There's been no shortage of drama in the opening round series between the Capitals and the Rangers. Barring four or more overtimes the series and its subplots will end tonight, a winner-take-all game seven capping off an epic six games that could not be scripted any better if it were written for the stage. In fact, it sounds like it could be.
King Henrik and his subjects storm into Washington shutting down their prolific offense. The prodigal Sean Avery is worth every bit of the 50% of his salary that the Rangers are picking up and things look bleak for the goalless Ovechkin and our heroes. A new character, a 20 year old goalie with six games NHL experience, is introduced.
Washington and New York exchange heartbreaks on key shots to the crossbar as our story picks up steam. Avery is off the reservation and can't stay out committing ludicrous penalties in crucial situations. Lundqvist's aura starts to fade and Varlamov starts to heat up. Ovechkin shows signs of taking over the series.
Tortorella sits Avery and throws a water bottle at a woman's head. Then Tortorella sits and Sean Avery plays. Washington piles on the goals from unexpected sources as they chase Lundqvist twice in about 43 hours. Brashear assumes the role of villain and Glen Sather the role of whiner as tensions mount.
If you can't get fired up about tonight then I don't know how you can derive enjoyment out of hockey. For the second straight year Washington is on the verge of coming back from down 3-1, needing only to win game seven at home.
When last we left our heroes things looked bleak but for the statistical edge held by the Caps in most categories except for wins. I pointed out that Washington needed goals from unexpected sources which they have received. In pivotal game five, light-scoring grit winger Matt Bradley dominated the first period with two goals and a key takeaway, and when Washington is getting goals from the Tim Olyphant lookalike they win (10-1-0 the last two years). Ovechkin scored the most spectacular goal of the playoffs to whet the home fans appetite for a possible game seven. Finally, Tortorella threw a water bottle into the crowd that hit a woman in the face and then performed some kind of one man tug-of-war with a hockey stick to push the off-ice drama above the fold.
Ex-Capitals coach Jim Schoenfeld took the reins for game six, and again Washington came out firing. Before the puck dropped, even. Brashear bumped Colton Orr (an inactive!) prior to the game, a definite nish nish to Colin Campbell, and eventually concussed Blair Betts with a slightly-late to egregious maybe shoulder/maybe elbow, earning a combined six game suspension. Capitals defenseman scored their first three goals of the game and game seven was inevitable.
The absurdity of this series didn't really hit critical mass until Glen Sather's open letter to the commissioner. This has got me pretty aggravated, not because of any of the accusations or any comparisons between the language that Tortorella may or may not have been subjected to and the language audible to anyone tuned in to a Rangers broadcast when, heaven forbid!, the ref makes a call against the home team. But Glen Sather is the guy who has signed Bobby Holik, Chris Drury, and Wade Redden to ridiculous contracts like some kind of unholy child of George Steinbrenner and Isiah Thomas and I despise the thought of him getting an ounce of credit for penning the whiniest tome in the history of sports.
It sounds like Chris Clark will be coming in on the fourth line for Brashear. The third and fourth lines for most of the year were Fleischmann-Nylander-Fehr and Bradley-Steckel-Brashear, but games five and six featured Laich-Steckel-Bradley and Brashear-Gordon-Fehr. The third line clicked in a big way, and if Clark can give the Caps anything close to what he was before the injuries set in about a year and a half ago then their four forward lines are scary. Clark was absolutely the worst Capital to wear the sweater this year (1 G, 5 A in 32 games with third line minutes) but was supposedly playing through a forearm injury. In 2006-07 he was a 30 goal scorer, 20 the year before. If the fourth line can pick up a couple of goals a series then no one in the East is beating Washington.
Miscellaneous: If Washington and Carolina win tonight, the Capitals and Penguins meet in the next round AND I'd be 8-0 in my playoff pool…
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.