There must be something about elimination games that gets the Caps‘ blood flowing. Maybe it’s the fact that they don’t want to go home just yet. Maybe it’s the fact that they just play better when the pressure is on. Or maybe it’s simply that they love to keep their fans on the edge of their seats and almost have heart attacks at the release of every shot.
Image Courtesy of the Associated Press
No matter what the reasoning is, they haven’t disappointed us yet. They are 4-0 in elimination games in this year’s playoffs, winning three straight against the Rangers after being down 3-1 and winning in OT in Pittsburgh to force a Game 7 in D.C. The good side of avoiding elimination is that it gives the players the confidence they need in order to advance to the next round. The downside, however, is that anything can happen in a playoff hockey game, as we’ve seen already this series.
All it takes is one deflection from a player who is out of position and your season is over. The luck has been in the Caps favor so far and they are hoping it stays right by their side. This series has definitely lived up to the hype and has featured a little bit of everything.
The highly anticipated individual battle between Ovie and Crosby hasn’t disappointed, especially in Game 2 when they traded hat tricks with one another. Three out of the six games have been decided in OT and every game but one has been decided by a goal.
The team that has scored first in all but one game has gone on to lose that game. The thing that makes this series so intriguing is that absolutely nobody has any idea what is going to happen next. Just when you think a team is going to win, the other team comes back down the ice and scores. The only thing I wish was different was that it was the conference finals and not the semifinals. But sometimes that’s just how the brackets work out.
The only thing we can hope is that the conference finals is as good as the semis have been which is highly unlikely. However, I do think that the team that wins this series is going to represent the East in the Stanley Cup Finals. It just seems like these two teams have all the pieces to advance to the next round and beat either Boston or Carolina.
But let’s get back to this series for a minute. The key for the Caps to win Game 7 is to keep the pressure on Fleury and off of Varley. It’s a pretty simple scenario, I know, but the Caps can’t afford to keep giving up close to 40 shots a game on a rookie goalie and expect to win. Varley is good, but he’s also human. He can’t keep saving all these shots and taking the abuse he has been from one of the most explosive scoring teams in the league. He has done a tremendous job so far, though. If it wasn’t for his defenders getting in his way, the Caps may already be waiting to see who their opponent would be in the next round.
On the other hand, Fleury is one of those guys who can make timely saves when his team needs them, but he’s very beatable. Just look at Game 6. The Caps scored five goals with Fluery stopping 19 shots. The Pens scored four goals, but Varley doubled up Fleury in saves and finished with 38. Numbers don’t lie. Keep bringing the pressure on this guy and he’s going to give in eventually.
Anything can happen in a Game 7, but right now you have to give the edge to the Caps. Not only do they have the Verizon Center home-ice advantage, they also have the momentum after a gut-wrenching win in Game 6. Like I said, anything is possible in sports but if the Caps can find a way to keep the Pens below 30 shots they should come out a winner. But for some reason I have this weird feeling that a pretty good player on the Caps will have something to do with the outcome of Game 7. If the nickname is true and No. 8 is in fact great, he’ll need to remind us of that greatness once again tomorrow night.