Photo credit: Michael Connor/The Washington Times
Editor’s note: To get you properly revved up for the season, each member of the RMNB crew will take a longing look back at some of our favorite goals from days gone by. You can call it nostalgia or cheap summer content, but it’s really a reminder: WINTER IS COMING.
The date was April 24th, 2009. The Washington Capitals had taken up their old tradition of digging a hole for themselves. The count was three-to-one, and the New York Rangers were looking to wrap this series up on the road.
So here’s the scene: John Tortorella is still dry, Sean Avery is wearing some D&G three-piece instead of his hockey sweater, and the Rags are on the power play. Your boy Boyd Gordon gets the puck behind Varly and sends it around the boards. It takes a weird bounce to get past the blue line– with Matt Bradley in close pursuit…
Brads gets a soft touch to escape Chris Drury and enters the Rangers zone like a man possessed. With just three deft touches and a burst of speed, Bradley confounds Henrik Lundqvist to score one gorgeous shorthanded goal.
Watch with me:
Pretty stuff. Turns out that was Matt Bradley’s first ever postseason goal. And it was a pretty tally too, the kind you’d expect from a “skill” guy, not a grinder like Matt.
But now that I think about it, expectations never seemed to matter much to Matt Bradley. He’s the guy who stepped in on the big fight, the guy who kept the rink maintenance guys well practiced in their bloodborne pathogen procedures, and he’s the guy who saved the team when they really needed it.
The Rangers didn’t really stand a chance after Brads knocked the wind out of them with that shorty, but elegance was never his thing so he followed it up with this crazy sharp angle to make it 2-0:
The game ended 4-0, and the Caps took the series in 7. I didn’t remember who scored the other two goals because I was in some kind of ecstatic blackout state, but J.P. reminds me that it was the Sashas. That was also the infamous water bottle game for John Tortorella, where he and one particularly militant member of the Caps red army lobbed liquid munitions back and forth. Here’s a Zapruder-like video of the incident (my apologies for the Gary Glitter song). Good times.
With Matt Bradley now a member of the Florida Formercaps and his recent comments about Alex Semin’s care index eating up all the pixels, this might seem a bittersweet memory to some people. Not to me. I see that pivotal goal and the criticism in the same way: this is a player doing what no one else could to make his (former) team better. It’s precious and rare and kind of awesome.
Personally, I look towards this season with excitement. Yeah, Brads is gone. But who’s gonna take his place? Who’s gonna fight and bleed and grind and hustle? Who’s got the grit to do what no one else will? Who’s gonna blow everyone’s mind with a well-timed miracle play? And who’s gonna do it with a mile-wide grin like the one Matt has up top?
Let’s find out on October 8th.