So as I hustled my way up to the Verizon Center Press Box this afternoon, I found my fellow bloggers and media types abuzz. Bruce Boudreau has surprised the masses and decided to go with rookie Simeon Varlamov in this must-win games against the rival Rangers (who have captain Chris Drury back on the ice). Um, wow - that's all I can muster for now but let's see what the kid can do. My thoughts are that the pressure may not get into his head as much; he's a pretty steely kid.
When Varly's rock n'roll head shot appeared on the jumbotron, the thousands of Caps faithful went wild! The hitting in the first period was merciless with AO trying to annihilate anyone who got in his path, especially Sean Avery (who put on a mini diving show). The Blueshirts got on the board first courtesy of Ryan Callahan. The minute we thought Alex Semin had been rehabbed of his stick infraction issue, he took a hooking penalty but the boys were able to extinguish the Rangers' power play unit quite nicely. The Caps had a few nice attempts, including a breakaway pass from AO to big Viktor Kozlov, who shot the puck way too wide. Mayhem ensued at the end of the first as Kozzie took a cross-checking call and then his mates Tom Poti and John Erskine tangled with Sean Avery (who else?) and his bud Nik Antropov. So going into the locker room at the end of the first, the Rags held a 1-0 lead.
It seems that the saying that the "refs swallow their whistles" during the playoffs is 100 percent true, especially when it came to the Rangers. Apparently John Tortorella's whine fest after Game 1 pulled some of the officials' heart strings as the Rangers saw four power plays by the middle of the second period. Finally, with 3:43 left in the second the refs pulled their whistles out of their esophagus and the men in red got a power play. After failing to convert on the PP opportunity, the Caps got another break as Nik Antropov made a visit to the sin bin on a hooking call. At the end of the second period, the score was still 1-0.
The third period saw some sloppy passes from the Caps' 'D' but Varlamov had a few stellar stops in net. The boys got yet another opportunity when Scott Gomez took a tripping call and Ovie missed a tip in goal by mere inches. Minutes later Alex Semin took exception at a check from Ryan Callahan and went in the box for roughing. In the end, the final score stood at 1-0 Rangers. And the kid wasn't able to get it done, but it wasn't for lack of trying after stopping 23 shots. He did a great job under the bright lights on the playoff stage.
That pretty much wrapped it up on a disappointing loss for the Caps, who seemed to be pretty flat for most of the game. Now they have to go into a hostile Madison Square Garden and try to make the biggest comeback since last season's sensational run. But it seems that the boys are lacking the tenacity they displayed in last year's series. And it's been said over and over in the last week, but the only way to beat Henrik Lundqvist is to create pure havoc in front of the net. Maybe it's time to get Brashear back in there?
Hopefully the boys can rally back. Yes, it has been done before - there are lots of stats and percentages floating around on teams who've done it. But at this point, all that matters is how much the Caps want to fight for it and doing whatever it takes to beat the Blueshirts at their game. HM for one is not ready to throw in the towel by any means....