Pittsburgh—Washington Game Seven: Lost by the Caps
As I watched Pittsburgh's third unanswered goal stroll past Simeon Varlamov within a minute of the third period last night, I thrust my beer to one side with abject despondency.
That one bottle of Leffe was making a mockery of me.
I dislike beer and always have, but I'd deemed it necessary if I was to feel the true Canadian playoff experience.
I had sat down to watch a hard-fought, intense, all-or-nothing game with a cold one in my hand and a smile on my face; what I got was an embarrassment to that very ideal.
The beer had to go.
As I reached for my usual Jack Daniels I knew it was over for the Caps—they'd barely even turned up to play.
I know all the chatter today will be about how stellar the Penguins were, but Pittsburgh did not play well. They barely outlasted an exhausting Washington team.
It'll be all about how Sidney Crosby's relentless pushing finally overcame Alex Ovechkin's flashy showboating, but, again, my eyes did not see this.
My eyes saw a scrappy goal that stumbled past a dejected Varlamov, and one that was walked into a net that might as well have been unguarded.
They also saw Ovie, the only Caps player that seemed to have any energy left at all, score a typically brilliant goal and get robbed several times by the always-dependable Marc-Andre Fleury, a man whose considerable talent has been overshadowed by the surprise of his counterpart's appearance in this season.
I'm not attempting to undermine Pittsburgh's achievement, or to claim that they shouldn't have gone through at all.
The cold truth of the matter is this: Pittsburgh didn't play particularly well, but Washington played much, much worse.
Sluggish, uninspired, and distinctly underwhelming, the Caps' key players simply didn't do their jobs, with even Ovechkin keeping one foot in the dressing room and one eye closed.
At the back, it wasn't even a battle of the goaltenders; it was battle of the glove sides.
The rumour that the Pens had cracked Varlamov's technique and discovered his weak catcher proved to be painfully true, leaving him stunned and shown up, while Fleury stood resolute with his left hand strong and his experience behind him.
All Pittsburgh really needed to do was to be patient and crash the net, while Washington crumbled before them, taking yet more unnecessary penalties and letting their frustration seal their own fate.
Not one player can take the blame for the shocking loss Washington suffered.
As the tired old adage goes, "You win as a team and lose as a team." The Capitals collectively lost their series last night.
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