- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 7, 2009

PITTSBURGH

When the Washington Capitals faced a 2-0 series deficit against the New York Rangers, they spent the time between Games 2 and 3 stressing the need to finish their chances, help their rookie goaltender and find any way possible to mount a comeback.

In short, they talked about hockey and themselves.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have taken the opposite approach.

Even before cutting their series deficit to 2-1 on Wednesday night, the Penguins spent the days leading up to Game 3 talking not about themselves, but instead their opponent. And that has stirred the pot and confirmed Bruce Boudreau’s pre-series contention that Caps-Penguins would turn into a circus. Boudreau isn’t innocent either.

The quick rundown:

Forward Matt Cooke thinks the Caps are running illegal pick plays on faceoffs.

Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury thinks Alex Ovechkin could be using an illegal stick.

Boudreau thinks the Penguins’ Chris Kunitz should have been unavailable for Game 3 because of a cross-check against Simeon Varlamov.

The Caps players, meanwhile, aren’t paying attention to their opponents’ chatter.

“It’s weird - I know when we were down 2-0, we were focused on getting back in the series anyway we can,” defenseman Tom Poti said before Game 3.

Said wing Matt Bradley: “If that’s how they feel, and they want to talk about it, that’s fine. For us, we’re just worried about playing good hockey against a good hockey team.”

Part of playing good hockey against a good hockey team is creating space to score goals. And setting a “pick” is short for Going Hard To The Goal.

Cooke complained Tuesday about Ovechkin’s second goal, which gave the Caps a 3-2 lead in the third period. He claimed that he was a) picked and b) tripped by Alexander Semin.

Boudreau met Cooke’s claim with amusement.

“I agree there was a lot of interference, but most of it was done by them,” Boudreau said. “I mean it’s so funny. It really is. When we were pre-scouting these guys, one of the things we were talking about is how many picks Matt Cooke throws everywhere. If you look, I know he’s whining about [the goal], but if you look at every faceoff they won, he interfered with our guy going to the net.

“It’s just jockeying and whining - that’s enough of it.”

Boudreau’s comments were taken across the arena nicknamed the “Igloo” for Cooke’s response.

“Of course they’re going to say it,” he said. “They’re trying to deflect pressure, but I’m not going to fall forward very often and I’m not wearing figure skates, so it’s pretty obvious how I fell down. … I’m not going to get involved in chitter chatter back and forth. If Bruce wants to talk about what I said, so be it. I could really care less what he says.”

The playoffs are great, aren’t they?

Cooke spent the final two months of last season with the Caps. I asked him if Boudreau and his staff emphasized “picks” or “creating space” after faceoffs.

“I don’t know. I don’t remember,” he said.

The referees might have been paying attention to the jabbering between games. Two first-period penalties were interference calls - Sergei Gonchar obstructed the Caps’ Sergei Fedorov, followed by Michael Nylander getting two minutes for a clear pick on a Penguins defenseman.

Where the Penguins might have a point is Fleury’s contention that Ovechkin’s stick may have too severe a curve. The legality of the Moscow Dynamo’s lumber has long been rumored, but until a coach has the guts to risk a penalty by calling for a measurement, it’s a moot point.

“I haven’t taken a look at it,” Fleury said Tuesday. “The puck sometimes sticks to it pretty good, even if it’s bouncing.”

Or maybe, just maybe Ovechkin is that good - able to corral a bouncing puck and fire a snap shot that can beat any goalie.

And the longer this series goes, the more things will be stirred up… which is fine.

“When you have such a big media with Sid and Ovie going at it, everything else behind the scenes is getting broken down, too,” Kunitz said. “But the games haven’t been blown out of proportion. It’s just a good series.”

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide