The End

Defeated. (Photo credit: Bruce Bennett)

Tampa Bay Lightning. Washington Capitals. Season on the line.

Malone from the backdoor on the PP.  Marco Sturm up front on the PP.  Bergenheim puts it high. Bergenheim on the rebound. Erskine from an impossible angle. Martin St. Louis all alone up front. John Carlson off the faceoff. Bolts beat Caps 5-3.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have swept the Washington Capitals.

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A happier time. (Photo credit: Greg Fiume)

Less than a day after the Caps dropped their second game of the series to Tampa Bay, Bruce Boudreau was asked to assess the state of his club:

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Game One Less than Ideal: Bolts beat Caps 4-2

Alex Semin rings iron. (Awesome photo credit: Greg Fiume)

Welp. That just happened.

The Washington Capitals invited the Tampa Bay Lightning for a night of pucks and fun in Chinatown. Starting off the conference semi-finals, the well rested Caps were expected to bulldoze Tampa Bay’s exhausted trap defense and open up some cracks in the Roloson wall. Did not happen.

On the board first was Sean Bergenheim, rewarded for crowding Michal Neuvirth’s crease. Marco Sturm returned fire by forcing a turnover that Alex Semin mightily wristed past Dwayne Roloson’s defenses. Jason Chimera fought below the goal line to set up Eric Fehr for the go-ahead, but that’s when the wheels came off. After a soft turnover, Steve Downie had a little help in his tying goal thanks to Scott Hannan’s stick. On a late second period powerplay, Steven Stamkos, given way too much space in the paint by John Erskine, had enough time to force one past Neuvy. And with the net cleared out, Dominic Moore sacrificed his body to settle the matter. Bolts beat Caps 4-2. Dammit.

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Behold! Alexsandr's other "We Are The Champions" painting

Did you think this would be a slow news week? Maybe an injury update here or a scouting report there, but overall an uneventful period before the semifinals. Well, you were wrong. From the Internet’s very own disreputable flea market emerges what might become the cultural moment of the hockey season.

(Are we building this up too much?)

Artist Aleksandr Reut has crafted Washington Capitals – We are the Champions!, an exquisite 40″ x 32″ oil painting on canvas. This inspired (yet absurdly premature) work of celebratory art and its partner piece are available for bid or purchase on eBay right now. Starting bid is only $5,000, so crack open those piggy banks.

A 50-something Ukranian ex-pat living in Harrisonburg, Virginia, Reut fills the daytime hours as an architect, but the muses compel him to high art. A decade-old profile from Harrisonburg’s Daily News-Record (reprinted here by brama.com) extols Reut’s passion for mixed media as a sculptor, but he tells me that it’s hockey that really inspires him.

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NEXT! Caps beat Rangers 3-1

Mike Green: picking the right time to play the best hockey of his life.

Shut the book on the quarterfinal series between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals. In just five (not that short) games, the Caps sent the Rangers to an early vacation and a hot shave. This is the first Caps playoff series since the lockout (and the first of Bruce Boudreau’s career) that has not gone to a full seven games.

For the first time in the series, a goal was scored in the first period. While on the powerplay, Mike Green caught his own rebound and used Dan Girardi as a backboard for the game’s first score. Scott Hannan stretched a pass to Alex Ovechkin in the second, who then beat Henrik Lundqvist on the backhand. Alex Semin’s one-timer off Marcus Johansson made the score 3-0, which should have been the final. But then this happened:

About a minute later, Wojtek Wolski finally got one past Michal Neuvirth. Oh well. Caps beat Rangers 3-1. Series score: 4-1. The Capitals advance to the next round, but first comes a few days of well deserved rest.

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Sasha Scoars
SASHA SCOARS! (Photo credit: Bruce Bennett)

No team has given the Washington Capitals more trouble this season than the New York Rangers. Those 6-0 and 7-0 shutouts pushed some Caps fans into spiritual desolation, broke up several marriages, and probably killed a house cat or two. Fitting then that the Caps and Rags should meet in this first round of the playoffs. You know that old Klingon proverb, right? Revenge is a dish best served by two guys from Russia named Alex.

We were scoreless through two periods when Rangers newbie Matt Gilroy caught a pass from Brandon Prust and beat Michal Neuvirth. With only six minutes and change left in regulation, Alex Ovechkin’s repeated swats forced the puck past Henrik Lundqvist’s pads. And then, after nearly nineteen minutes of overtime hockey and with fatigue setting in, Jason Arnott intercepted a bad clear from Marc Staal and set up Alex Semin for the game-winner. It took damn near eighty minutes, but the good guys pulled it out: the Caps beat the Rangers 2-1 (OT) and take a 1-0 lead in the series.

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Ovechpunch! Ovechpunch! (Photo credit: Jim McIsaac)

On Wednesday, the Washington Capitals will take on the New York Rangers in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. The Caps haven’t faired well against New York this season, losing three out of four regular season games including 6-0 and 7-0 shutouts. In fact, the 7-0 shutout was so bad, Alex Ovechkin found it necessary to fight. However, that was then. This is now. Let’s take a look at the numbers to preview what should be an interesting matchup.

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Eric Fehr, Matt Hendricks, Brooks Laich celebrate goal

Photo credit: Rob Carr

Not all goals are created equal. A team scoring first has almost twice the win percentage of a team that trails first, while scoring an empty net goal almost always means the game was out of reach. But what about all the goals scored in between? Of all those goals that a player scores, how many contribute to victories and how vitally do they contribute?

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Like Old Times: Caps beat Bolts 5-2

Ovechkin

SCOAR! (Photo credit: Chris O’Meara)

There was a zeitgeist surrounding the Washington Capitals’ visit to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s playground. The words we kept hearing were “must win,” which is great motivator even if it’s not objectively true. Still, the Caps seemed to take it to heart, bringing an effort to the game that reminds us– above all else–  of the ’09-’10 version of the team. Not bad.

Red-hot Teddy Purcell scored on Tampa Bay’s first shot of the night, a 40-foot slapper to Varlamov’s weak side. On a 4v4 sequence that we’ll discuss later, Nicky Backstrom used some stick-to-it-iveness to even the score from the crease. Brooks Laich (!) piled on with a wizardly backhand top-shelfer set up by Mathieu Perreault. Alex Ovechkin put the visitors up 3-1 with his long-delayed return to the PPG stat column. Tampa’s Brett Clark kept the second period busy with a retaliatory powerplay tally. The third period found Nick Backstrom cleaning up an Ovechkin crash for his second of the night, and Jason Chimera  recording an empty-netter. Caps beat Bolts 5-2. Wings, MFers.

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Caps beat Isles 2-1, but the Cake is a Lie

chimmerscores

The top line converts, but Ovechkin is pretty mellow. (Photo credit: Lou Capozzola)

I know a special place. A magical place. A place where the beer flows like wine. Where normal men are giants, and struggling hockey teams play like they’ve never been better.  A place called Long Island.

The Washington Capitals spent the evening in that benign growth of land dangling unloved off the mainland. There they met the New York Islanders (29th in the league in… oh let’s just say everything). But the Caps didn’t play down to their competition. Instead they looked like the studs we know deep down they really are. But looks can be deceiving.

Nick Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin delivered a masterful possession that Jason Chimera finished off from the goal mouth. Backstrom then broke his 21-game goalless streak by cleaning up an Ovechkin rebound. On a rail, NYI’s Michael Grabner beat John Carlson’s coverage and Braden Holtby’s read to put the Islanders on the board, but the third period was scoreless. Caps beat Isles 2-1.

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