Add to Technorati Favorites

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Pens vs. Caps 3/9/08

After a long night Saturday and seeing my clock instantly jump an hour into the future, I dragged myself out of bed and stumbled to my desk in the basement to watch quite possibly the best hockey game of the season so far.

I don’t know if I would’ve tuned in for the start if I wasn’t a Pens fan, but boy am I glad I did. From the opening draw this game had a playoff feel. Bodies were flying everywhere and the intensity was just like a Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

The Pens and Caps both needed this win today, but the Pens prevailed 4-2. The win gets the Pens within one-point of idle New Jersey for not only the top spot in the division, but the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

A win for the Caps would have pulled them within five points of idle Carolina for the division lead and four points back of the 8-seeded Philadelphia Flyers.

The game came down to one play with just under 30 seconds to play in the third period. Sidney Crosby seemed to take over the game in the latter half of the period and wouldn’t you know it, he gets credit for the game winning goal.

Sid threw the puck to the front of the net looking for anybody to hammer it home. Caps rookie sensation Niklas Backstrom got his stick on the loose puck in the crease and attempted to fire it to the endboards out of trouble. Seems like the logical play when you have three opponents looking to pick up the garbage. Only problem was that he missed the endboards and fired it into his own net.

NBC had a camera focused on Alexander Ovechkin who was on the near side of the ice as the puck crossed the line. The anguish on his face was undeniable. He dropped to his belly and lay there for several moments. The kid had been flying all game long, registering 10 shots on goal and two assists in the game. You could tell he died a little inside to see that effort go for naught.

The hitting was like out of a video game for most of the contest. I lost count on how many guys Jarkko Ruutu sent flying. Crosby alone took about 7 big hits in the opening frame and bounced right back up every time. He’s got no fear at all. He was willing to do anything to win today.

Marc-Andre Fleury played very well. He had a little trouble with his rebound control in the second period which led to some more scoring chances for the Caps. All in all he came up big when he needed to, including making a sprawling breakaway save while shorthanded in the second period. The play goes back the other way and Crosby tucked the puck under Huet on a goalmouth scramble to give the Pens a 2-1 lead just after the powerplay expired.

Huet wasn’t tested early, but he was incredible on several occasions. I’m nominating his save on Jordan Staal as save of the year. Max Talbot made a great pass through traffic to Staal who had slipped by to the far side of Huet unchecked. Staal fires the one timer and Huet goes spread eagle to rob him with the pad. If Staal elevates the puck, it’s in no question, but I’m not taking anything away from Huet here. My jaw hit the floor, I put my head down and let out an exasperated whimper.

My heart rate was through the roof as the third period wound down. The Pens finally stopped trying to be fancy and cute with the puck and started throwing it on net every chance they got. Again, Huet was brilliant in the third period and it’s a shame for the Caps to lose the way they did.

Here’s the highlights of the game in case you haven’t seen it yourself. Pay attention to Doc’s voice. If you don’t get excited listening to him, have someone check your pulse to make sure you’re still alive.

Moments after the save on Huet, Sergei Gonchar tees it up from the point and drills the crossbar. At this point I’m nearly on the floor feeling like someone just kicked me in the groin. As a fan you start thinking, “this isn’t our day at all.” This would have followed suit with the rest of the weekend for me. (Quick side note: I’m a bowler. Yeah I said it. Since I work a night shift and can’t play hockey, I bowl. Have since I was a kid. I average about 175ish and since getting two new balls that’s going up. Friday night is league night and I had it going on this week. Only problem is that the pins weren’t cooperating at all. My final two games should have been 230+ games but ended up as 187 and 156. I was not impressed.)

Anyway, I ran upstairs as the Pens go down a man for a too many men on the ice penalty to finish getting ready for work. I put the television on in the bedroom and started jumping up and down like an idiot when Backstrom potted the game winner for the Pens. My girlfriend comes running in asking what happened, but I might as well have suffered a stroke. There’s no way she understood a word I said. All she said was “Come on put your shirt on, we have to get going.”

She witnessed the final nail in the coffin with Evgeni Malkin making an unselfish pass to Staal to give him some vindication for his hard work all game, who ripped the empty net twine.

This was nuts. My father called me in the middle of the game to discuss going away on vacation later this year and I don’t think he could even understand me on the phone. I suppose I should call him back now that the game is over and who doesn’t like vacation?

Going forward, the Pens need to stop giving up 35+ shots a game. At one point today they were down 27-9 in shots and ended the game 38-25. They need to cut these numbers down if they are going to make a deep run in the playoffs. Also, stop being cute with the puck. Throw it on net and crash for the rebounds. That's how you score goals this time of year.

Anyway, should be a fun stretch run for everyone, but I felt compelled to write something about this fantastic game.


Epic said...

Hey guys!
i just started blogging not that long ago and running across this blog it seemed a bit too interesting to only read the first paragraph. Please, who ever wrote this, keep me updated!
Bic Pens

sheashu said...

Was all me. Appreciate the kind words. I'm hoping to get this back up and running on a more frequent basis soon. My job has been pretty hectic of late.