Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hot Halak and Habs Force Caps to Game 7


As expected, Gabby put his lines in a martini shaker and shook them up a bit to find the perfect chemistry needed to wrap up this long roller coaster ride of a series. Much has been said in the media about the virtual disappearance of Alex Semin and Tomas Fleischmann thus far against the Habs, two players who made huge offensive contributions during the regular season. The Canadiens, in a do or die Game 6, did a bit of the same by sitting Sergei Kostitsyn and calling up wonder kid P.K. Subban from the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs. Hockey Mom usually cheers for this fine young defenseman (who boasts 53 points in 77 games) but not tonight – no sir.

The boys came out firing with on all cylinders, giving Jaro Halak as much as he could handle and then some. And handle it he did – Halak was a brick wall against all 18 shots the Caps fired on him in the first period. The Capitals seemed to forget one of the big keys to beating the Habs, which is stay out of the sin bin! Shaone Morrisonn was whistled for a cross check early on and Mike Cammalleri took full advantage of the opportunity by getting his team on the board first. The rowdy Habs fans went wild and the home team underdogs seized the momentum. Cammalleri struck again at 9:09, with an assist from young Subban, to give the Habs a two goal lead and start the blood pressure rising amongst the Caps faithful. Two minutes later it was Mike Green’s turn to sit with an elbowing call. After a successful penalty kill, the boys went on their own power play, even getting a few seconds at 5-on-3 when Roman Hamrlik took a delay of game call. But the Caps’ incredible regular season power play is still apparently missing in action. End of the first period: Canadiens 2 – Capitals 0

The story of the second period was all Jaroslav Halak. The Habs net minder stopped all 32 shots the Caps threw at him by the time the clock ticked down to the two-minute mark. The Capitals’ power play: still missing. The Caps got another shot at the man advantage when Maxim Lapierre made an Oscar-worthy dive and the guys in stripes threw the bull manure flag at him. Towards the final seconds of the middle stanza, Eric Fehr crashed the crease hard and was cited for cross-checking, causing somewhat of an angry ruckus in the aftermath. End of the second period: Canadiens 2 – Capitals 0

The Habs started the final period on the power play. But it would be a five-on-five rocket from dive champion Lapierre at 4:17 that would give the bleu, blanc and rouge a commanding three-goal lead. Shortly after netting their third tally, both teams took dual penalties – Fleischmann for tripping and Gionta for (gasp) a second Habs diving call. Halak continued his jaw-dropping magical play, stopping 53 shots. 53 SHOTS – where did this guy come from? Eric Fehr was able to pierce a shot through Halak’s armor very late in the third period to avoid the shutout, but that would be it. The cardiac Caps didn’t get the job done and the Canadiens ensured the victory with an empty net goal. Final Score: Canadiens 4 – Capitals 1

So now the Flyers, Bruins and Penguins (who should all get a stick tap for playing out of their minds to get to Round Two) are sitting around and watching this epic struggle. The top-seeded Capitals are back in an all too familiar situation - having their entire magnificent season come down to one game to get them past the first round with all the unimaginable pressure that comes along with being in this precarious position. Ovechkin was interviewed post-game and commented that it's "just one game - not time to panic." Hockey Mom disagrees - maybe it is time to panic. Maybe instead of going in as the top team in the league - pretend you're the Phoenix Coyotes. Maybe it's time to put the lines back together - sit the guys who keep making errors in our offensive zone, give Theo the start and put gritty Scott Walker in front of Halak's grill all night long. But that's just my two cents worth. All I know is you'd better be ready to buckle those seat belts Caps fans - it's going to be "White Knuckle Wednesday."

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