Saturday, February 28, 2009

Caps 4 Bruins 3 (OT)


That's all I can really say about today's match with the Boston Bruins. After watching today's game, as a Caps fan, I want to see these two teams lock up in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Caps and B's have played four times. All four games were decided by one goal, two of which went to overtime. The good news for the Caps is: they've won three of them.

What I love about the matchup between the Caps and B's is that these teams play games that have a great flow to them. These games have been tough, hard-nosed but clean hockey games. That's the key for me. There's none of the nonsense that happens when the Caps play, say, the Flyers or Penguins. There's no Scottie Upshall's out there taking dives and there's none of this ridiculous "Crosby-Ovechkin" hype. No, just well-played and smart hockey.

This game left me exhausted. Every time it looked like the Caps were going to take command of this thing, the B's would come back. To be honest, the game going to overtime really favored the Caps because 4 on 4, the Caps can ice a much better team than the Bruins. And because the overtime period came at a point when the Bruins had really started to dominate the game. They forced the Caps to take penalties and they forced Jose Theodore to make some very tough stops. That line with Marc Savard and Phil Kessel was all over the Caps D, especially at the end.

One thing I thought was odd was: for such a well-played game, its funny that the last three goals scored by both teams were flukey tallies. Tomas Fleischmann gave the Caps a 3-2 lead in the 3rd period with a goal that went off a defenceman's skate. Then, Zdeno Chara tied the game up again with a goal that Theodore should have stopped. And then Alex Semin ended the game with Don Cherry's patented Hardy Astrom Special: a 70-footer that trickled under goalie Tim Thomas's pads.

Game pucks for this one go to Semin (goal and an assist)and Theodore. Despite giving up a shaky goal to Chara, Theo kept the Caps in the game and made a number of huge stops, including a gorgeous kick save on Patrice Bergeron in the 2nd period. As for Semin, he was once again a force. He is clearly very comfortable working on a line with Sergei Fedorov and Brooks Laich and his shorthanded play has been a revelation. He plays very well on that side of the puck because teams have to worry about him stealing the puck and going the other way. If nothing else, selecting Semin allows me to use this picture again...

So with this win the Caps move within seven points of Boston for 1st spot in the Eastern Conference and stay two points ahead of New Jersey for 2nd spot. The Devils crushed the Caps opponent tomorrow, the Florida Panthers, 7-2. It will be interesting to see if there is a mental letdown tomorrow after such a hard-fought game today. A win tomorrow against the reeling Cats would all but lock up the Southeast Division for the Caps with 18 games to go. We'll see if Coach Bruce Boudreau puts Michal Neuvirth in goal tomorrow after Theo saw a lot of shots (37) today. But that discussion is for another day. Today we'll call more for the good guys.

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