Time to clean out the notebook from a Pittsburgh-Washington series that was scintillating for six games and likely to be resumed a few more times in the next decade…
c Pittsburgh was the slightly better team overall. It had more depth and got scoring from more sources. In terms of better play, the Penguins held the edge in a majority of the games.
The best contest was Game 6 (5-4 Caps in overtime), with Game 2 (hat tricks by Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby) a close runner-up.
c The Caps were outshot in all seven games. Pittsburgh averaged 36.6 shots compared with 25.7 for the Caps. Washington averaged 33.5 in the regular season.
c The final power-play stats: Pittsburgh was 9-for-30, and the Caps were 5-for-19. Sure, a few questionable calls went against the Caps, but the real story is that Pittsburgh crashed the net more often and was more aggressive with the puck, which forced the Caps to take penalties.
That Washington was unable to draw a penalty in Game 7 is inexcusable. That was the only time that happened in 96 games this season.
c A key reason why Sidney Crosby has 12 playoff goals, including eight in the Caps series, is his exceptional hand-eye coordination around the goal. Five of Crosby’s goals came from inside 10 feet - he’s terrific at kicking a puck to his stick or quickly reacting to a deflection. Ovechkin does his work from the perimeter - only one of his eight goals was from inside 20 feet.
c Besides Game 7, the killer loss for Washington was Game 3. Despite getting outshot 42-23, the Caps scored with 1:50 left in regulation to force overtime. Had they won, their series lead would have been 3-0.
c Mike Green’s bid to make Team Canada at next year’s Olympics took a big blow. The Caps said he was playing hurt, but he was exposed time and again in his zone and scored only one goal in 14 games (compared with 31 goals in 68 regular-season games).
c David Steckel had a great series for the Caps: He logged nearly 30 minutes on the penalty kill, scored three goals and posted a 63-37 record on faceoffs, including winning marks in six of the seven games.
c Washington should have stuck with Tyler Sloan on defense with Brian Pothier instead of a gimpy John Erskine. Erskine’s physical game worked against the plodding Rangers, but Sloan was efficient in Games 2 and 3 and was a better fit against the speedy Penguins.
c If Alexander Semin undergoes lower-body surgery before dashing home to Siberia, the story could be different, but his performance should force the Caps to part ways with the wing. He scored no goals and was a dreadful minus-6 against Pittsburgh - after his five first-round goals led the NHL.
The Caps should ship Semin to a Western Conference team to acquire a shut-down defenseman, such as Anaheim’s Chris Pronger. Semin is due $5 million next season, then becomes a restricted free agent. He likely will be too expensive for the Caps.
c The Caps should consider bringing back center Sergei Fedorov, but certainly not at the $4 million he made this season. Fedorov can be an effective No. 3 center and power-play contributor and is able to make a seamless adjustment to playing the blue line.
c Defensemen who will hit the market in July and won’t cost a ton of money: Calgary’s Adrian Aucoin, Montreal’s Mike Komisarek and the Rangers’ Paul Mara.
c Michael Nylander is due $8.5 million the next two seasons. Ouch.
c Three stars for the Caps’ postseason:
1. Ovechkin: An easy choice, he finished with a franchise-record 21 points and a whopping 90 shots on goal (30 more than Evgeni Malkin in second place). Against the Penguins, he remained focused on the task instead of trying to run through Malkin and Crosby.
2. Simeon Varlamov: He replaced Jose Theodore after Game 1 of the Rangers series and turned in several brilliant performances while posting a 7-6 record.
3. Nicklas Backstrom: Ovechkin and Green are locked up long-term, and the Caps’ next priority should be Backstrom. He followed his 88-point regular season with a 15-point postseason.