Game 2 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals will be one that is remembered for a long time. Not just by Capitals and Penguins fans, which were treated to 60 minutes of intense hockey. It will be remembered by Gary Bettman as one of the games that put the NHL back into the 4 major sports category.
Image Courtesy of the Associated Press
A quick sorry to NASCAR, the PGA Tour, and UFC, hockey is back where it belongs in the realm of sports. The lockout is officially a thing of the past. Thanks to the games two biggest stars, playing in the playoffs biggest series, delivering two of the best performances seen in a long time the NHL is back.
Sidney Crosby looks more and more like the most skilled player on the ice each time out. He finds every loose puck in the slot, and buries it home. His hat trick was not pretty, all three goals were put backs off of rebounds from this teammates. They all count the same and a hat trick in a hostile Verizon Center, against Simeon Varlamov is special regardless of how it gets done.
Sometimes how you score can really make a difference. For instance, in the third period, off the power play faceoff Mike Green received a pass from Nicholas Backstrom passed over to Ovechkin who blasted a one-timer past Marc-Andre Fluery. Ovechkin sent the Verizon Center into a euphoric tizzy, slamming into the boards showing his appreciation of the fans. The Great 8 had struck for his second goal of the game and put the Caps ahead, he was only getting warmed up. A few minutes later he did it again this time sealing the victory and his place as the most electrifying player in all of hockey. He went top shelf on Fluery, and before he could even get his celebrating started hats rained down the ice for more than a minute. At that point you got the feeling of how special the game was. “Sick game. Sick three goals by me and Crosby,” said Ovechkin afterwards. Final score Capitals 4, Penguins 3.
Living up to the hype is something that is usually very hard to do. For Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby it has become second nature. After battling for the Calder Memorial trophy in 2006 it was Ovechkin who turned in the better season and was given the award for best rookie. Following that season Crosby surpassed Ovie, winning the NHL’s Hart trophy for league MVP in 2007. Alex 1, Sid 1.
2008 became Ovechkin’s year, when he pulled his team into the playoffs for the first time in several seasons, winning his first Hart trophy during the process. While the Caps made the playoffs for the first time, Crosby led the Pens all the way to the Cup finals where they would eventually lose. We can call 2008 a push.
Now the present is here, the entire hockey world is watching. Man, they are putting on a show aren’t they? There is still plenty of hockey left to be played in this series, most likely Sid and Alex will not be the only ones deciding things. Next game, watch Malkin, Gonchar, Letang and Fedotenko on the Pens, they can all play. On the other side for the Caps it’s the likes of, Federov, Semin, Green, Laich, and Steckel who will have more to say before its all over. Just remember there are two teams playing, not just two superstars. I have to remind myself of that as well because after game 2 it is easy to ignore the role players while two stars are carrying the sport.