When word got out that the Pittsburgh Penguins would face off against the Washington Capitals on April 29th, hockey fans everywhere began speculating.
Those hoping for a forced game seven got their wish, and it couldn't have been granted in a more exciting fashion.
The Capitals won two fairly evenly matched hockey games at the Verizon Center. Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin both got hat tricks in the second game.
The Penguins win game three in OT, but in a convincing fashion. Then they battle it out for a tough win in game four.
The tie breaker needed to be decided in over time after a back and forth game five.
But four wins in a row proved to be too much for the Penguins, losing in, you guessed it, over time.
Three of the first six contests in this series have gone into over time.
All but one game had a final score within one goal, and the only game separated by two points came off Max Talbot's goal late in the game.
All of this brings up questions of what game seven might have in store.
I thought long and hard on my drive home after this game about who has the advantage going into a sudden death match. Beside the obvious fact that Washington has home ice advantage, there are very few flaws in either of these teams game right now.
Every single one of the first six hockey games could have gone to either team. Game five was decided after the puck went in off the stick of Tom Poti. Game six could have been the Caps last game if Hal Gill didn't accidentally get behind Marc-Andre Fleury or if Sidney Crosby didn't take a shot to the ankle forcing a slow line change.
Neither team seems to be showing signs of serious fatigue, and both teams are fairly healthy. Besides, of course, the loss of Sergei Gonchar.
His lack of presence at the blue line has not shown itself yet, largely due to the outstanding play of Penguin defensemen Kris Letang and Mark Eaton. In order to win game seven, the entire Penguin defense needs to keep it that way.
One edge that the Penguins have is big game experience. The core of that hockey team has been to the Stanley Cup finals at least once.
Ruslan Fedotenko, who has stepped his game up to unseen levels in the regular season, won a Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay just a few years ago. Fleury has been stellar in big games throughout his career, and surely will be ready on Wednesday.
Despite the outcome of this game, this series has shaped the face of modern hockey.
What this game will come down to is mistakes. Who will make the little mistake(s) that will cost his team a chance to play in the Eastern Conference Finals?
May the best team win.
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