As has been pointed out numberous times by NHL.com, the Associated Press, ESPN and some of the bloggers here on Hockeybuzz.com, Pittsburgh's 6-2 rout of their playoff rival Washington Capitals was an anticlimatic end to an otherwise amazing series.
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Looking at the series by the numbers we could not have asked for anything more from the leauges brightest stars - Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby - than what we saw. Ovechkin recorded 14 points (eight goals, six assists) including a game two hat trick. Crosby tallied 13 points (eight goals, five assists) which also included a hat trick in game two. The Penguins and Capitals were tied or within one goal of each other for most of the series.
The goaltending wasn't spectacular in the stat columns. Caps rookie netminder Simeon Varlamov stopped 219 out of 244 Pittsburgh shots (.898 save percentage) and posted a very human 3.77 goals against average before being yanked in game seven for Jose Theodore. Marc-Andre Fleury posted a save percentage of .878 with a goals against average of 3.03. Though neither were spectaculor over the seven games, they both had spectaculor moments that changed games. Who will soon forget the sprawling glove save that Fleury made on Ovechkin early in game seven? And how can we ignore the number of second and third and forth chance saves that Varlamov stopped over and over again before either he covered the puck or the Penguins scored a goal?
It was an unbelievable series that will live on as one of the best ever. These are the series from which long-term rivalries and strong, competitive friendships are made.
The highlight of the series for me, however, will never show up in the box score. You won't see it on Sportcenter's top ten highlights or find it on YouTube. You had to watch and listen to the last two minutes of game seven and all the way through the handshake line. The highlight was the Washington fans. I cannot stand fans who choose to boo their team at the end of a series. I watched the St. Louis Blues' fans boo Brett Hull and a couple other free agents at the end of the playoff series in 1998. Not surprisingly, the Blues failed to resign their free agents and the Blues have only made it past the second round once since.
Patrick Roy, already in a strained relationship with Canadians' coach Mario Trembley, was booed out of town by the Montreal Canadiens' fans in 1995. Montreal has only won four playoff series since that time, while the hero of their 1993 Cup team (Roy) went on to win two more Stanley Cups with Colorado in 1996 and 2001 before retiring. Don't be surprised to see Carey Price jump ship over the summer after the fans reaction to his performance in round one.
But Washington fans are different. They know they have something special brewing in the nation's capital. They are patient, recognizing they have a young team that will only get better. Instead of booing and leaving the building en masse, the Caps fans gave their team a standing ovation. Not to mock them for failure, but to show their appreciation for an amazing year and a well-played series. I salute you, fans of the Washington Capitals, for respecting your team so much. Moments like that are what make the games worth it for players and fans everywhere.
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