Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hockey

That last-second stunner in the Carolina-Devisl Game Seven was incredible. 1:30 to go, and the Devils looked to be cruising into the second round. Then Jokinen and Staal stun them, and end a terrifically entertaining Game Seven. But it didn't matter, really. Now what? The Hurricanes get to move on to Round 2, where they will be crushed by Boston in four or five games. Big deal.

But how about that Capitals series? That might have been the absolute best first-round series I have seen since I started watching hockey. TSN had the rights to the Hockey Night in Canada theme song for the first time, and I had my fingers crossed that it would get played before a series that was worthy. The Caps-Rangers series was worthy, and then some. What didn't those seven games have?

First of all, you had Alex Ovechkin, the Most Popular Player in Hockey, going up against Sean Avery, the Least Popular Man In All Of Sports. Outside dyed-in-the-wool Rangers fans, was there anyone out there cheering for New York to win this series? Did anyone really want to see Sean Avery in the second round of the playoffs, and NOT Ovechkin? Maybe Don Cherry...I bet Cherry was sitting home fuming about Ovechkin's excessive celebration after Federov's winning goal in Game Seven. Cursing under his breath. "Geez kid. You won Game Seven. Big deal. Act like you've done it before."

But it wasn't just Ovechkin and Avery. Sure, Ovechkin was the best skater on the ice for all seven games, and Avery did some pretty stupid things and got himself benched. But the goalies were a huge story also. On the Washington side, you had a controversy - Theodore, with experience, or Varlamov, who might actually be good. In the end, they went with Varlamov, which proved to be the right call. On the other side, Lundqvist simply had a magnificent series. The Capitals won four games, Lundqvist won three. A case could be made that this was the first ever seven-game series where a team didn't lose a single game. Three were stolen by a goalie on fire.

Then there was the bizarre drama around Tortorella and his fight with that fan, throwing water and threatening him with a stick and having to be held back and then being suspended for a game. And of course that big comeback from being down 3-1. When the Caps were down 3-1, though, was there anyone who thought they were done? I doubt it. San Jose was down 3-1 to the Ducks, and we all knew it was over. When the Sharks won Game 5, we knew it was just prolonging the inevitable. When the Caps won Game 5, they all of a sudden were the favourites in the series again. All kinds of hard-hitting, all kinds of scoring chances, and spectacular goaltending right through the seventh game. An amazing series.

I found myself cheering for Washington, even though it would have been better for me in my pool had they lost. I'm way down in the playoff pool now (thanks mostly to the fact that I picked a lot of Boston and Detroit players, and you can't get too many points in four games), and most of the people ahead of me have a fair number of Capitals on their teams. But boy, am I glad not to see Avery any more, and what's better than an Ovechkin - Crosby series? Judging by this first round, probably nothing.

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