"That's why we showed up for 40 games, for nights like these. Best game of the year." - Mr. X From The Blue Seats
I don't think I could have said it better. Wednesday night's 2-1 win over the Caps was the best game of the season. It was utterly astounding, utterly frustrating and utterly rewarding. To be honest, I still haven't been able to relax (maybe that was because I had to crash some sleep and run to work, but still). The last period was so on the edge of your seat insane that it will take at least until Friday to finally unwind - just in time to get all wrapped up again in a possible season ender. But first, there was this one and What. A. Game.
Let's get right into it:
*It doesn't happen often that one of the best moments of the game was a time out called outside of the final minutes but John Tortorella's decision to use his break on an icing call after a penalty kill helped decide the game. All of the momentum was with the Caps and the quick breather was enough to give the Blueshirts on the ice a chance to battle back.
*Then again, all of the credit due for that play was completely washed away by his call to put Sean Avery on the ice with four minutes left. There was absolutely no reason for it. Yes, Avery was one of the most energetic skaters and he maintained his composure for two periods. Yes, he is a loose cannon with a ginormous target on his back. Now, according some MSG guys, he did indeed lose control of his stick and deserve the high sticking. But it shouldn't matter as he shouldn't have been on the ice in the first place.
*The officiating left much to be desired. And this is coming from someone basking the glow of a stunning victory. There were dubious calls and a good number of noncalls - including a a penalty shot that wasn't called. Paul Devorski should be ashamed of himself for such a poor effort. One of the few 'names' left officiating, he did a terrible job and actually made me miss Kerry Fraser. Seriously. Ugh, I feel dirty.
*The Blueshirt blueline basically had pairings 1A and 1B. Staal and Girardi kept up their top notch work while Redden and Rozsival managed not to screw anything up. Ok, ok, ok. Rozy played his best defensive game in over a season, perhaps his best as a Ranger. I was impressed. As for Redden, whatever. He wasn't bad. That is about as nice as I will get. And I yelled at him less than I yelled Tom Poti, so that is a plus (even if it wasn't by much).
*And it hurts to say this but damn, Alex Ovechkin truly is a hockey god. You knew he would score sooner or later in this series and he did in fine fashion with a stellar shot into the upper corner - who woulda thought, if the goaltender plays half the game on his knees, then a shot under the bar will go in ... Now the shot that hit the post may be the shot heard 'round the world. The sound of the puck hitting iron rang louder then the bell of Big Ben. That was incredible, how it didn't shatter the puck or bend the iron is beyond me.
*Anyone know what happened to the pane of glass behind the net in the third period? From 329 we couldn't tell if it was cracked from an errant shot or dislodged with a hit ...
*A hit that certainly didn't come from Nik Zherdev. Z saw seven minutes of ice time - none of which was in the third period. Unlike Colton Orr, who actually made the most of his limited action, Z was invisible. As I said last game, all he is doing now is ensuring exit from the NHL. He may very well turn into an Alexei Morozov-like star but he simply doesn't have the heart to play the North American game.
*Talking heart - Bettsy, Sjo, Cally and Dubi. All four were incredible, as they have been most of the season. While we expect it of the first three, Dubi is finally putting the pieces back together that made him so dominant back in October. He won 15 of 17 faceoffs, played on both special teams and collected an assist.
*These guys, along with Staalsie and Girardi, did a stellar job shutting down Nick Backstrom. One game after he was so dominant, he was virtually invisible. Ovie and Semin were still threats but Backstrom couldn't do anything. Neither could Mike Green, but that mohawked dork has fallen flat on his face thus far in the series - I love this picture - he is looking the wrong way!
*I'm sure there is more but I'm still basking in the glow of victory. If there is anything else, don't you worry, I'm not shy.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Chris Drury - one goal.
2-Alexander Ovechkin - one goal.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 38 saves.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Dru - Among the other fans I spoke to, several said that Markus Naslund deserved a heap of credit but I won't give it to him just because he decided to show up and play for the first time this season. Dru - the guy I said should be scratched if he was so hurt - played well in limited action. He didn't get his usual 18, 19 minutes (just 13 and change) but he got in the action, put his body in the line of fire and went to the net. So this is how he earned that clutch reputation, huh?
2-Ovie - What can be said that hasn't been already? Ovechkin is the modern Gordie Howe with a fun streak. It was just nice to see him sad rather than jumping around like a fool.
1-Hank - Unless something outrageous and unforgivable happens, Hank will be a Vezina finalist again this season. And if the Rangers advance then he will add a Conn Smythe to it. There is no one more valuable to their team then he is. Look at the team in front of him ...