April 26, 2010
We'll leave the concept of luck, which was incessantly cited by the Capitals' local announcers, out of the mix; there was a lot of "luck" made tonight by the effort or lack thereof for both teams. But here are seven reasons why we're at 3-3 between the No. 1 team in the NHL regular season and the 16th-best team in the playoffs.
It's hard to decide whether Halak's superb 53-save performance trumps Colorado Avalanche goaltender Craig Anderson's(notes) 54-save OT shutout in Game 3 against the Sharks for best effort of the playoffs. So let's call it the best, hands-down, in the Eastern Conference side of the postseason bracket. He was the difference tonight, in every period, for the Habs, coming two games after he was on the bench watching Carey Price(notes) lose Game 4
The best player not wearing a blocker and a mask for the Canadiens in this series. Cammalleri scored Montreal's first two goals, assisted on Tomas Plekanec's(notes) empty netter, and was an offensive force all night. He now has 5 goals and 5 assists, with a point in every game of the series.
Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said the first 10 minutes of Game 5 in Washington determined the winner. The Capitals carried the play in the opening period in Game 6, but Cammalleri had Montreal up 2-0. As good as Halak was, that contribution was just as critical to this victory.
3. The Capitals utter failure on the power play
Washington's power-play was the best in the regular season. It's now 1-for-30 in this series after going 0-for-6 in Game 6. Montreal did a wonderful job disturbing passing lanes and taking away space from the shooters -- Washington failed to register a shot on goal during a first-period 5-on-3 power play that lasted 1:14. When the Caps did get their chances, Halak stoned them 18 times.
Their inability to play competent hockey in this facet of the game is symbolic of most of what's gone wrong in this series for the No. 1 seed.
4. Goaltender Jaroslav Halak
Say, have we mentioned Halak?
He stopped 8 from Alex Ovechkin(notes), 7 from Alex Semin, 6 from Mike Green(notes) and 10 from Joe Corvo(notes). He was mobile and he was confident: His positioning between the pipes was his best of the series. Check out this glove save on Joe Corvo:
But occasionally, when things got chaotic, so did Halak:
5. The Capitals stars didn't shine
Ovechkin has provided heroics in this series, but not tonight. Defenseman Josh Gorges(notes) played fearlessly against the Capitals star, who once again struggled to find space for clean looks at the net or much momentum coming into the zone, much like in Washington's Game 1 loss. Halak was in his head a little, too; though not as much as the kids holding the flags before the game.
Defenseman Mike Green picked up a helper on Eric Fehr's(notes) shutout-snapping third-period goal, but once again didn't create much off the rush and had 5 shots blocked. He also earned four penalty minutes.
Alex Semin, meanwhile, is back-of-the-milk-carton missing in this series. From CSN Washington:
Alexander Semin's(notes) goal drought has reached 13 games and he continues to be a complete zero offensively. It doesn't matter that he's getting a ton of shots on goal, he's not making Jaroslav Halak work for his saves. A prime example came on the Capitals' third power play early in the second period. Semin was given a rarity - time and space between the circles - but he rushed his shot instead of measuring Halak and the result was a hard shot that hit Halak's chest. Semin has to lead the playoffs in logo shots. Backstrom must return to his role as Ovechkin's pivot because not even he could get Semin going tonight.
The Canadiens' gnat had one of the most memorable games of his career, in the sense that it perfectly defined him.
He scored a back-breaking goal off the rush in the third period, beating goalie Semyon Varlamov(notes) for a 3-0 lead. Yet in the same game, Lapierre was whistled twice for diving, including this WWE-worthy bit of pantomime in the
first second period:
But the rest of the time, he buzzed the zone, skated hard in 11:55 of ice time and scored the second-biggest goal of the game besides the first one of the night. It's easy to overlook a couple of dives when the rest of the effort is that strong.
7. Goaltender Jaroslav Halak.
You were expecting another reason?
"The Client" is now 9-0-1 this season when facing 40 shots or more, and he nearly faced that many in the last two periods alone, when Washington had a 36-11 advantage. If Montreal wins this series, his 14 second-period saves to preserve the 2-0 lead will be the turning point.
Game 7 is Wednesday night. The next 48 hours of adjustments from Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau and staff are critical; even more critical will be how the Capitals players react in their fourth Game 7 in three postseasons ... in which they have one advancement and two eliminations.