Tue May 12 11:03am EDT
We could spend hours breaking down the various mechanics of Dave Steckel's(notes) overtime game-winner for the Washington Capitals last night: a broken stick on a faceoff, the defensive adjustments by the Penguins, Steckel's ability to gain position in front of Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury(notes).
But we'll save all of that for the Darren Pangs of the world, turning our attention instead to Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau bouncing around the bench like a Weeble dropped on a trampoline after the Game 6 victory:
His arms go up at about the same time he starts taking these joyous little leaps, like a pudgy superhero attempting to take flight.
Assistant Coach Dean Evason goes in for the hug but, alas, Bruce only has eyes for assistant Jay Leach(notes). They hug and bounce gleefully until Leach makes the classic mistake of rubbing Boudreau's head for luck, causing Bruce to slap it away like pestering gnat and causing us to realize that Bruce Boudreau may believe he has more hair than he actually does.
As the hockey world catches its collective breath after last night's action -- including the Chicago Blackhawks' destruction of the Vancouver Canucks in Game 6 last night, hanging seven goals on Roberto Luongo -- we take a spin around the blogosphere for some reactions to the Capitals/Penguins epic from last night.
The Pensblog offered its take on Game 6 and these words about Game 7 in its wrap-up:
Wednesday night, everyone associated with this series will all be in the same boat.
Get ready to be bombarded with talk that the Caps have the momentum, that the Caps have already won a Game 7 this postseason.
If you think momentum carries into a Game 7, you are an idiot.
Game 7's stay with you forever. Who even knows what's gonna happen at this point.
True dat. We'd also offer that the boys make a salient point in their recap, which is that the Penguins had this game in their mitts after that Brooks Laich(notes) slashing penalty at 17:58 of the third and they couldn't convert.
Capitals fans have complained about that call en masse since last night in the comments, and Boudreau railed against it in the press conference, but we disagree: Chris Kunitz(notes) was either in a scoring position or entering it, and he was slashed. It's a penalty, without question, so it comes down to whether or not it "should" be called at that stage of the game. And if it takes away a scoring opportunity, it should be called. The Steckel slash earlier in the night was the cheapie, by comparison.
Dan Bylsma again chose to dress 11 forwards and 7 defensemen and I'm not sure if that is working out too well. The two newer faces in the lineup, Alex Goligoski(notes) (6:58 of even strength ice-time) and Philippe Boucher(notes) (just 13:09 of total ice-time) haven't been given a chance to get into a rhythm. Clearly it's tough to replace your #1 defensemen, but with the whole defense often sliding around with multiple partners for different shifts, the results have seemed uneven. The Caps aren't pinning the Pens in their zone that much, but little communication and familiarity plays between the Pens as they start breakouts don't seem to be there. I almost think it'd be better to pick a guy and even things out for stabilities sake. But I haven't coached an NHL game, so what do I know.
All of this adds up to the undeniable difference between the Gonchar Penguins and the Gonchar-less Penguins.
Seth from Empty Netters, who continues to kill it this postseason, also opined on the defense as well as the goaltending:
- The Penguins defense had easily its worst game of the series. To often they looked lost on some scrambles and again allowed too much space on some of Washington's offensive chances. We don't know how big of an issue using seven defenseman plays in that, but we would much rather see a full compliment of forwards in the lineup.
- It would be a stretch to say Fleury had his best game of the series, but it would also be a stretch to put this loss on him. He was screened on several shots and didn't have a great deal of help from his defense.
Here's what will say about Fleury: dude simply can't handle the puck without looking shaky or putting it in harm's way. That may not have contributed to many of the Capitals' tallies in this game, or even in this series, but it certainly hinders the Penguins' ability to clear their zone, which in turn strengthens the Capitals' ability to start buzzing around a depleted defense.
But that glove save on Ovechkin in the overtime was immaculate.
Kozlov has been one of the NHL's most notorious annual playoff disappointments, a winger with top six skill who entered this postseason with six assists (and zero goals) in 21 career playoff games. Fleischmann hasn't been around long enough to garner the same kind of reputation but his demotions both this postseason and last year, coupled with his slow second half of the season and lack of playoff production (even with last night's goal, Fleischmann still only has three goals and no assists in 15 career playoff games), seemed to suggest Flash might be headed down the same road. None of that really matters right now though, and for one more night, at least, we, as fans, are willing to ignore their shortcomings and are happy to revel in their successes.
Homer McFanboy wondered what, exactly, would ever earn the Capitals a win in OT:
After seeing so many pucks deflect off of Capitals defenders into their own net, we (half) joked that the only way for the Caps to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins and force a game seven would be to have Washington defenders camp out in front of the opposing net and wait for the puck to hit them and bounce into the net.
Thankfully, things didn't have to come to that.
Instead, Caps fans were treated to a much sweeter shot of redemption, with the game-winning goal in Monday night's game six coming from center David Steckel, who has played a masterful series and yet was known around town as the guy who had a chance to steal game five but couldn't bury a bouncing puck into the Pittsburgh net in overtime.
Redemption is, without question, one of the quintessential facets of the Stanley Cup playoff experience. And even though he's been far from a goat, Steckel earned it last night.
The NHL has had its best young teams giving their all in this series, and it has been a series for the ages – five one goal games, three overtime games, the big stars – Sidney Crosby(notes) and Alex Ovechkin dueling to a draw in putting their teams on their respective shoulders. But there is another side of that coin. And it is an embarrassment to the league. The officiating in this series has been, to be charitable, awful. We don't suspect it's been any better in the other series, but this is the one we've been paying close attention to.
Finally, the most comprehensive breakdown of Game 6 and preview of Game 7 that we've seen, from DC Sports Fan: