Monday, April 23, 2012

Game 7 Is More Than A Win or Go Home Statement for Caps

Game 4 was fun to watch in person, Game 5 was awesome to see the Caps not give up after blowing a 2 goal lead and Game 6 was another OT thriller that the Caps unfortunately came up on the wrong end of.

If you haven't been excited or entertained by this series you either hate sports or don't know shit about it. As much as I hate that the series is now going 6 games, that its lacked fights and that there has been a lot of inconsistency in officiating this has been a great series which will end, fittingly in Game 7.

Its been quite eye opening to see how fans react from both teams on certain plays. In Game 4 Ovechkin ran into the back of a Bruins player and pushed him to the ice. All the Caps fans signaled for an interference, ,one came, and the Caps ended up scoring a goal. If you listen to the Bruins fans it was evident that Ovechkin should have been called for the interference. Maybe it could have gone either way, since it was right in front of me at the game I saw it clearly as the Bruins player slowing down and trying to keep Ovie from getting to the puck and Ovie saying f**k you its mine at all costs. I think in the end the no call was the best one.

Game 6 we had more questionable non-calls. The Bruins scored a goal after an illegal screen, that should have resulted in an interference away from the play, went uncalled and the the Bruins took the lead. Late in the 2nd period the Caps headed up ice when Bergeron collided with Chimera and went down to the ice. Chimera raced up the ice to score on a pass from Backstrom while Bergeron got up with a bloody mouth. Replays showed Chimera barely touched him, definitely not up high, and Bergeron spun around, as he's done all series at the Caps defensive blue line, and went to the ice, where one assumes he either bit his tongue or had one of those blood packs that wrestlers use.

In the end it was a bad pass up ice by Nick Backstrom, a bad defensive angle by Dennis Wideman, and a bad decision by Braden Holtby to come far out of the net to try and stop Tyler Seguin that ended with the Caps heading back to Boston for a Game 7.

The Caps entered yesterday's game with a ghastly 2-4 record in Game 6's when they lead the series 3-2. Their record in those Game 7's that followed? A dismal 0-4, in fact they have one only one Game 7 since Dale Hunter lead the Capitals over the Flyers in 1988 and that came in 2009, and 2-7 overall in Game 7s. Needless to say the Caps were hoping to buck the trend and take Game 6. Instead they will need to look at rewriting history by giving all they have to take Game 7 from the Bruins in Boston, where they are 4-1 this season.

That gives me hope but I also can't get myself to believe too much that this team will be any different than any other we've seen or just about any DC area team that chokes under pressure or in big games. I've been disappointed too many times rooting for my teams but I'll still be rocking the red and pulling for them all the way. I even went so far as to plea with all the local media, via Twitter, to not bring up, ask or talk about in any fashion, the Capitals failures in Game 7's in any other year. Why be so negative? The team is under enough pressure from themselves and the fans and they know the history and what's at stake so why bother adding to it? Hell the last four times all the media talked about was the team's inexperience and then their inability to win that 7th game so why not try to reverse the curse?

Karl Alzner has already said the team is going to come out and give it their all. Well I sure hope so and I hope they start off with more energy than they have most of the other six games, then again they've looked like they don't care and won some of those games. John Carlson said that the players know what they have to do in Boston...I hate those damn cliches. We all KNOW what you have to do and SCORE and WIN should be the top two things. In order to do so the players can't be tentative, they've got to take advantage of Tim Thomas challenging and leaving the net exposed, they've got to put home the shots that are there...I'm looking at you Marcus Johansson, they've got to clamp down defensively...I'm looking at you Dennis Wideman and they've got to control rebounds and not attempt the poke check so much...yeah I'm talking to you Braden Holtby, though less so than the rest.

Things this series has done is gotten people off the back of Sasha Fierce (Semin for you new readers) and his play has not only guaranteed an NHL payday it may lead to an overpayment by a franchise not named the Capitals, but would he be willing to stay for less and play with his best buddy? While Semin has played great he has not alleviated the pressure that is on Ovechkin to bring the Cup to DC. Regardless of the reasons he's been benched Ovie will not change how he plays, which is to say he'll either gamble badly and be lost and out of position on defense or he won't play any at all and on offense he'll try to beat anyone on him whether he should or not. The series has shown that Green is a capable defender and may finally be turning the corner offensively. Its brought Jay Beagle to the forefront of the fourth line and shown how hard he hustles to get to pucks and can annoy opponents with his tenacity. We've seen that Joelle (Ward) played himself into that contract in last year's playoffs and oh how I wish there was a way to sucker the Blue Jackets to take him and two 1st round picks for Nash, regardless of cap issues. This series also showed that Dale Hunter doesn't fully grasp match-ups and what it takes to win games. It took the suspension of Backstrom to get Knuble back in the line-up and he's managed to score and be physical. His veteran presence and leadership is exactly what they need right now. The other thing was putting Schultz out there instead of Erskine. With as physical as this series was expected to be and how dirty the Bruins can be Erskine was a must to be out there on the ice and finally in Game 4 he made his first appearance since February 12th and seeing him out there and getting at the Bruins players it has definitely played into them going after the Caps less because they know they'd have to answer to him.

What does Game 7 hold? History says a loss...hell the Caps have yet to win, or maybe did once, the night before I have an event at work. I have events Wednesday and Thursday this week so here's hoping that history doesn't play into the outcome. Many people believe its safe money to assume this game will be decided by one goal since the first six were, a record. I don't think that will be the case and I don't think it'll take an empty netter to make it a two goal game. The Bruins head back to Boston with the momentum of an OT win and their home crowd supporting them while the Caps head back probably a little deflated after the loss, in a game they probably should have won, back to being the underdog and with the pressure of their fans and a possible off-season roster shake-up looming. Neither team wants to see their season end now and I can honestly see either team moving on in the next round, and even to the Cup finals, regardless of who the opponents are over the next two round. I obviously want the Caps to win and will pull for them despite the history.

At some point you've got to break a trend and what better time than the present? Its time to put up or shut up. No more talking, no more excuses. If you're going to go down, make it respectable and go down fighting but winners find a way to win (yes so damn cliche) and the Caps have the ability to do it and the want to do it but will they give the effort to do it? No playing turtle in this game. If you take the lead, go for the jugular while still playing smart. Pressure, forecheck, backcheck, hit, shoot, block, score, do whatever you have to do but don't take penalties. Make this the statement for those NHL "History Will Be Made" commericals

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