It normally does not end this nice for the Washington Capitals and their fans. You see, the Caps are supposed to lose game sevens, in heartbreaking fashion, right?
Heading into overtime I am sure many Caps fans felt like another crushing blow was coming, right?
Dale Hunter scored arguably the biggest goal in franchise history in overtime against the Philadelphia Flyers back in 1988 and on this night he was behind the bench for what is definitely the biggest goal in recent Capitals history. Joel Ward potted the rebound of a Mike Knuble shot 2:57 into overtime to propel the Caps into the second round. In the process they knock off, for the first time in franchise history, the defending Stanley Cup Champions. Washington won’t know its’ opponent until tomorrow night but if the New York Rangers defeat the Ottawa Senators then that is who they will face. Otherwise they will get either the Flyers or the Devils.
Wow, what a win! I still can’t believe it.
Following or working for this team since 1974 naturally makes one a pessimist and I did not feel good about this matchup in the champions lair tonight. Having been at every game seven in franchise history and knowing they were 2-7 in such contests, it was tough to be optimistic (for the record, I was not in Boston for game seven, my first miss ever). But something is going on in these playoffs and being on the road seems to possess an advantage. Washington won three games in Boston and, as I said after Sunday’s game six loss, when you have a pivotal game like this sometimes it is better to be on the road because there are no distractions.
Whatever the case, this Capitals team has totally come together for the post season. They are playing the style their coach demands. At times it is downright boring, but they are so much better around their own net with this style. Braden Holtby (31 saves) played a very solid game in the cage and his defensemen cleared nearly every rebound (the exception: Tyler Seguin scored on one).
Several players who didn’t have great regular seasons amped up their respective games for the playoffs and that is why this Caps team was able to knock off a very good Boston team. Knuble and Ward fit in that category, for sure. To me, the biggest reason the Capitals won was because of the play of the dynamic duo on defense, Karl Alzner and John Carlson. 27 and 74 were just a super defensive pair and they kept Boston’s scorers in check pretty much the whole series. There is no doubt that Carlson is playing his best hockey of the season and the play he made on a Bruins two on one in the third period was a game saver. Keep it up, John and Karl.
As for the forwards, this was not Alexander Ovechkin’s best series but I am sure he will take the victory. The Gr8 had to go against the best defensemen in the league in Zdeno Chara and with Ovechkin’s issues on defense, Hunter had to cut his minutes, in some games. That will likely change going forward and there is no doubt if this team wants to get where they want to go, they will need Captain Alex. There is a long road ahead and Ovechkin will start scoring goals in bunches, soon.
So as predicted here, the Caps have stunned the Bruins in the opening round. It wasn’t in six games like I had it mapped out, but the Caps did it. Boston is a super team, but somehow the Capitals worked some matchups to their advantage and now they go through to round two.
It was not expected by many after that crushing game six on Sunday. But the players regrouped and played a masterful game to punch their ticket for another round.
Hold on and enjoy the ride, Caps fans!