Playoff overtime hockey is the most exciting thing in sports. Either team is between two seconds and six hours from winning it at any point. The inherently fluky nature of overtime coupled with the NHLs parity should see most teams hovering around .500. But somehow the Washington Capitals have managed to lose seven overtime playoff games in a row over the last I-don't-want-to-depress-myself-by-looking-it-up years.
In baseball or basketball such a streak isn't as statistically absurd, since neither features sudden death and the strength of your bullpen and bench plays a factor. But Caps fans are Charlie Brown, and everyone not wearing red at Caps' games are Lucy, and time after time they file out of the building with their heads down spouting sad conspiracy theories.
The game winning goals in last two home overtime losses were preceded by obvious minor penalties against Washington, which were preceded by only slightly less obvious non-calls against the other team. But it's pretty hard to look at the playoffs in their entirety and see any type of grand injustice against the Caps or imagine a cadre of NHL officials trying to advance Pittsburgh of Philadelphia at the expense of Washington. Shit happens. While the seven consecutive playoff overtime losses have instilled a defeatist attitude in late tie games, the fact that the Capitals have won five out of six games when facing elimination makes it easy to be optimistic for this classic series going seven. And here's where I can imagine Gary Bettman, Bill Daly, and company plotting out a Washington game six victory to get it there.
With all the bluster regarding the Bulls/Celtics NBA series this year and the Hurricanes/Devils, this is the best playoff series I'll remember from this sports postseason. In terms of seeing marquee players and great 5-on-5 play I don't know what more you could ask from this series. Two overtime games and four one-goal games out of five so far, tons of subplots, and the element most necessary in a truly great series: two teams that truly, deeply hate each other.
Washington was outshot in each of the first five games of this series, the first time they've been out shot in five consecutive games since March 15-24, 2007 when they were out shot six consecutive games under Glen Hanlon. But many believe the Caps turned in their best effort of the series in game five and the Pens are without Gonchar, their third best player in my opinion. The dominance of the Lemieux/Jagr Penguins over various incarnations of the Capitals doesn't change the fact that Washington has better players than Pittsburgh. Washington wins tonight and brings this series back to Washington.
Miscellaneous: Mike Green may get the stick he donated to the Hall of Fame back for tonight… Semin seems to be nursing an injury and Mike Green is reportedly getting over the flu… Donald Brashear's suspension ends tonight but it sounds like he'll only play if Fehr is out…
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.