Let’s jump right into it:
Caps 2 – Pens 1 OT (Caps win….wait, what?)
There’s a lot to take out of last night’s seismic shift. I think the one that sticks with me most is that since the Islanders won four in a row, no team that’s going for its third straight Cup has gotten past the second round. Now, that’s a touch of a misnomer. If Steve Smith hadn’t fired the puck into his own net in ’86 the Oilers almost certainly win five straight Cups, and the Flames back then were actually an all-time great team that just kept running up against probably the best team of all-time. When they went for a three-peat the second time, they had the small obstacle of TRADING WAYNE FUCKING GRETZKY before that season started. Speaking of which, what would Twitter have been like then if the Kings traded Gretzky and then lost to him in the playoffs, and then won a Cup without him the next year? You think the treatment of LeBron is bad?
BUT THAT’S NOT WHY YOU CALLED.
What I’m saying is the Penguins looked a spent force last night. The will was there but the legs weren’t. Because of Burakovsky’s and Backstrom’s absence, the Caps had no choice but to gum this one up, which they did very well. The Penguins the past three seasons have always been a high-wire act, and it’s something of a miracle they’ve gotten as far as they have. Much like the Jets–there’s going to be a continuing theme here–this is not a team really built to bust traps. You’d think they would be with Letang and Schultz but both seem to be better joining a rush than starting one. The Penguins have lived by pushing and pushing and if their d-men get caught so what? Murray will bail them out. He couldn’t any more last night or really this series, and now they’re going home early for the first time since the Hawks last won, 103 years ago.
At some point, Malkin (who clearly is not healthy) and Crosby run out of miracles. It’s also official now that Olli Maatta sucks. I highly doubt the Pens won’t be contenders next year, but it also feels like things need to go right for them a lot. Then again, that’s true of any team.
I got a huge kick out of Pierre McGuire coming to their defense with the players they’ve lost from last year: Trevor Daley, Ron Hainsey, Fleury, Nick Bonino, Ian Cole. The three d-men aren’t any damn good, the goalie wouldn’t be playing for them anyway, and I guess Bonino is fine but was replaced by Derick Brassard is basically the same thing.
For the Caps, it’s impossible to prove if everyone kind of ignoring them this year helped or didn’t matter, but they’ll take it. You can’t help but be happy for Ovechkin, who’s had to eat a lot of shit because his coaches were fucking morons or his goalies weren’t up to it or they just ran up against a better team. Sure, this won’t matter all that much when they’re turned into processed waste by the Lightning, but at least he’ll get a glimpse.
Predators 4 – Jets 0 (Tied 3-3)
We all would have asked for a Game 7, but I’m not exactly encouraged that the Caps and Preds got to where they are today by having to turn the game back to 1997. The Preds did exactly what they did in Game 4, admit they can’t run with the Jets and hence trap the shit out of them and wait for their opportunities. And once again, because Paul Maurice hasn’t quite left his moron tendencies behind, has Dustin “Have You Tried The Nacho Fries?” Byfuglien skating five more minutes than any of his other d-men. Buff is not a trap-buster, he’s too stupid and lazy. He’s going to provide the mistakes the Preds can capitalize on, which they did. Trouba, who admittedly didn’t cover himself in glory on Forsberg’s ludicrous second goal, barely played more than Tyler Myers, who’s doing a damn fine Byfuglien impression himself. When the Preds put this on the Winnipeg defense instead of their forwards, they’re a lot better off.
Again, just like Game 5, the question becomes do the Preds have the gumption to do this at home and bore the shit out of their fans? They won’t care as long as they win, but they didn’t in Game 5 and they got smoked. And again, the margins are small when you do this. They’ve gotten away with it twice but a third might be asking too much. What happens if the Jets can manage to score first? What if all the dumb penalties the Preds are taking, and there’s a lot of them, finally puts them behind when they just want to trap?
They don’t really have a choice. Giving any space to the Jets is pretty much death. We’ll see if Maurice has the light hit him and figures out a way for his team to stop panicking with the puck when faced with three guys back. The Jets are big and fast and there’s really no reason they can’t find something if they just have to keep putting pucks behind the Preds’ defense and win it back. They seemed reluctant to do so last night, instead just turning it over at the blue line repeatedly.
It should be a fascinating Game 7. I don’t know that it’ll be entertaining.