Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Gameday Preview: Playoff Edition, Round 1 GAME 7

Who: Caps-Flyers...the final showdown
Where: DC, home of the free and the brave, the nation's capital, and birthplace of the best fans in the NHL
When: Tonight, 7:00 pm; Rock the Red!

And so the long and winding road leads us here, to Game 7 - what seemed like the unlikeliest of places just three games ago. Where there was once a two-game deficit and an almost impossible uphill climb, there is now only one.

One game. One night. One chance to watch history repeat itself.

Lose and it's all over, as it would have been last night. And Saturday night before that. Lose and we'll celebrate a valiant effort and a hopeful outlook for next year. Lose and we regret nothing - because a team that scrapped it's way out of the league cellar, that clawed it's way into the playoffs, that fought it's way out of a 3-1 series to force Game 7, has certainly earned the right to have no regrets.

Win and we earn our first trip to the second round since 1998, come back from a 3-1 deficit against the Flyers for the second time in franchise history...and get the Penguins for the 48587th time. Woo.

But that's a concern for another day, if there is another day. For now we only focus on the game in front of us.

Because in any sport, in any round, the greatest moments are always made in Game 7. It's Dale Hunter streaking up ice and burying the puck behind Ron Hextall to win the series in dramatic overtime fashion. It's the Red Sox coming back from 3-0 against the Yankees to win it en route to their first World Series title in 86 years. It's young Carey Price earning a shutout to salvage the hope of la Belle Province and send the Bruins packing.

It's where legends are made and new heroes are created.

There's nothing to analyze here, nothing to predict. The advantage has fallen to the Caps - and with it the pressure to and expectations for a win. They're younger, playing on home ice and holding all the momentum; everything they need to win is there. They just have to execute like they did yesterday, like they did on Saturday, even the way they did in Thursday's double OT loss, minus the whole...losing thing. When they're executing the Flyers have looked lost, outclassed, dizzy. Exactly how we want them.

So here are some things to note:
- Alexander Semin is playing some of the best hockey of his career in this series; putting him with Nicklas Backstrom and Brooks Laich has only improved his play and as a result the play of his two linemates, who both are making an impact in their own right.
- Cristobal Huet continues to hold down the fort when the little mistakes are made and has been a source of confidence for the whole team. And never underestimate his ability to make those "oh my god, did you see that???" type of saves, either.
- The defense as a group has played some great hockey in the last three games, and beyond that the entire team is getting back to their system of solid defensive play. The fact that this has extended even to John Erskine and mysterious enigma Steve Eminger is only good news for the team.
- Alex Ovechkin is alive and well.

And most importantly? There will be a very potent 7th man out there in the form of what should be the most raucous Verizon Center to date, Rockin' the Red and screaming their lungs out.

Last inspirational speech for Round 1, folks, and it comes to us courtesy of the boys themselves - because in the end, they're the ones who will have to do the work:

"My goals are coming. I don't care if I don't score and we win. If I play one minute in a game and we win the game it will be a good result."
- Alex Ovechkin

“Right now we don’t want to stop."
- Cristobal Huet

"If you play a game like that and you can’t come out with energy, you’re not going to win anything in your life.”
- Donald Brashear

"I think a lot of people have written us off, but I think we can surprise people with how far we can go. We didn't look forward to Game 7; we just focused on today. Now we can enjoy it for five minutes and then get on the plane and go home."
- Brooks Laich

"The first three games were not too good from our side but we keep going. [...] It’s hardworking every time, it’s perfect.”
- Nicklas Backstrom

"We're going to keep coming at teams. Some teams might have crumbled under that kind of pressure..."
- Tom Poti

“It’s not over yet. (Tuesday is) the biggest game in our career, I think, and we don’t want to stop. We just want to continue what we’re doing."
- Alex Ovechkin

"As long as we still have a pulse, you just can't count us out. There's too many guys that play so hard and are so resilient. It comes from our coach. He is the Number 1 believer, and he instills that in his players. As long as we have a pulse, we live to fight another day."
- Brooks Laich

“We’ve won nothing."
- Bruce Boudreau
Not yet, at least.

Game 7 awaits, Caps fans - here we go.


Chris & Sarah said...

Hopefully we can be a little more restrained than your Habs Nation was after their game 7 win. ;)

Chris & Sarah said...

Oh, and GO CAPS!