As this Caps team gets ready to play a game 7 for the second straight season (Note: WNST “Rock the Red” viewing party is at the Silver Spring Mining Company in Perry Hall!) it should be noted that Washington’s game 7 record is not good at all, at 1-5. I’ve been at every game 7 this team has played in franchise history and seemingly have seen it all from hot goalies (remember Ken Wregget and Kelly Hrudey?) to missed offside calls to horrible officiating.
Here is a quick look back at those Game 7′s, in order:
1987: The Caps race out to a 3-1 series lead on a banged up New York Islanders team. Washington’s goaltending struggles through the series and Bryan Murray eventually pulls Pete Peeters for Bob Mason in Game 6, which New York wins 5-4. Game 7 is the legendary four overtime special that is ended by Pat Lafontaine at 1:55am on Easter Sunday. My most vivid memory of that game is defenseman Greg Smith hitting the cross bar in the first overtime and then suffering a broken knee cap in the second overtime. I was a young 22 year old doing statistics for the team that night. I had the duty of keeping track of Islanders time on ice – before we had computer software to track the visiting team. After the second overtime Murray told us to stop logging the ice time because everyone was tired and it didn’t matter anymore.
1988, Round 1- Still my all time favorite Caps memory.Washington trailed Philadelphia in this series three games to one after Clint Malarchuk and the team blew a 4-1 lead at the Spectrum with just under 10 minutes left to lose to a Murray Craven goal in overtime in game four. The Caps, however, dominated games 5 and 6 and then rallied from 3-0 down in regulation to win 5-4 in overtime on Dale Hunter’s goal through the legs of Ron Hextall. Bob Gould was a big hero in that series for drawing Flyers enforcer Dave Brown into a five minute major in Game 6 in Philadelphia.
1988, Round 2- The Caps went into round two against the Devils as the favorites but when Pat Verbeek cut Rod Langway’s calf with his skate late in a 3-1 Caps victory in game one this then became an even playing field. Jim Schoenfeld was the coach of the Devils and New Jersey got physical and this series turned ugly at times. Patrick Sundstrom had a great game three in a 10-4 Devils rout but then the Caps struck back for a 4-1 win in game four (do you remember Pete Peeters getting hit in the head with the puck and Malarchuk getting injured forcing rookie Shawn Simpson to have to rush down and get dressed and sit on the bench?). Game five was a turning point as Schoenfeld put Bob Sauve in net and he stoned the Caps. A Washington rout ensued in game 6 (7-2) and Schoney turned back to Sean Burke who played great in game seven. The winning goal, by John Maclean with under 10 minutes remaining, came on an offsides play that linesman Kevin Collins missed.
1992- The Caps pretty much bury the defending Stanley Cup Champion Penguins in the first four games of this series as they take a three games to one lead. Washington likely would have swept if not for some awful officiating by Don Koharski in game three in Pittsburgh. Dino Ciccarelli has a hat trick in a Caps 7-2 rout in game four but then the great Scotty Bowman changes his team’s defensive strategy and the Penguins go on to win the next three games in relatively easy fashion. The only chance the Caps had was in game six when they were up 4-2 midway through the second period but Mike Ridley’s bad cross ice pass in the neutral zone was intercepted by Joey Mullen, who went in alone on goalie Don Beaupre to cut the lead to one and give the Penguins the momentum. Game seven was uneventful as Pittsburgh dominated.
1995- The Caps take a 3-1 series lead again on Pittsburgh thanks to two 6-2 blowouts of the Penguins at the Capital Centre in games three and four. Jim “Ace” Carey, who a couple of years later would tell Schoenfeld and assistant coaches Keith Allain and Tod Button that he didn’t really want to play hockey, appears poised to win his first ever playoff series in his rookie season (this was the lockout shortened season). However, Washington gives away game five in Pittsburgh after leading, 4-3, past the halfway point of the third period. Luc Robitaille wins game five in overtime for Pittsburgh (who can forget Francois Leroux going around Ken Klee to set up a Pens goal?). Game six is a 7-1 Pens rout at the Capital Centre as Wregget gets red hot and he carries that into game seven as Pittsburgh shuts out Washington, 3-0, at the Igloo.
2008- The Caps win game one on Alexander Ovechkin’s highlight real goal, 5-4, but then drop the next three contests to Philadelphia (game four was in overtime). A 2-0 score wins for Washington in game five and then the Great #8 takes over the third period of game six to force game seven. Referee Paul Devorksi then allows the Flyers first goal in game seven to count despite clear goaltender interference on Cristobal Huet and then Don Koharski calls Tom Poti for tripping in overtime and Joffrey Lupul wins it for the Flyers on the power play. The Caps expended a lot of energy just making the playoffs and then even more trying to come back in the series.
So will 2009 be different? This team now has playoff experience and should have much more in the tank than they had for game seven last year. They are a superior team to the Rangers, when they play their game and not get too cute with overpassing and cross ice passes, but New York has potentially the great equalizer, Henrik Lundqvist, in goal. If the Caps play well they won’t need to worry about the officiating (btw, Koharski will not be refereeing tonight, he is now retired). Will Ted Leonsis get his first ever playoff series win as owner and Bruce Boudreau get his first NHL playoff series win as head coach? Tune in tonight to find out as game seven’s are the best the NHL has to offer, but they have historically not been good to the Capitals.