The Pittsburgh Penguins Overcame 4 of the worst periods of hockey they have played all season. That poor play led to 2 straight losses that the pens had to overcome. The Pens would in fact overcome that poor play and defeat the Capitals yet again in the playoffs. The final score in Washington 2-0 Pens. The Penguins have defeated the Capitals in 9 of the last 10 series they have competed together in the playoffs. That is not only uncanny, but even a bit eerie.
During the previous two games, the Pens forwards were turning over pucks in their own zone. They were caught time and again trying to be aggressive and make plays happen when they needed to just make the smart play with the puck. On Wednesday, they were much quicker to the puck which allowed them to break up plays before they could start. The defense was cheating at the right times which included making a play that spurred the Pens first goal.
All of what the Pens were able to accomplish could not happen without Marc Andre Fleury standing on his head during the first 5 minutes or so of the first period. The Pens play during that time period looked alot like what we saw the previous two games. Then, the Penguins were able to settle in and take control.
I saw so many on social media and in the media in general talking about how Ovechkin and the Capitals choked. I think the term choke is one of the most overused and quite frankly misused terms in sports. By saying one team choked, you are saying the other team did not earn the win. In the case Wednesday, I believe the Pens made great adjustments prior to the game and then delivered on those adjustments. They deserved to win the game and were the better team on Wednesday.
After the game Coach Barry Trotz was asked about Ovi and he said it was a team loss and he did not want to comment on him at that emotional time. The fact is, Ovechkin was demoted to the third line and was not a factor offensively. He was also on the ice and when the Pens were able to score two goals. He was not able to clear the puck on two separate occasions that turned into goals.
Fans and critics of the Capitals run in the last several years talk about their failures and choking with regards to them not getting out of the second round. I think sometimes a great team or player can come around at the wrong time. It happens in other sports for sure. We can look at the Steelers in recent years with Ben Roethlisberger and their inability to beat the Patriots. Although the Steelers are great themselves, when paired up against the Patriots they just have never been able to measure up. Think about Phil Mickelson being such a great player during the same time Tiger Woods would reign. Once again, he is a great player in his own right, but was not able to win as often as he could have if Tiger would not have been around.
In my opinion, they have just run into a buzz saw here. There are too many players on that team that contributed in big ways in the game on Wednesday. They would hit a post, just miss, or Fleury would get his blocker, pad or stick in the way just in time. That’s not choking, that is bad luck,karma or whatever else you want to call it. Choking it is not.
The Capitals will be dismantled in the off season so we will more than likely never see this group play together again. As for the Pens, they need to get back on the horse as they await the Ottawa Senators. The series will start Saturday night. Mark my words, the fatigue factor will affect the Pens moving forward. Not saying the Sens will win, but those that think they will roll I believe are dead wrong.