As if still in a dream, the slowly building tempo of Dick Dale and his Del Tones’ Peter Gunn coaxed me into the early hours of the morning. I rose into the darkness and staggered out of bed to begin the day searching through my mind fog when it hit me like Alex Ovechkin on Jaromir Jagr. From above the shower came a glimmer of morning light. The light that signals a new day and all that comes with it, but with this morning came the reminder of the crushing defeat I witnessed last night as our Washington Capitals unceremoniously exited the playoffs.I had planned on penning the “And We Squeaked By” article, but was left speechless as time evaporated and the Habs rose from the bench in jubilation. Instead, I am left with a “Didn’t See That One Coming” headline. People will talk about this as an epic failure and choke. For a moment, I even though about the cruel irony of this blog’s title, “The Capital Power Play.” Before I found my way out of the morning fog, I reluctantly tuned the radio to sports talk and so it began.Fire the coach! The minor league coach will never win a cup! Mark my words!””Trade Ovi, he will never lead this team to a championship!””Green for the Norris, you must be kidding!””Semin is useless!”It went on and on for 15 minutes until I was blessed by a commercial. The multitude of articles were in some ways harsh, but for the most part fair. Hockey blogs from all over the country were making the inevitable Ovechkin – Crosby comparison and a Rangers blog had a single image of Ovi as he left the ice with the word “Elimin8ed” in bold. Opposing team fans will revel in our loss while Caps fans will continue to look for the answers. Some will be back in their seats next season and likely some will not. The fans in this town can be tough and rightfully so in many cases. From all the analysis, anger and discontent, rose one comparison that stood tall. Tracee Hamilton of the Washington Post made the comparison that allows me to keep the faith in this young Capitals team. Yes, this is still a young team and yes, young teams have won the cup, but most teams pay their dues well before the cup comes to town. So the comparison of the Ovi era Caps to the Yzerman era Red Wings may have fruit to bear. Read it here. It is relevant as Detroit was ready to run everyone including Yzerman out of town during that era and yet if they had, they would have lost the opportunity to see themselves in the reflection of the Stanley Cup not once, but three times. Four if you want to count Yzerman’s time in the Wings front office and maybe five if they can maintain the momentum from their game seven win against the formidable Desert Dogs.No matter what you think about the Capitals, the Canadians exceeded expectations and played well out of their league. They ran a stifling defense, and had goal tending that would have made Stonewall Jackson proud. Coaching made all the necessary changes and they deserved to move on.Another irony in this saga is also in the fact that I am currently reading “The Business of Happiness” by Capitals owner, Ted Leonsis. It may be tough to be happy with the Capitals business at the moment, but one of Ted’s tenets of happiness is gratitude, so I will take a shot at it here with my final season thoughts.*Through over 30 years of Capitals fandom, I have never experienced a more exciting regular season.*The President’s Trophy as it hung over the backs of the Caps like and albatross has never been seen in this town before and hey, the Sharks dropped the first series last year and are now moving on a year later.*At least the old media knows that we have a hockey team now.*The fans of this team have grown in epic proportions and though we may lose some, I can now say, most people don’t look at me with a blank stare when I mention Capitals hockey.*We had our own Caps TV show!*We have dozens of new media blogs to keep the faith and keep us up to date on the Caps news.*We have ownership that is committed to winning the Cup. We may not have it yet, but there is always hope when people are committed.*My children’s preschool had a “Rock the Red” day!*And best of all, my three year old Brendan thinks Brendan Morrison is the greatest hockey player ever! My 5 year old built a Caps shrine of hockey beanie bears and my 7 year old, made posters throughout the season to cheer the team on.Let some time pass, keep the faith and the Cup will come… even if it takes 37 or 38 or 39 years.
By Rodger M. Wood
By Rodger M. WoodI thought I was dreaming tonight. I saw Montreal greats, Patrick Roy, Ken Dryden, and Jacque Plante, all in goal tonight for the Canadiens stopping the 52 shots the Caps put on net.The Caps went down 2-0 early in the first period at the Bell Center. The Canadiens then weathered three periods of Caps’ horrific offensive pressure, at one point in second period, killing a 1 minute 15 second 5 on 3 penalty.The Canadiens scored midway through the third period to go ahead 3-0, just moments before Eric Fehr scored the lone Caps goal making the score 3-1.Montreal scored an empty net goal in the last seconds of the game to make the final score 4-1 and bring the do or die seventh game back to the Verizon Center Wednesday.On a positive note, the Caps played their hearts out, they were snake bit by a hot goaltender, but scored late, maybe giving them some momentum and a better feeling about their chances in game 7 at home.Only time will tell. I’ve seen all of the great NHL goaltenders play, and tonight, Montreal goalie, Jaroslav Halak looked just as good, but then maybe Alex O. can find out how the Montreal goaltender settled his nerves after Game 3 and change the formula.
By Rodger M. WoodLosing the killer streak they had in Montreal in games 3 and 4, and forgetting to skate in the first ten minutes, the young Caps fell to a 2-0 deficit in Game 5 tonight before 18,000 friendly home team fans at the Verizon Center in the quarterfinals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.Montreal goaltender, Jaroslav Halak, winner of the Game 1 overtime 3-2 win and loser in games 2 and 3 regained his composure to stop forty Caps shots, many of which were good scoring opportunities. Only Alex O. beat the 24-year old Czech goalie in the second period to make the game 2-1.Caps goalie Semyon Varlamov also played spectacularly, and deserved better.The Series is now 3-2 and returns to Montreal for Game 6.If the Caps should win that game, it won’t get any easier. The next series will be against the Broad Street Bullies Philadelphia Flyers, who just beat #2 seeded New Jersey Devils 4 games to 1.To stay alive in that series, I’m afraid the Caps will have to put John Erskine back on the ice, let Matt Bradley play with brass knuckles and bring former Caps Donald Brashear out of the stands.
By Rodger M. Wood
The pressure put on 21 year old Caps goalie Semyon Varlamov the first two periods of Game 4 tonight at Montreal was ferocious, but the young net minder, performing magic in the nets, was up to the test.Alex Ovechkin opened up the scoring with a power play goal midway through the first period, but only a minute later the Canadiens tied the score up 1-1 to end the first period.Montreal opened up the second period scoring and held a 2-1 lead until the last 30 seconds of the period when Boyd Gordon and Mike Knuble teamed up for a short handed goal to tie the score 2-2 at intermission, and seemingly take the starch out of the Canadiens and their 22,000 fans at the Bell Center.Helped by the stellar play of defensemen Tom Poti, Jeff Schulz, John Carlson, Varlamov stopped 31 shots the first two periods to keep the Capitals in the game.
Midway through a nail biting third period, Alex O. put the Caps ahead 3-2 with his second goal of the night and Jason Chimera followed up shortly afterwards to give the Caps a two goal advantage.In the last two and a half minutes of the game, Knuble and Backstrom scored empty netters, while Montreal scored its third goal to make the final score 6-3.It wasn’t a pretty win. The Canadiens were desperate for a win, outplayed our Caps much of the game and deserved better results, but I’ll take the ugly win and hope for a prettier one Friday at home.The series now stands at 3 games to 1 for the Capitals, who can end the best 4 of 7 series Friday with a win.