Is there anything better in sports than playoff hockey? Honestly I don't think there is...maybe the NCAA Basketball tournament but really most people only have investment in it if they're betting on the tourney and while the upsets are nice they aren't long lived.
Playoff hockey though...the hitting, the atmosphere, the sudden death overtime and when the Caps are involved you better have a strong heart because the cardiac Caps have a thing about making things long and interesting. Game 1 ended 1-0 minutes into overtime and today's game looked and felt like it was going to go the same way. Until around the 2 minute mark of the 2nd period when Troy Brouwer put one 5-hole on Tim Thomas and gave the Caps a 1-0 lead.
Unfortunately the Caps couldn't hold the lead as the Bruins scored and were kind enough to run over Braden Holtby after the goal was scored. The play was clean though as Holtby put himself into that position. Luckily for the Caps that was the only thing that got past the young netminder in regulation and it lead to overtime where both teams had chances but none of them scored.
In the 2nd overtime I felt the Caps looked a bit more tired than the Bruins but they hang tough and Nicklas Backstrom sent a slapshot past Tim Thomas for the game winning goal and sending the series back to DC tied up at 1-1.
As the title states though that game winner had some karma attached to it. Both teams are physical, in fact I felt that of all the teams in the East the Bruins were the most physical and dirtiest team in the East. While I may have some bias let us look at the facts. The Bruins on many occasions will gang up on a single player of the other team while no one else is around to come to their defense. During a "scrum" in front of the net, after Backstrom was trying to go for the puck but Thomas had made the save, Thomas took his blocker and hit the recently concussed Backstrom right in the face, add to it a cross check from another Bruins player as that happened and a third grabbing Backstrom from behind and putting him into a bit of a sleeper hold. Oh but this wasn't the first time in the game that happened. At the end of the 2nd period a fracas broke out after the horn and the Bruins went after Brouwer and Backstrom and Patrice Bergeron had Backstrom into a headlock then as the refs tried to separate them he grabbed Backstrom by his visor and appeared to say some unpleasant things to the young Swede...who gave a nice little shot back to Bergeron.
That's not to say the Caps weren't guilty of infractions that went uncalled, like Ovie cross-checking a guy in the face but hey the refs had already called Roman Hamrlik for a cross-check after he cross-checked two Bruins that had cross-checked him moments prior.. Obviously its playoff hockey and they let the boys play every now and then but even the seemingly anti-Caps NBC announcers, namely Mike Milbury, said as much...and I'm sure that's tough for him to do since he's a former Bruins player and coach.
Back to the play though. Alexander Semin gets criticized for disappearing in the playoffs and while he hasn't shown up offensively he was a huge part in securing today's win including sacrificing his body on a shot by Zdeno Chara, who has the hardest shot in the world. Blocking shots has been a huge key to this series too as the Caps, who gave up over forty shots on net today, ended up blocking at least 25 and held a 21-5 advantage in blocked shots...this is a team that usually has theirs blocked so its been a welcome sight. Now if we can only get that power play going.
Regardless of it all the Caps pulled out the victory, shaved some years off the life of their fans; as they been known to do over the years when it comes to playoffs; and head home with momentum. Braden Holtby has played amazing and will need to continue to do so if the Caps are going to steal this series. Here's hoping the next two games are as entertaining as the first two and that the Caps win both, preferably in regulation. I do expect the series to be even more physical and hope that the SEA OF RED in Verizon Center comes out in full force, we want as few Bruins fans as possible in that place.