As the final seconds ticked off last night I raised my arms and closed my eyes. Sweet, sweet victory. The buzzer sounded and I was high fived, punched, hugged, mugged, drenched in beer ... and even congratulated by a Flyer fan. What a moment, what a feeling.
And it was only the end of the second round.
The Rangers defeated the Capitals 2-1 on Saturday night to continue their ulcer-inducing run though the playoffs. They closed out the Caps series with their second-straight Game 7 win and earned an invite to the Conference Final dinner dance with the Devils. Outstanding.
Before we get our fingers bitten off by Brodeur at the buffet, a few Late Hits from this one:
*John Druce, wherever you are, I have one thing to say to you: this.
*You know what would have made the victory sweeter? Tom Poti on the losing end. Pooooooooooooooottttttttttttiiiiiiiiiiii.
*7-0 Fedotenko. Supposedly he is Ukrainian but with luck like that there must be some Irish in there. Joking aside, his success in Game 7s is a credit to his hard work. You could tell that he was going to fight until the final buzzer and he battled all night.
*As did Carl Hagelin, who had one of his best performances of the playoffs - if not the season. The Wolverine was outstanding, a forechecking fury that outhustled and outworked the Washington blueliners. Hopefully Kreider was still watching and learning.
*And thanks to Hagelin, Brad Richard$ came through with the game-opening goal just 92 seconds into the night. It was a great one-timer from Richard$, one that Holtby should have stopped - perhaps the minor leaguer expected Nick Backstrom to block it? Doesn't matter, it went in. And then the Rangers tried to cling to that advantage the rest of the night.
*Speaking of such, Marc Staal is really starting to look like the old Marc Staal. Nice timing.
*0-2 power play, New York typical. Although, to be fair, the second wasn't a full two minutes. But, still, the Rangers will have to start taking advantage of the man advantage in the next round.
*Saw the replay of the Boyle non-goal, bad call. Very glad it wasn't the margin of victory (or defeat).
*But, for all of the complaining from the Blue Bloods about the officiating this series, the Rangers got away with one when Del Zaster tripped Ovechkin to force the turnover that resulted in his goal.
*That goal came off of a perfect shot that sailed through Roman Hamrlik's legs and inside the stick-side post on Holtby. All credit given and due.
*Of course, plenty of blame is due to him on the Hamrlik goal 38 seconds later. The goal was not Step's fault, as I have heard. Mike Green was Step's man, and the Vespa-rider was still up-ice. Kreider was with Laich at the point, Cally closed with Chimera on the right wing boards and Staal was battling Brouwer in front. That left DZ to come out and close with Hamrlik. Del Zaster misread the Czech's rush and turned towards the boards - opening up the lane through the slot for the shot. Another example of DZ's defensive deficiencies (ones that he does not appear to be working on improving).
*Notes on the bad guys: Troy Brouwer and Matt Hendricks were worthy opponents in this series, real warriors who gave their all. Still don't like Brooks Laich but will admit he is underrated. Marcus Johansson has to be the Caps biggest disappointment. Sad to see the proud Mike Knuble spend so much time on the bench. Semin should make a lot of money in the KHL next season.
*Gabby finished the series with three goals and four assists. And he still has yet to play his best hockey.
*John Mitchell ... supposedly Mats Zuccarello is getting closer to returning so the Norwegian gnat can take over his spot on the power play.
*Poor Stu, less than three minutes of ice time while McDonagh saw nearly a half hour. Perhaps Bickel will get more ice time against New Jersey. Or not. Maybe he can start at center again one night ... ?
*"We Want The Cup" chants. Really. Really? Really. After being taken to the limit by the two bottom seeds. I can't even comprehend it.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Michael Del Zotto - one goal and one assist.
2-Brad Richards - one goal.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 22 saves.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Richard$ - Won some faceoffs, score a goal, no big thing for the former Conn Smythe winner.
2-Hank - The King only had to make a few big saves but he made them.
1-Hagelin - Bork!