wrap it up early. Each of the 4 games lost follow the exact same formula... come out like gangbusters in the first 10 minutes and have Pittsburgh on their heels... then get some ticky-tack call that sends you down a guy, get scored on during the ensuing PP and lose any and all momentum you may have had.

It absolutely tears me that everyone's so ready to just throw blame everywhere but where it belongs most. Why are the officials untouchable? I'm sick of this "I don't wanna sound like a whiner or sore loser" nonsense. Call out those responsible. The more they're ignored, the easier it is for the same shit to just keep happening.

Usually Frustrated Caps Fan said...

Great post, I'm still dealing with my demons and trying to compose my own season ending post tonight - I agree that last night the Pens showed for sure they deserved to advance. I was hoping Varly could hold us in it once more but alas it was not to be.

We'll get em next season! Until then i guess I'll adopt those crazy zany Blackhawks as long as Huet is NOT in the net...

this space for rent said...

@Hazzychan: Oh good, someone else noticed that disagreeing with JP or DMG is a good way to get yourself banned on Japers' Rink, if not just ridiculed off the board. I still read many of the articles, and I follow his Twitter feed, but I no longer comment with any frequency, and probably won't do so going forward.

As for your post ... hmm. I don't agree that the Pens are the better team. I don't agree that they're necessarily deeper or more talented, and I sure don't think that Crosby is better than Ovechkin. I think the difference is simply that they wanted it more than we did. Effort and work ethic has been a question mark for certain people all year long, and there's just games that this team doesn't show up for. We've seen it all season, and it is THAT that got us kicked out of the playoffs this year. Not talent, not injuries, not depth. Desire and want and willingness to dig down in the corners and work hard.

That said - don't tell me the refereeing wasn't lopsided, because it sure as hell was. Very lopsided, and the suspensions handed out in the playoffs to date have been baffling to say the least. The Pens were pretty much allowed to do as they pleased in Games 2 and 3. Laich's high stick in Game 7 is two minutes if it's on anybody but Crosby. But, rather than be a conspiracy theorist (although I do think the NHL had a vested interest in extending the series and was willing to pull a few strings to do so), I'm going to suggest that the referees tend to favor the team that is working harder. It is kinda crap, but they do.

The work thing is the issue that really needs to be addressed in the off season. When this team shows up 100% for every shift, they're terrifying. When they don't, they get stomped, and that is what happened in Game 7.