So. Here we are. The Caps’ long, strange trip to the playoffs wasn’t easy, not by any stretch, and their first round opponent doesn’t look so easy either. We know what’s behind us – a roller coaster season of consistent inconsistency, and we know what’s ahead of us – the defending Stanley Cup Champions are big, physical, and chock full of talent. So this probably explains why hockey’s literati almost to the person predicts a Boston win for the series. We don’t put much stock in that, of course. We don’t because we’re homers. Homo homers to be precise.
We look at the Boston match up as a series of If – Then statements: If Ovi, Sasha, and Nicky fire, then we’ll be OK. If we can match them physically, then we don’t get pushed around. If our special teams perform, then we’ll have a real shot. If we put rubber on that creep, Timmy Thomas, get in his head and face, then we’ll score moar goals. If we crash the net, you know the rest. And it’s Timmy and his counterpart at the opposite end of the rink that we think this series revolves around.
But there’s another big “If” looming in this series, and in this case, he wears #70. Just when we thought we couldn’t take anymore goalie drama, we lost Vokes. Then last week, in the blink of an eye, Neuvy went down. Braden Holtby stepped up huge in the Rangers game Saturday evening and all eyes and hopes in Washington rest on his shoulders. His stick, pads, glove, and blocker too, for that matter.
Our young net minder is certainly another factor that those scribes lean on when giving Boston the edge. Braden, the youngest of gun vs. Timmy Thomas, the experienced veteran who was instrumental in last season’s Cup run. And on paper, that makes sense, of course. But hockey isn’t played on paper; it’s played on ice with space-age composites, steel blades, and blood. We’re reminded of old racetrack chatter about race horses that may seem outclassed on paper. Two railbirds are handicapping a race and the foolish says, “The tote board says the 5 horse can’t win; he’s 30-1.” The wiser of the two responds, “It doesn’t matter; the horse can’t read.”
A lot of hockey remains a mystery to us, and most confounding are the goalies. And Braden with his Holtbyisms seem like even more of a riddle. His grace under pressure against the Rangers was a huge relief to Caps fans and we think he can handle the Boston drama and whatever they throw at him too. He has to; he has no choice and there’s no turning back. Neuvy is making the trip up there, but all eyes remain on the Caps’ Hershey (eye) candy. We liked what Braden had to say to the Post’s Katie Carerra on Tuesday:
I’m not really trying to focus on the playoffs, I’m focusing on making saves,” Holtby said. “The saves don’t get any harder in the playoffs. I’ve watched them since I was a kid. They’re the same type shots, same everything. Obviously it’s more intense but it doesn’t change your ability at all.
The kid has spunk. And we love spunk.
This is the spot where we’d take wicked potshots at Lil Timmy’s ill-mannered slight of the President earlier this year. But two C-SPAN veterans like us know better than to belittle someone’s ideology, no matter how half-baked and laughable it may seem to DC sophisticates. Lord knows that we’ve taken viewer calls from some of the best backwoods trailer parks and hippie communes in these United States. We don’t judge because we pretty much find everyone’s personal politics to be objectionable, and Timmy’s are no exception. Tea Party, Toga Party – who the hell cares; the Obama snub was just plain bad manners. What’s especially delicious is that it was the Boston media that hounded Timmy this week about the Obama snub. We weren’t even going to mention it, but since they started it.
And ever since Timmy dissed the POTUS, his numbers have taken a hit. Call it regression to the mean, we’re gonna call it The Obama Curse because that’s a lot sexier than post hoc ergo propter hoc. In the 20 games after he snubbed Obama, Thomas’ save percentage fell by 5% and his goals against went up by over half a goal per game. Peter will have more on that later.
But we’re not here to debate stats; we’re here to illustrate the more intangible differences between the pure Braden Holtby and the brutish Timmy Thomas. This actual photo from Bruins HQ of Thomas and bench boss Claude Julien says it all:
What’s creepier than Timmy haunting the TD Garden? Nothing – not even the Man from Another Place and the Black Lodge, the realm of pure evil that he inhabits, too.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
All original content on russianmachineneverbreaks.com is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)– unless otherwise stated or superseded by another license. You are free to share, copy, and remix this content so long as it is attributed, done for noncommercial purposes, and done so under a license similar to this one.