The Washington Capitals returned to Verizon Center to face the Boston Bruins in game 6 of their opening round playoff series. Many observers didn't even expect the series to last 6 games, and they certainly didn't see the Caps carrying a 3-2 series lead. But the playoffs are a funny thing, and the Caps found themselves looking to close out the defending champs less than 24 hours after taking a hard-fought game 5 win. Despite the slim series lead the Caps would need to play with desperation. Given the recent playoff histories of the two teams in this series, with Boston winning three game 7s last year and the Caps having quite a few disappointing game 7 losses in the Alex Ovechkin era, the Caps really needed to take advantage of their home ice opportunity, but it wasn't going to be easy. Just like the previous five games, this game would be decided by one goal, and like games 1-2 the teams would need more than 60 minutes to determine the winner. Unfortunately for the Caps, the Bruins came up with the goal in overtime, and now we all have to wait until Wednesday before we can see who wins this series in game 7.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Just as we'd all come to expect, this game was a goaltending duel. Both goalies probably want at least one of the goals back, but you can't really fault Braden Holtby for any of the goals against. Rich Peverley continues to torment the Caps and his high deflection bounced off the ice before sliding past Holtby. The second goal went through Holtby, but Roman Hamrlik was so thoroughly dominated by David Krejci that Holtby didn't have any help on an deflection in tight. The third goal came off a rebound that sat around forever after Tyler Seguin intentionally (really?) shot the puck off Holtby's head.
- Unsurprisingly, when Seguin broke in all alone on Holtby in overtime, the young goalie came out and challenged Seguin aggressively. Seguin showed great patience and went around Holtby to shoot the puck into the open net (if only the Caps were so good with open nets tonight). Oh, hey, and there's Dennis Wideman following the puck in to the net. Maybe it's worth noting that the entire sequence leading up to the OTG was started by a completely unnecessary icing by Wideman. Nice stuff.
- So tonight was the first time all series the Bruins scored a 5 on 5 goal that didn't have Dennis Wideman on the ice. Peverley's deflection was, incredibly, the first time the Bruins were able to convert against either of the Caps' top two defensive pairs. Of course, when Dale Hunter shortened the bench in the third period he chose to sit Mike Green instead of Wideman. Green may not be the guy Caps fans got used to before the injuries, but it's baffling that anyone sees Wideman doing anything that merits more ice time. And yet, Wideman had the second most ice of any Caps player tonight, with one second less time than Karl Alzner.
- Tonight's a game that Nicklas Backstrom will want to forget. He had some great moments with the puck, as he always will, and he had an assist on Chimera's game tying goal late in the second and Ovechkin's game tying goal late in the third, but he absolutely quit on the backcheck that led to Andrew Ference's goal and then he had an uncharacteristic turnover that led to Seguin's OTG. He's a veteran guy that the team relies on, he absolutely needs to make the simple play off the boards right there.
- We all knew the Bruins top 6 was going to wake up at some point. Coming in to the weekend the majority of their best players were sporting 0s in their "Points" column. The Caps failed to take advantage of the drought, and now they have to go to a game 7, on the road, with the Bruins top 6 fully awake. 2 points from Seguin, Milan Lucic, Krejci, and Peverley today. Another 1 for Bergeron, who was clearly not 100%, but now he gets two full days to rest whatever it is that's ailing him.
- In that list of "top 6 Bruins that just lit up the Caps" you don't see Brad Marchand. He was technically held off the score sheet today, but he was instrumental in the Caps second goal. It's not likely, but the league should really consider giving him an assist. His not-quite-Olympic-caliber dive opened up the neutral zone and gave the Caps a chance to come with speed. Zdeno Chara, for all his talents, does not handle speed in the open ice very well. Backstrom forced him to back off to the slot and then when Chara couldn't pick Nick's sweet sauce out of the air Chimera just had to tap the puck into an open net for a tie game heading into the third period.
- Never will you see me ignore a great performance like the one Alzner put in today. I'm sure at some point he'll get his due, but that point isn't here yet. I just heard that Alzner is taking applications for a new intern, and Bruce Springstein is apparently the front runner.
- Over the course of this series the Bruins have really had the better offensive chances, but tonight that wasn't the case. Of course Boston had their scoring chances (obviously enough to win), but the Caps are going to regret not taking advantage of their opportunities, especially in the second period. Backstrom had a chance in the slot right as the period started, and then Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson both had wide open nets to shoot at but failed to convert.
- Never has there been better evidence for the old mantra "just hit the net" than Ovechkin's game today. He had the open net that he missed in the second period, and then he had a great chance in the slot in the third period that he shot wide. He tried to be too perfect with those shots and didn't even force Tim Thomas to make a save. Then he gets a shot off quickly after a face off win and somehow the puck squeaks through Thomas's pads. That wasn't one of the best shots the Captain has ever fired, but it got the job done.
- Everyone seems to want to talk about the refs rather than the hockey in this series, so this bullet is reserved for complaints about the officiating. Please choose one answer from each bracketed section and you'll have some fine boxed whine. "The [a) call; b) non-call] against [a) my team; b) their team] when [insert player name] committed [insert infraction] was [a) unconscionable; b) proof that Gary Bettman has a conspiracy against my team; c) responsible for all of the problems in Africa]. Until the NHL can get some refs that are [a) good; b) consistent; c) Vulcans], the league will always be relegated to [a) niche; b) garage; c) bush; d) Mickey Mouse] league status."
So now the Caps have to regroup from a tough loss, the so-called "one that got away." The Caps had more shots and better chances, but that's all irrelevant now. Wednesday night these two teams will play game 7 for the right to advance in the playoffs. The Bruins are battle tested, at home, and will be confident. The Caps... have broken hearts time and again when it comes down to game 7 situations. Through this series the Caps have proven that they can certainly play with the Bruins, now they just need to go out there and prove it again. Hopefully they can also show he fans that playoff history doesn't matter.