GAME TWO: Capitals 4, Pens 3 — As Gary Bettman’s Orgasm Subsides, Pittsburgh Stares Down A 2-0 Deficit

Hockey Quiz Time! And you don’t even have to go to Ask.com for the answer (or Google it after you don’t find it on Ask.com).

Q: If you make sure to cover one player in the NHL during one specific situation, which of the following should you choose?

A) Alexander Ovechkin one-timing the puck from the left hash.

B) Joe Thornton behind the net.

C) Mike Richards during your power play.

D) Mark Eaton always.

If you said “A”, you’re wrong! The correct answer is “OBVIOUSLY IT’S FRICKIN’ A DO YOU HONESTLY NEED TO BE TOLD TO COVER GODDAMN ALEXANDER OVECHKIN ONE-TIMING THE PUCK ON THE GODDAMN OFF-WING???” That was the answer we were looking for, caps included.

Sure enough, the Pens twice failed to cover an Alexander Ovechkin one-timer, the first coming on a spontaneous 3-on-2 in which no forwards got back and the defense gravitated towards Viktor “I’m Big And Try For About Nine Seconds A Game” Kozlov instead of the guy who’s scored 121 goals over the past two seasons, and the second coming on one of about 75,000 perfectly clean Capitals special teams face-off wins that resulted in a power play goal an embarrassing FOUR SECONDS into a man advantage.

Penguins, if we really need to go over whether or not you need to watch out for Alex Ovechkin one-timing a puck from the left side when you play against the Washington Capitals, then we might as well just save some time and skip directly to working on your golf swings. Golf swing tip #1: Do not jump into the water hazard with a plugged-in radio. Sounds self-explanatory? Yeah – so is keeping an eye on Alexander Ovechkin when you play the Washington Capitals. Jesus Christ.

— Sweet dive by Ovechkin on the Kunitz penalty though, huh? If Crosby had gone down like that and they showed the replay in the Verizon Center, all of D.C. would still be booing, plus more Caps fans would jump on the bandwagon to join in the booing, and Flyers fans would have reconvened in Wachovia to continue booing as well, and Crosby would be getting ripped on every blog on the internet right now including financial blogs, tech blogs, and this website. The refs barely impacted the game, though; a lot of the penalties for both sides just weren’t replayed on Versus at all and I never saw them, plus the Pens’ power play is bad (anyone else noticed this? I feel like I’m really alone on this one), and Kunitz got away with a really bad cross-check on Varlamov on the Pens’ third goal – “If you can’t score,” Badger Bob once never said, “at least cross-check the goalie in the head when it’s too late for the refs to care.”

— And that brings me to the power play…I feel like mentioning the power play in these recaps is like when someone during a roast finally gets around to the guest of honor, and everyone knows what’s coming… Yes, they scored twice tonight, but the second goal was a semi-irrelevant 6-on-4 goal following that missed cross-check to the Caps’ goalie, and until Dan Byslma stops leaving 4/5 of the power play unit on the ice for the full two minutes (Letang was getting 2-minute shifts tonight too – whoopeee!! Everyone is early-2000s Chris Pronger!!), we’re going to have to continue to put up with man advantages like the jamboree of failure following the Jurcina interference call. Then, the cherry on that shit sundae, Evgeni Malkin took the penalty that led to the go-ahead goal while at the end of an extended power play shift, presumably tired from watching Sergei Gonchar chase the puck behind his net a bunch of times.

— I’ve always felt that commentators overrate the importance of faceoffs to the outcome of a game, unless a team is absolutely, noticeably dominated on them. Tonight, the Penguins were indeed absolutely, noticeably dominated on them, losing 38 of 61 draws (61%) with no individual Penguin winning more than 42% of his draws. The Capitals’ faceoff wins also averaged 9.77 Clean-and-Easy points per draw, which is a stat I made up just now to emphasize how cleanly and easily the Caps won every single faceoff in every single remotely important situation.

— As much as I’ve complained about the Pens’ D, the Capitals did leave Crosby basically untouched on his first two goals. If the Pens had won this game, we’d likely be hearing more about the Caps missing John Erskine’s presence in front of their net. On the TSN coverage, at least, I’m pretty sure ESPN’s 30-second wrapup might focus on Ovechkin a bit more.

Simeon Varlamov essentially outplayed Fleury for the second straight game (not a slight to Fleury so much as a credit to Varlamov); I don’t wish to revisit this argument here, as we’ll have plenty of time to fill during the offseason, but Varlamov’s success continues to taunt teams who draft goalies really highly or overpay for free agent netminders. Varlamov was a #23 overall pick; I’m not sure what Rick DiPietro, Kari Lehtonen, and Al Montoya are up to right this minute, but they’re not currently playing in the NHL Playoffs, and Marc-Andre Fleury won’t be for much longer barring a Pens defensive surge over four of their next five games. Tim Thomas (217th overall pick), Jonas Hiller (undrafted; international free agent), Cam Ward (25th overall), Nikolai Khabiboulin (thought to be washed-up) and Chris Osgood (was definitely washed up) are all still playing in the playoffs, for the record (and yes, Roberto Luongo, a 4th overall pick who was traded twice). But I digress.

— Was something going on with Max Talbot’s stick? He seemed to be hustling, positioning himself well, and blocking shots, but any time he tried to pass or stickhandle the puck would immediately, spastically turn itself over to the Caps, often in an impossible ‘Talbot just kept it in the Pens’ own zone when the Caps weren’t even trying to” way. Talbot also blocked two shots on the same penalty kill and neither one left the zone or went to a Penguin player. That sequence plus the weird bounce on the Steckel goal (who’s living up to his poster billing, by the way) had me scratching my head, at least in between fits of swearing at Gonchar and Orpik.

Petr Sykora remains useless, injured or not, and is probably costing himself millions in free agent dollars with his noticable irrelavence.

— My pick of Pens in Six is still extremely mathematically possible. Yep…just call me “Nostradamus.” Seriously, call me on the phone right now and refer to me as “Nostradamus,” because I can foresee the future like Nostradamus claimed to have been able to, as evidenced by my ability to predict this series. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go plug in my radio and go golfing.

— And for good measure, the Pirates also blew a lead in the 8th inning and another one in the 9th to lose to the Brewers tonight.  And the Steelers traded Troy Polamalu to the Cowboys for a fifth round pick in 2012. C’est la vie.

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