The Eastern Conference Semi-Finals are starting to take flight and the four teams left are in it for the long haul- literally. The New York Rangers and Washington Capitals slugged it out in triple overtime, exhausting themselves and their respective fanbases into the wee hours of the morning.
The last time a game in the playoffs went into triple overtime was a very memorable 2010 game between the Ottawa Senators and the Pittsburgh Penguins, a stalemate which was broken by Matt Carkner, who became the unexpected overtime hero and toast of the town. New York won that battle in a game that should have really counted for two for the time and effort it took.
Only one overtime was needed for the Philadelphia Flyers and the New Jersey Devils in their game three and it was Ponikarovsky who scored the game winner by getting his own rebound and potting it in for New Jersey. Philadelphia is a team which is better on paper; it has good depth and lots of offensive talent, and the large contract handed to start Bryzgalov was supposed to be an indication that the dark days of goaltending uncertainty were behind them. New Jersey’s reputation of a highly defensive minded team that likes to play the trap preceded them into this series and it was expected that the Flyers firepower would quickly overwhelm the Devils and make short work of them.
Not so. The series has been far more dynamic than its billing and the inconsistent nature of the Flyers offensive output and goaltending has come back to haunt them in the last two games. After an overtime win in game one with clutch player Danny Briere coming through once again for Philly, Philly’s game has dropped dramatically. With no shot on goal in the third period of game two and a visibly frustrated Bryzgalov, it was clear that something had gotten lost in translation. It was almost as if they had emptied the tank against Pittsburgh, which, given the scores of that series, wouldn’t have surprised anyone.
The Flyers don’t go down easy and they have some positive game notes for Sunday’s game 4 matchup. Saturday’s New York-Washington matinee will likely have more drama surrounding Ovie and his ice time, a story which is being so closely watched by the NHL rumour mill, they may as well make an Ovie Ice Time Watch Clock. It seems to be working, though, as some teams are making it clear that post-season play is a privilege, not a right. The clearest example of this has been Nashville benching its Russian bad boys in Radulov and Kostitsyn. Radulov looks as defensive and hard done by as a grounded teenager, so it’s not expected that he’ll be on the ice anytime soon.
New York’s game style is effective with high shot blocking and tight defense. Their game in the neutral zone has also been effective in robbing momentum from the opponent. One has to wonder, though, if the high shot blocking and bodily sacrifice is sustainable in the long run. As their game with Washington has shown, it’s going to be a long run; no question. Just how many shots can their team take before they succumb to injury or simply collapse? Can they shot block their way to the Cup? A lot of coaches wouldn’t bank on this model. It remains to be seen how far these battle-worn Rangers can go. Washington will definitely test them.
About the Author
Written by Mika Oehling
Office worker and sports nerd. Cannot play a professional sport to save my life, but love to write. Prone to rants, raves, snarky humour and caustic commentary. My team's the Ottawa Senators. Author of Armchair Hockey, a work of humourous fiction released this year and available for sale online at Chapters and Amazon.