The season for the Washington Capitals has been over for about 15 hours now, and what transipred last night still is pretty hard to believe. After six incredible chapters of one of the greatest postseason tales in recent NHL history, No. 7 just doesn’t fit.
A few thoughts from last night:
* Marc-Andre Fleury had been the second-best goaltender in the series, but he collected his signature save three minutes in by robbing Alex Ovechkin to go along with Simeon Varlamov’s larceny of Sidney Crosby in Game 2.
How great is it that the best two saves of the series came on shots by those two guys?
* People won’t be mentioning Sergei Gonchar in the same breath as Willis Reed, but being able to play and play reasonbly well five days after the knee-on-knee collision was pretty incredible.
* Varlamov deserved a better ending to his magical playoff run. The Samara Express (that’s a new one, BTW) ran out of steam in this series though. He had a 1.64 goals against average and a .942 save percentage in these playoffs after Game 2 of this series. But his numbers in the final five games (4.27 GAA and .883 save pct.) were a function of both a slip in his play and the Penguins territorial dominance.
* Something else that just came to mind (besides another new nickname for the kid) — put Varlamov on the short list of early favorites for the Calder Trophy next season. Remember, he’s only played six regular season games, so he will still be a “rookie” next year.
Here’s a quick and dirty list:
— Simeon Varlamov, Caps
— John Tavares, TBA (Islanders)
— Nikita Filatov, Columbus
— Mikael Backlund, Calgary
— Nathan Gerbe, Buffalo
— Cody Hodgson, Vancouver
* That was an effective use of the timeout by Penguins coach Dan Bylsma. The crowd was trying to work itself back into the game after Ovechkin’s goal, and the Caps had a faceoff in the Penguins end because of an icing call. There was 54 seconds left. Even if the Caps don’t score there, if they keep the puck in the zone the crowd is at a frenzy when the team goes off.
Instead, he calls the timeout and saps some of the life from the building. The final 54 seconds evaporate without much action, and there was little reaction, good or bad, when the teams went to the locker room.
On the flip side, it was surprising that Bruce Boudreau didn’t call a timeout when he put Jose Theodore in the game to give the guy a minute to get loose. He also could have used that time to rip into his team, instead of waiting until it was 5-0 to do it.
It should be an interesting day at K-Plex tomorrow. Lots of injury news to divulge, and maybe a few guys to say some goodbyes to. This was a heck of a run, but George McPhee has a little bit of work to do this summer to ensure his team will be back in the hunt for a Stanley Cup next season.