As a Caps fan I can think of no better thing than beating the Pittsburgh Penguins. Ok, maybe beating Philadelphia is just as sweet but beating Pittsburgh just has a little better taste. It's always a pleasure to send the douchebag multitudes known as Penguins fans home with their heads held down and its always good to have even more visual evidence that the best player in the NHL does not wear #87 in black and gold.
This was the perfect opponent for the Caps to face after Friday's debacle against Colorado. A team the Caps love to beat, more specifically, a team Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin love to beat. Having the game on national TV only added to the playoff atmosphere at the Phone Booth today. It was certainly a back and forth affair early on but the Caps showed some killer instinct in the second period and absolutely sucked out the Pens will to play. Here now are some passes and fails.
-Epic Fail- Matt Cooke - Does anybody miss this clown? Turning point in the game as far as I'm concerned. It's halfway throught the second period, the game is still close and the Pens are playing fairly well. Then, Cooke, the ex-Cap, takes a run at Mike Green that isn't called. The kind of borderline cheapshot that Cooke is well known for. Whatever the case, from that point on, the Caps came alive. It was as if the Caps collectively said, "Ok, you wanna play it that way? We'll play it that way." The Caps got two quick goals from Shaone Morrisonn & Brooks Laich. The kind of soft goals that can really deflate a hockey team. Marc-Andre Fleury was soon pulled and then Greener got his revenge by kabooming Ruslan Fedetenko at center ice. The Caps started roughing up the Pens something fierce. It was game, set and match at that point. The 3rd period was just a matter of running the clock out.
-Epic Pass- Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom - Ovie was all over the ice. He scored goals, he set up plays, he completely threw Sidney Crosby off his game (more on that in a moment) and for good measure, he threw a lovely "Get in the weight room!" hit on Sergei Gonchar in the 2nd period. If anybody doubts who the best player in the league is anymore is either blind or a Pens fan.
Backstrom has been superb lately. The Caps first goal was set up off of the same give-and-go play with Sergei Fedorov that Nick scored on Friday night but this time, the D collapsed to him, so with the flick of the wrist, he backhanded it to Ovie who put it home. The guy has been Forsberg-esque lately, playing both ways, looking to shoot more and even adding a little physical edge to his game. Witness his lovely hit on Evgeni Malkin in the 1st period.
Epic Pass- the PK -They certainly got a workout today and passed with flying colors holding the Pens to 1 for 8 on the power play. Tom Poti, Dave Steckel and Brooks Laich in particular completely flummoxed the Pens power play.
Fail - Too many penalties - They got away with it today but the Caps have to be wayyyy more disciplined than that. Poti's elbowing call early in the 3rd was especially egrigious. I liked that the Caps played with a nasty, physical edge today, but at times they went a little too far. Plus, Donald Brashear- love ya man, but there is absolutely no reason to be looking for a fight in a game you are completely controlling. It can do nothing but fire up the other team.
Fail- The officiating - With that being said, let's just say that the refs work today was a little, shall we say, suspect. Eight penalties against the Caps. Some were earned (like Poti's elbow) others were shady. That and the fact that the Pens got away with a number of stick fouls that didn't get whistled. Then again, considering who was doing the officiating, maybe we should have seen this coming...
Epic Pass- The line of Fedorov, Laich and Semin - Outstanding work gentleman. That group combined for three goals, two assists and a combined +5.
Epic Pass - Caps fans - For giving Sergei Gonchar the Larry Murphy/Kevin Hatcher "woop, woop, woop" treatment. Nothing against Gonchar, it's just nice to hear it again. It wasn't as good as how they used to give it to Murphy, but still, it was nice and loud.
Pass - Semin's hard work on the Pens last PP - He created a 2 on 1 shorthanded and missed the net. But instead of hanging his head or dogging it back up ice, Semin chased down Crosby and disrupted the 3 on 2 the Pens had going the other way. Nice hustle.
Fail - Semin's "skate to the blue line, spin and fall down" maneuver. Copywrited by Michael Nylander. Just dump the damn puck in dude.
Epic, epic FAIL - Sidney Crosby - So this is the face of the NHL, eh? The game was barely five minutes old and Crosby was swinging his stick at Brooks Laich in the corner. Every time he would get touched he'd either cross-check or slash somebody or give that "Did you see what he did to me!!" pout that he gives. Puhleeze. This shirt pretty much sums it up...
Look, Crosby is a very good player, one of the best in the league. But the whole reason most people hate him is because, not only of the excessive lengths to which the NHL promotes him but because when he gets hit, frustrated or both, he turns into one of these...
He whines, he swings his stick, he gets frustrated easily. You know what the difference between him and Ovechkin is? When Ovie gets run or hit with a stick, he raises his game to a higher level and comes that much harder at opponents. Other than the foolish penalty he took against Paul Mara in New York, I've rarely seen the guy outwardly frustrated. Remember the last time in Pittsburgh when Ovie put a clean hit on Crosby, who, on cue, jumped up and started whining to the refs. Cooke then came in and took at shot at Ovechkin and got sent off for two minutes. And, just as quickly, Ovie scored. To me, that's the essence of these two players and why the best in the league wears #8 in red, white and blue.
So until next game, it's one more...for the good guys.