Pittsburgh may not be Crip gang territory, (at least as far as I know) but Steel City apparently did not take too kindly to some Caps fans who made Mellon Arena and the Greater Pittsburgh area their home last night and were rocking the red. One fan told via twitter that she got a beer shower as she was leaving Mellon Arena and a not so inadvertent knee to the knee at the end of the game. Another says a bus nearly ran her over after that operator apparently saw her rocking a Backstrom jersey. Both of these people were members of the fairer sex. Is chivalry and public docorum still one of those things slowly making its way up to Pittsburgh? Also what type of city waves towels as a sign of intimidation? I understand the spiked jersey’s at Raiders games, but towels? I guess next time I’m in a fight, all I really need to do is bring a handkerchief and the guy facing me will go running for cover! Anyways enough on that diatribe. What a wonderful game last night! With Mike Green out, and Jose Theodore going on brain freeze for twenty seconds and essentially directing the puck right to a waiting Penguin, you may have, like me cast your doubts about winning this one early. The Caps however never wavered, as one dumb goal by Theo never broke their spirit as our Caps continued to attack and win battles near the board. The Penguin, to their credit kept things tight at least in the first two periods.
Still, some decent defense from Pittsburgh, and strong physical play, didn’t stop the Caps from coming back.
Alexander Ovechkin did one of his classic in-and-out-and-in moves as rushing down the left side he weaved in before moving out to the boards before weaving in to fire the puck from a sharp angle on the goal of Brent Johnson. Johnson was able to make the save, but he couldn’t clean up the rebound as Mike Knuble knocked it in to give the Caps the goal. While Ovechkin rightly deserves much of the credit for the goal, that is a play, that I don’t think would have gone in last year. For Mike Knuble is to crashing the net what Jimi Hendrix is to guitar solos, as there is no other Capital more adept at finding a spot, situating himself their, and knocking the puck in when it comes to him on a rebound. We saw it last year, and I think one of the big reasons why the Penguins eventually beat the Capitals in the playoffs was due to the absolute dominance by Sidney Crosby in the crease. By my count, Crosby scored the majority of his eight playoff goals against the Caps directly in front of Washington’s goal. Knuble gives the Caps that same ability. Sure this team is well capable of whizzing down the ice at an uncanny level of speed, then making the perfect pass for an easy tip-in goal, but with Knuble, a player who is as built for the playoffs as any, they don’t have to score that way. And if you wanted to see speed the Capitals gave it to you in droves last night as Tomas Fleischmann showed off his blazing burst and beat Nick Johnson down the ice for a breakaway goal on a perfectly placed Alexander Semin pass. Were you looking for hits? The Capitals had you covered in that area too! Alexander Ovechkin outside of scoring two goals and firing 8 pucks on net, was an absolute beast in terms of his physical play with 7 crunching hits. In terms of physical play, even the aforementioned Tomas Fleischmann got into the act. Flash may not be the biggest of players, but on at least one play he hit like a brick, dropping Kris Letang so hard to the ice that play had to be stopped. I won’t say things were perfect though. With 38 shots on net by the Penguins, our defense at times just succumbed to Pittsburgh making excellent short passes in the Capitals zone and at times they had open lanes to the net. I also noticed about two times in which Evgeni Malkin pretty much deked and skated by about four Capitals on a play. I know Malkin is an elite talent, and I know he may not have scored on those chances, but at times the Capitals needed to play better one-on-one defense. But really, with a lineup halfway made up of defenders who so far have spent the majority of their career in the AHL, no one played horribly, with the exception of Tyler Sloan, who for the second straight game, gave up a goal to the other team in part because he was’t aware enough or physical enough near his own crease. (Watch the Penguins second goal by Nick Johnson to see what I’m talking about.) But as we are discrediting Sloan, all the credit in the world must go to John Carlson, who continues to impress with his composure and finished the game as a +2. In only one of his sixth NHL games has Carlson earned a minus rating, and after watching these six games, and looking at his performance throughout the World Junior Tournament, you almost get the sense that this guy could be uhhh, …let’s just say special. What do I like the most after this game though? Well it actually may be from what occurred afterwards? Every team needs to have a guy who wants the spotlight, who performs the best on the biggest stages, and might actually be just a little bit crazy. (but in a good way) Ovechkin, who had one of his biggest games in MadisonSquareGarden and in the second round of the playoffs absolutely fits into this category, and I like what he said afterwards about being glad to hear the Penguins boo him because “they are fans who are unhappy I’m not on their team.” How’s that for confidence! Everyone likes Ovy, you just don’t know it yet because he doesn’t play for you. You know who else told me they love hearing the opposition boo him? One John Carlson. (go to the end of the article to read him tell me that) Like I said, this kid has the ability and the attitude to be special..