Best of One

A series this dramatic and compelling with this many storylines deserves to go the distance, and so it does. A few hours from now, Washington will host its first Game 7 Stanley Cup playoff game in nearly 16 years, and it will attempt to win its first Stanley Cup playoff Game 7 in more than 20 years.

The Caps fell into a 3-1 hole in this series, but Washington bench boss Bruce Boudreau made adjustments even before that, and those adjustments have been paying dividends for a few games now. Flyers coach John Stevens elected to put his top defensive duo of Braydon Coburn and Kimmo Timonen on Caps star left wing Alex Ovechkin. That duo has done a wonderful job of keeping Ovechkin in check. Until last night, they had not been out on the ice for an even-strength goal against in the series.

But while the Flyers swarmed Ovechkin, players like Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin began to find their playoff legs. Brooks Laich put together the longest scoring streak of his NHL career. And with Ovechkin finding the range twice last night, the Caps now have two dangerously bona fide lines working.

Much was made of Philly’s scoring depth and physical play before the start of the series, but Washington has matched the Flyers in both those departments. The Flyers might have had a goaltending edge early in the series, but that pendulum has swung back in the Capitals’ direction over the last three games. Special teams seem fairly even. 

In a one game series, what will make the difference between these two teams?

We won’t profess to know, but here’s something that we’ve noticed. In the last few games, as the Capitals’ secondary scoring has heated up, Stevens has started to back off the ice time given to some of his veteran defenders. Derian Hatcher skated more than eight minutes in the first period of Game 6 to lead all Flyers defensemen. Some of us believed if he continued to see that much ice, he’d be a liability. He didn’t, but he was anyway. Hatcher got worked for Washington’s second goal, and he was on the ice for just 4:31 of the third period.

Jason Smith has been a frequent site on the ice after Washington goals in this series, skating off with sagging shoulders. He ranks among playoff leaders in blocked shots, but his minus-6 is worst on the team and second worst among all 323 playoff skaters (New Jersey’s Paul Martin finished at minus-8, good for the golf course, but not for the ice). Smith skated just 11:56 in Game 6, exactly six fewer minutes than he averaged during the regular season.

Now faced with a Game 7 just one night after his team dropped its second consecutive contest in Game 6, it will be interesting to see how Stevens handles his blueline tonight. Will he scratch Hatcher and/or Smith and go to youngster Ryan Parent (14:59 a night in 22 regular season games) and/or Jaroslav Modry (minus-15 in 24 regular season and playoff games combined)? Modry’s father just passed away in his native Czech Republic, and we’re not even sure if he’s available to play. But you can see the conundrum that faces Stevens.

On the other side of the coin, Boudreau’s confidence in the defensemen at the back of his depth chart seems to be going in the other direction. John Erskine averaged 15:43 in 51 regular season games, and Steve Eminger skated just 11:08 in 20 regular season tilts. Both players were plus-3 in Game 6, and both made significant contributions. Erskine led all skaters on both sides with five hits, and Eminger placed a perfect breakout pass on Laich’s stick to start the rush that led to Washington’s first goal in Game 6, the goal that started the comeback from a 2-0 deficit.

Erskine logged 19:10 in Game 6 and Eminger skated 17:36. Washington’s defensemen figure to be a bit fresher tonight, and they’re also younger. Philly’s defense could be vulnerable against the Caps forecheck and cycling game low in the offensive zone. They were in the first half of Game 5 and in the second half of Game 6. The trick for the Caps, who obviously also played last night, will be getting that hard forecheck going on a consistent basis.

Then there’s Philly’s power play. They’ve scored six times with the extra man in the series, including two times last night. They love that back door play and work it well. Washington has been “enduring” Flyers power plays almost as often as it has actually “killed” them in this series. That said, the Caps power play has struck on seven occasions. And both teams have been burned by having too many men on the ice. Discipline, as always, will be a factor.

Finally, the goaltending. Martin Biron is 0-5 in the second half of back-to-back starts this season, and he has not won a game in that situation since Nov. 11, 2006. Cristobal Huet is 1-2 in the second of back-to-back starts this season; his most recent win was a few months ago, on Dec. 28. Furthermore, Biron is 2-7-1 with a 4.85 GAA and an .845 save pct. in the second of starts on consecutive nights since the lockout.

Washington has allowed just one even strength goal in the last two games, and just two in the last nine periods of hockey. We mentioned that Biron might have had a goaltending edge early in the series, but Huet has a .929 save pct. in the last three games while Biron is at .907 over the same span.

None of the above matters, of course. Only what the coaches and players do behind the benches and on the ice in front of our anticipatory eyes a few hours from now does.

Game 7. It’s been a while. Savor it.

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43 Comments on “Best of One”

  1. Anthony Says:

    What amazed me last night was the amount of confidence they had during that sustained forecheck in the 2nd or 3rd period, when Biron started to really look shaky.

  2. acap1066 Says:

    Glad to see that the Caps fought their way back to reach this point. I would like to see the defense move their feet more from the outset of tonight’s game. They seemed to be standing still too much until the Caps scored their first goal last night around 10 minutes into the 2nd period. An example of this is Briere’s power play goal. There were two Caps defense standing still on one side of the post which gave Briere the lane to shoot and score. I like are chances tonight if the defense plays like they did starting with the Caps first goal. This would mean that Huet will be receiving help and having a clear path to see the puck.

  3. Ron Duguay Says:

    Hey guys,

    Ron Duguay here. Remember me? I use to play for the Rangers back in the 80’s. I’m a male dancer now at a Chippendales club in Saskatoon.

    Just thought I’d stop by and wish you the best of luck tonight. I hate the Flyers. Their fans use to whistle at me when I plaed there.

    Hope to see you guys down the road in the playoffs against the Rangers. By the way, my hair is down to my knees now.

  4. Kris Says:

    I haven’t been this excited about a game seven since June 1994. I got to sit right next to the penalty box for game 1 and we literally couldn’t hear ourselves over the thunder of the crowd. Tonight will be 10 times louder.

    This whole series has been like Vogs other post, “Season in a microcosm” and that makes me feel pretty comfortable for tonight’s game because these last few days the Caps have re-demonstrated that they can win when it counts. And tonight it counts.

    It should be one hell of a game.

    C.A.P.S. Caps! Caps! Caps!

  5. Ron Duguay Says:

    Right on Kris! Are you hot?

  6. CAPS FAN Says:

    I hear you Kris….needless to say there isn’t much productivity here at work today.

    LETS GO CAPS!

  7. Ron Duguay Says:

    Go Caps Go!
    Go Caps Go!

    Let’s Rock the Red tonight!

  8. Anthony Says:

    I think its interesting that Caps did to the flyers in game 6, what they were worried would happen to them in game 5. IE: Playing a good first period but only scoring once, and how quickly the momentum can change despite the good first period.

  9. Ron Duguay Says:

    Good point Tony. You Rock! Rock the Red!

  10. Capnut Says:

    Where did all the Flyer fans go?

    Come on…I was waiting for Vogs to update his blog today so I could be entertained by the idiot Flyer fans who have been invading OUR blog.

    What happened to them? I can’t hear you!!!

    Nice blog, Mike. Keep up the good classy work.

    Go Caps!!!!!

  11. Anthony Says:

    I personally suspect that “Ron” is actually our “VOR”.

  12. Ron Duguay Says:

    Vogs is the best! He knows how to Rock the Red!

    Go Caps Go
    Go Caps Go
    Go Caps, Go Caps, Go Caps Go

    I sure hope the Caps read this blog before the game tonight!

    Ovi reminds me of myslef my rookie year with the Rangers!

  13. kenserfud Says:

    Terrific article, Vogs!

  14. Ron Duguay Says:

    Vogs for President!

    Flyers SUCK!

    Go Caps!

    Rock the Red!

  15. Anthony Says:

    Mike,

    Does wordpress allow you to track IP addresses? If so you can check if people of different names are posting from the same IP address. As far as I know, I’m not a network “expert”, but thats my understanding.

  16. Ron Duguay Says:

    Does anybody know if Poti and Green will play tonight? I sure hope so. We’ll need them to Rock the Red!

  17. Ron Duguay Says:

    Yes, Tony, WordPress does allow you to track IP addresses. I spent some time selling computer software and networking after retirement.

    Go Caps Go!

    Rock the Roof off the Red tonight!

  18. Ron Duguay Says:

    Does anyone know if Vogs is married?

  19. Anthony Says:

    For those who don’t know, Ron Duguay is Philly Voice of Reason, and he is still trolling. As of now, I’d highly suggest not responding to his posts anymore.

  20. Ron Duguay Says:

    Who is Philly Voice of Reason? I hate Philly.

  21. PuckStuffer 19 Says:

    Ron Duguay died in 2001 of a heart attack.

  22. Jason Says:

    this guy is such a joke. he is afraid to talk shit now because he is worried about the game tonight.

  23. PuckStuffer 19 Says:

    Who are you talking about?

  24. Jason Says:

    Ron Duguay is still alive

  25. PuckStuffer 19 Says:

    How do you know?

    Maybe just his career is dead…

  26. Mike L Says:

    Ron Duguay (the real one) is alive and well (albeit “tired”) and living in Florida. He married former fashion model Kim Alexis, and they have five kids (no wonder hr’s tired).

    Whether the Ron Duguay here is PVOR is irrelevant. He’s not the former hockey player though, as I doubt that there are too many Born-Again Christians (Kim Alexis) married to Chippendale dancers.

  27. OviCapFan Says:

    I can’t wait for tonight’s game. I predict Ovi will get 3. I can see all the red hats on the ice now. Flyers will fold like a deck of cards when the Caps take the lead. Just like last night. Rock on Caps!

  28. OviCapFan Says:

    Flyers fans are the worst. They boo their team too much. I feel sorry for the Flyer players. I always though Briere was cute. He looks so young. It’s hard to believe he is leading the playoffs in goals scored.

  29. OviCapFan Says:

    Thanks Mike. I’m glad to hear that Ron Duguay is still alive. I always thought he was cute, the way his hair flowed out as he skated. Kim Alexis is one lucky chick although I bet she is a bit saggy now after pushing out 5 kids. Wasn’t she married to Billy Joel? Maybe that is why PuckStuffer thought he died; in a car crash with Billy Joel.

  30. joes403 Says:

    I heard Dale Hunter and Scott Stevens will be at the game tonight. Don’t know about a ceremonial puck drop, but how nice would that be?

  31. hit the net Says:

    If Scott Stevens is at the game, someone will have to tell him where he is every 5 minutes or he’ll forget. He’s still very out of it. I didn’t think he communicated with the Caps organization what with his bitter departure. Maybe they’ll tell him he’s going to a Devils game.

  32. josh Says:

    This is completely off the subject, but I’ve always wondered why the games on Comcast aren’t nearly as loud as the games on VS regarding the crowds and such. It seems like the crowds are quiet when the games are on Comcast, yet you turn over to Versus and it’s much more exciting because you hear the crowd in the game. Anyone have any idea why this is the case?

  33. hit the net Says:

    I can tell you that the Flyers dubs fake crowd noise in on their Comcast broadcast. They actually pay a guy to sit at volume slide switch to have the fake noise coincide with the play on the ice. Ed Snider, owner of the Flyers, owns Comcast Spectacore, so he can do what he wants. Flyers fans aren’t all what they seem to be. Not much behind the curtain if you know what I mean.

  34. capsfanforever Says:

    Can someone plesae tell me when the next game is and if home or away? I want to watch it.

  35. talkingsheite.com Says:

    With Iraq spiraling out of control, the economy in the gutter, people lsoing their houses and jobs, income going down, cost of living up, gas at $3.50 per gallon, etc., what is George W doing on Deal or No Deal?

  36. puckerup Says:

    Game 7 is tonight at Verizon center. I think it starts at 7.

  37. Tom in FL Says:

    Is that you, Sybil? Did you escape again?

  38. Tom in FL Says:

    I won’t complain about the Flyers’ second goal. I’ll just tell you what the Versus announcers said:

    “I’ve never seen a goal scored like that where it wasn’t goalie interference or at least the goal gets waved off.”

    I have read the NHL rule book, btw, and the ref has the option of calling a penalty if intentional interfering or whistling the play dead if unintentional contact initiated by the offense (including forcing a defensive player into the goalie) causes the goalie to be interfered with. Actually, it also looked like hooking as the Flyer invloved took his stick and pushed it against Morrisonn’s chest and then pushed him into Huet.

    To be fair, a moment later the Versus announcers were up in arms because Eminger wasn’t called for interfering with Kapanen as he tried to enter the offensive zone.

    Other than those two plays, I feel the oficiating has been right on.

  39. Philly Voice of Reason Says:

    Any questions here before I move on to Montreal?

  40. Philly Voice of Reason Says:

    I guess not.

    Tom,

    I kept your address and next time I go to Disney Land, I’ll stop by to kick your ass.

    Goodbye all!

  41. Jason Says:

    nice of you to have the balls to switch to your original name for one last post

  42. Philly Voice of Reason Says:

    What are you talking about? Was someone using my name again?

  43. shaun romano Says:

    hey ron d if you read this please get back to me i plaied as a kid with your son in costa mesa c.a. i was lookin to get into the game again ben winecoop was on the team to shaunromano@yahoo.com give kim my best


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