Beyond the players, coaching staff and members of the organization, there’s no one more knowledgeable about the Washington Capitals than a season-ticket holder. You know, those lovely people who fill the phone booth to capacity every night in a sea of red jerseys. So when we wanted to get a fan’s perspective of how the Capitals and the in-game crew were performing during the playoffs, we knew exactly who we had to turn to: Caps Superfans William “Goat” Stilwell and Sam “The Horn Guy” Wolk.
Wednesday night, after the Capitals thrilling 2-1 overtime victory, I caught up with the two lovely gentlemen and asked them their thoughts on game one, the star performers, and game two tonight. Hopefully, this will be a recurring feature throughout the Capitals’ second season. Make sure to be nice and welcome them to RMNB in the comments below!
The Electric Atmosphere at Verizon Center
The Caps’ 2011 Playoff Intro via Twitter follower @r3volve. Give him a break he was holding a beer!
For a hockey fan, there’s rarely anything more exciting than your home team’s first game of the playoffs. As I can attest to, the crowd at the Verizon Center was electric Wednesday night. “Overall, everybody was ready to rock,” Goat said. “You could feel that. As soon as the lights went out, everybody was jacked. After the opening video started, everybody started to bounce a little bit.” Frankly, it was hard not to. The Capitals video crew came up with an epic video presentation which included quotes from other media and opposing players – such as Martin Brodeur – describing how tough it is to play at Verizon Center. As each quote went up, the building got progressively louder. When I asked Sam if there were any comparables, he said that, “the first period was as loud as I probably heard it there since Sergei Fedorov scored that series-winning goal against the Rangers in 2009.” Wow. That’s deafening. Andrew Gordon, who was watching the game from home in Hershey, summed it up best:
I can hear the goat yelling from my living room….and my tv is on mute.
Alex Semin’s Strong Play
Who replaced Sasha Minor with this media-friendly alien from outer space? (Photo: Bruce Bennett)
Alex Semin had an assist and scored the overtime game-winning goal in game one. Pretty awesome, right? And if you can believe it, his two points Wednesday matched his entire output from last year’s seven-game series against the Canadiens (two assists). “I thought overall he had a good game,” Sam told me. “I was surprised. He landed some shoulder hits. He fought for the puck in the corners a little bit more than I’m accustomed to seeing. It was nice, because that’s not the kind of game you expect from Alexander Semin. If he can bring that the rest of series, I’ll be happy.” William elaborated on Sasha’s feistiness: “He gets a mean streak in the playoffs it seems. And when somebody takes a liberty here or there, he tends to get a little cranky. And that usually elevates his game.” What Semin isn’t cranky about suddenly is interviews. Over the past few days, you can’t turn your head without seeing an Alex Semin quote. Has our enigmatic left wing started to mature? Maybe. Semin still had an offensive-zone stick penalty in the first period. Though Goat believed that “he was a victim of circumstance. It was a little more of a hold. It was a… combined effort [with the Ranger player].”
Lil’ Mikey Neuvirth
Michal Neuvirth leads the Capitals out on to the ice. (Photo: Bruce Bennett)
You would have never been able to tell that Michal Neuvirth was making his NHL playoff debut in the crease. “All night, he was there when he needed to be,” Sam explained. Goat elaborated: “There were times this evening that I was sure it was over. There was the one shot in overtime where it was just a free and clear blast from about 12 feet away and he came up with that thing right in his gut. He had his glove hand working tonight, too. You know the one he snatched out of the air in the third period, he just reached out for it and said, ‘no.’ That was the thing that energized people.” With his solid, 24-save performance in game one, talk about the Czech splitting time with the Capitals 1b option in net, Semyon Varlamov, has stopped… for now. Neuvy’s performance was even so sublime that his name and likeness was literally everywhere during the NHL Network’s playoff coverage Thursday.
Alex Ovechkin’s Goal
The Senior Director of NHL Hockey Operations, Damian Echevarietta, explains why Ovi’s goal was allowed.
Really, we don’t have much to add here except one thing. Goat’s initial thoughts on the play were, “Aw, we’re going to get hosed on this.” Well said. Props to the NHL for actually getting the call right.
Looking Ahead to Game 2
Ovechkin and Backstrom celebrate the win. (Photo: Clyde Caplan, clydeorama.com)
The last thing I asked the two gentlemen before we departed was if they were looking forward to game two. “Now I definitely am,” Goat instantly replied. “We have the momentum now going into Friday,” Horn Guy added. “We have another home game. It’s going to be a raucous crowd.” William picked up the conversation from there: “And just the way this one ended. With that sweet setup to a wide-open Semin. To score a skill and power goal. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were tear-marks on Lundqvist’s equipment [from trying to make the save]. Joking aside, that dude did not deserve to be serenaded at any point tonight.” And Goat’s right. The Capitals missed the net or rung the puck off the post on a lot of golden opportunities. And when they didn’t, the King was equal to the task. It’s important to understand that the Capitals will have another tough test tonight. Can they arise to the occasion and take a commanding 2-0 series lead? We’ll see at 7:30pm.