Why must the hockey gods mock us? For the good of the NHL, Washington and Pittsburgh have to get together in the playoffs. There's no other way for the NHL to generate any mainstream interest without Sean Avery stabbing someone with a broken stick.
It was a Crosby hair away from happening last season, if only the Capitals could have won their overtime game seven. The matchup would start next weekend if Pittsburgh, Washington, and Carolina advance. And now, with the Caps a game away from elimination, the odds appear stacked against their part of the equation. Teams down 3-1 have come back to win a seven game series only 8.7% of the time (20/229). But the Caps need look no further than last year for inspiration, although they couldn't complete their comeback against Philly they did get two-thirds of the way there, forcing a game seven after being down by the same margin.
I could say how Washington isn't crashing the net enough or blocking enough shots, but the bottom line is that the rebounds aren't bouncing the favorite's way, nor settling down enough when they are. The Capitals have had 35 or more shots every game in the series (outshooting New York 149-99) and are averaging over five power play opportunities for their top ranked unit. Varlamov has a playoff save percentage of 0.962 as compared to Lundqvist's 0.946, and both teams have scored the same number of goals. If you look at the stats it's easy to see the series being 2-2 or even 3-1 the other way, but the Rangers have made more big saves and more big scores. Winning three games in a row against the best goalie on the planet sounds like a tall order, but it's no less likely than New York winning three of four against Washington. The only change Washington needs to make is to get Fleischmann far, far away from the top power play unit, because Laich is the only guy on the roster that doesn't have to be reminded to go to the net and Fedorov is a better complementary player there than Flash.
The play of Simeon Varlamov (pronounced sem YAWN var LA mov) and the fact that Washington has only gotten one goal outside of the top two forward lines (Poti's insurance goal late in game three) are the main reasons for optimism for Caps fans. Varlamov has done better than match Lundqvist save for save, but his one mistake yesterday (a flubbed glove save on a weak shot by Drury) was a killer. The usual suspects score so reliably that all they need is one goal from an unexpected source – a rebound by the invisible Eric Fehr, a tip in by anyone, a meaningful goal from a defenseman – and they win. I continue to look at the two rosters and see Washington pushing it to seven, but like John Locke, I'm a man of faith.
Miscellaneous: The Ovechkin feature on E:60 was pretty damn entertaining, but I hope he's either exaggerating about his speeding or talking in kilometers per hour… Congrats to Mike Green on his first Norris Trophy nomination, which I give him a 60% chance of winning (I've got Ovy at 80% for the Hart); now if he can just get into the All Star Game… Vin Diesel has made two video games in 2009 and one movie…
About the Author
Written by Ryan Cleaver
Ryan Cleaver was born in Björk’s house in Iceland and grew up on Easter Island, where his parents were giant stone heads. He has the ability to fire beams of tacos out of his hands and he can turn his legs into tigers. On Sundays, Ryan enjoys reading Family Circus and traveling through time. His favorite color is greenish-transparent and his favorite movie is the one you just watched.