Thanks, Doug, for the build-up, my intro was the most entertaining piece of short fiction I’ve read recently. I’m more like one of the scab NFL replacements stumbling through the midpoint of the strike-torn 1987 season.
Since the Rangers were playing for their postseason life after fumbling a 3-goal lead Wednesday night in a double OT loss to send the Caps up 3-1 in the series, pregame chatter Sunday was along the lines of “nothing is more dangerous than an injured animal.” Turns out a mortally wounded Ranger isn’t especially threatening at all – they just sort of look up from a supine position, grunt and expire.
The Rangers did come out smoking the first minute with a furious rush at Michael Neuvirth, but that was followed by 58 minutes of uninspired play before a Phone Booth crowd intent on outshouting a Boudreau-baited MSG mob Wednesday. Amid a barrage of 36 first-period shots in the vicinity of the New York net, Mike Green scored 7 minutes in on a power play. In the second, Ovie took it in from the red-line and scored on a dazzling backhand, blowing by a tired Marc Staal, and the speedy Johannson, who’s going to be a great one, fed Sasha on a two-on-one in the third headmanned by Sturm for goal number 3, more than enough to send the punchless Rangers packing. I’ve seen most of the Caps games this season one way or another, and this was to me one of their most complete, smoothest performances of the year, just a pleasure to watch.
Early in NBC’s telecast, Chicago’s own Ed Olyczek noted that handsomely paid Ranger superstar Marian Gaborik had better step it up a notch on offense, or else the Rangers would be “playing golf on Monday.” Well, book those tee times. Gaborik hasn’t been nearly as productive in New York as he was for the Minnesota Wild, and his name was dangled in trade talks near the deadline. Should be noted he suffered a concussion in February, which likely hampered his postseason production. Might not explain why he coughed it up in the second overtime Wednesday to hand the Caps Jason Chimera — whose success this year is no illusion — the winning goal.
Obvious standouts for the Caps were Neuvirth, who made several acrobatic stops among his 26 saves and missed a shutout by 30 seconds; and Ovie, who had a goal and an assist, played D and was just generally awesome while on the sheet. His deke on a shot before dishing off to Green for the first period goal was a superstar play. Ovie also had an entertaining post-game interview, describing how the Caps had persevered through setbacks and injuries, including a player he said had “lost an arm,” which I assume was a bit of funny hyperbole, I took it that way. Ovechkin’s defense to a ref of a Semin infraction on an episode of HBO’s “24-7” where he claimed blood was drawn because the opponent had “sensitive skin” was my single favorite hockey moment of the year.
Random Notes: Ranger coach John Tortorella bears a striking resemblance to Men’s Wearhouse founder George Zimmer. This was reinforced during the Rangers timeout late in the 3rd period, when alert lipreaders in NBC’s TV audience could discern him assuring his demoralized charges:“You’re gonna like the way you look.” Tortorella will now move on to become a limited-time entree at Olive Garden.
A friend had to this to say on Facebook about Rangers C Brandon Dubinsky after Saturday’s game: “‘Boogie Nights’ called. They want their mustache back.”
Scary moment in the first period when Mike Green, bending to block a drive from Matt Gilroy, took another puck to the head that dropped him to the ice and literally knocked a couple of screws loose from his helmet, which got the Zapruder treatment from NBC. Greenie was back on the Caps bench by the end of the second period, but didn’t play, although he didn’t have to, either. Late word was that he’s fine and that the visor did its job. Nonetheless, Mike may want to look into borrowing the thankfully now-unused lid once sported by the “Capstronaut.”
I’ve had trouble all year pronouncing Michael Neuvirth’s last name so have been calling him “Bob Newhart.”
Sitting on the bench after being pulled with 3 minutes left, overtaxed Henrik Lundqvist, head buried in his glove and blocker, reminded me of that guy in the Sistine Chapel painting who realizes he’s going to hell, or at least an Ingmar Bergman interpretation of it. Lundqvist didn’t really help his cause by creating more rebounds than Butler’s ice-cold shooters in the NCAA hoops final.
Caps now get some well-deserved time off and will wait to see who they get for round two, either the Sabres, Canadians, Penguins or division rival Tampa Bay. While it would be fun to slap the Penguins around again, the best bet is for the Caps shuffle off to Buffalo.