Wednesday, April 29, 2009

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Game 7 is in the books, and will be marked as one of those pieces of history that no one will forget any time soon.

Coming into tonight's game, no Rangers team in franchise history had lost a playoff series after being up by 3-1 in the series. On the same note, only one Capitals team in franchise history had won after being down 3-1.

In game seven situations, only once had the Capitals won, April 16, 1988, against the Philadelphia Flyers in overtime. That was the reason me and my lab partners named our fetal pig in AP Biology "Ron Hextall."

Simeon Varlamov had just turned 21 yesterday. Henrik Lundqvist, on the other hand, was coming off a game where he'd been pulled in the third period, for the second game in a row... for the first time ever in his career.

After two games where the Capitals really dominated the Rangers, many were saying that the Rangers were done, and Washington had momentum on their side. Someone forgot to tell New York that, as they came out hard from the start, stonewalling the Capitals attempts to penetrate deep into their zone, and Lundqvist really never was tested until more than halfway through the period. Varlamov, however, had to work hard to keep the home team in the game, after some poor turnovers in the neutral zone.

Then the unthinkable. Avery tossed the puck towards the net from the corner, and his teammate Nik Antropov was able to get it past Varlamov. Knowing that the team that had scored first had won every game so far in this series, seeing the light go on there was a downer.

The crowd was a bit subdued. I remarked to Gabe that Boudreau should call a time-out, as the team was not playing well, and maybe needed a quick rethinking session. Right about then, there was a stoppage in play, and the glass repair crew came out; a pane behind New York's net was evidently broken and needed replacement. Voila! Time-out!

Boudreau obviously took the time to talk to his players, and whatever he said made a difference. While it still wasn't at the level of game five or game three, things had changed for the better, culminating with Alexander Semin taking a pass from fellow young gun, Nicklas Backstrom. Semin's shot appeared to be a double-deflection, off two different Rangers' defensive sticks, and past Lundqvist. While it may not have been "pretty," it was still "pretty effective" at getting the score all tied up.

And 1-1 it remained through the second period, and deep into the third. The number of shots Varlamov faced was pretty low -- after 8 shots in the first, there were only 6 in the second and a miserly 1 in the third -- and the number taken by the Caps was shockingly low as well.

However, maybe Lundqvist suffers from Theodore syndrome, where if he's not "tested enough," he can't stop the easy shots. When Sergei Fedorov took the shot after a long pass from Professor Matt Bradley, and it went in, the somewhat subdued (though usual for a Tuesday night) crowd erupted. Everyone stood, started cheering, and this continued for the next (last) five minutes of the game, meaning for about twenty minutes real time.

The fury had been unleashed, and it was speaking Russian.

It is difficult to say what happened those final five game minutes. It was so loud, so frenetic, all I remember was a lot of keep-away with the puck, and one aborted attempt to dash to the bench by Lundqvist, who ended up trapped in the crease. Avery was taken down by Fedorov, and limped to the bench, and the constant cheering of "Let's Go Caps!" and "C-A-P-S, Caps, Caps, Caps" stopped momentarily to jeer the gnat as he limped off the ice. Then, it was over, and the team mobbed Varlamov so thoroughly that they took the net right off its moorings.

The Devils vs. Hurricanes game seven evidently had been just as -- if not more -- wild, with two Carolina goals coming in the final 90 seconds of the game, including Staal's game winner with just under 33 seconds remaining. The Carolina win means the Capitals will take on Pittsburgh in round 2, while the Bruins battle the Hurricanes.

I received several text messages as I was leaving the game, all basically saying the same thing about the Capitals winning or Fedorov scoring.

But there was one that was different. One that was.... ominous.

It read, simply, "Doobie doobie do."


I think there's going to be a rough road ahead. Saturday afternoon can't come soon enough.

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