Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bring On Les Habitants

In today’s Washington Post, Mike Wise writes:

"It's not over. It's just beginning."

Wrong. I’m telling you; you never get over it. Sometimes, I’ll be driving, or napping, really anything- and it just pops in there. Game Seven: Dale Hunter beating Pete Peters. In overtime. Twenty years ago- and a brutal wave of nauseous ennui still will pass through my gut. I was at the Jax Brewery in New Orleans- and I can never go back there. It is like thoughts of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, one can’t control it.

So about 10PM last night, I wasn’t doing too good: flinching, not talking, nursing a Woodford Reserve.

Game Seven was a true triumph on the “new” NHL. Oh, how the League office must have been congratulating itself! Ten power plays; two five-on-threes. Three power play goals, a fourth that might as well have been, plus the deciding goal in overtime! It is a shame Ovechkin didn’t get to participate in a shoot-out for the series; the NHL would have liked that a whole super lot!

Really, five-on-five, the whole basis for hockey, had no bearing on the outcome last night- which, if you are a fan, is sort of a shame. Of the ten penalties called, six probably didn’t need to be called in a big spot, where they could affect the series (although the decisive one in overtime was a proper call). If four goals in five were scored as a result of fouls, the game is unavoidably largely a special teams’ competition. Each team cashed in twice and, except for the consequences of the Flyers overtime goal, played that part of the game even.

It is satisfying to steal this series. Over the last four games, once they figured out the Flyers were pretty serious about this thing, the Capitals were better. The aforementioned Mike Wise quotes an “astute” observer:
When your team plays like a hockey team and not a bunch of figure skaters with padding, you win. Our fans and team didn't beat the Caps up. We made them men. You're welcome.
Perhaps true. I wish the Caps had repaid their debt by running an orderly handshake line: ragged, disjointed- not wholly respectable.

Anyway, over the last four tilts, Washington won twice outright- and got two other games to overtime. That is a 2-0-2 mark- and I think indicative of the difference between the two teams. Accordingly, I was pessimistic. Yesterday, Mr. B wrote to win this Game Seven, the Flyers needed a big game from Biron (which they clearly got for the second time in seven tries) and some reactive help from the hockey fates.

The fates pitched in. Kapanen got that needed lucky goal when Huet got rocked off his feet (ed. note: yeah, I thought it was a good goal- but I’m a minimalist). While that marker was not the difference in the “Battle of the Power Plays”, it set up the overtime. While Washington was better than Philly most of the time, overtime injects that “who is better for this shift?” rather than “who is the better team?” element. For sure, it got the Flyers through Game Four.

The Flyers played seven gritty games to get to that former question rather than the latter. Guys like Kimmo Timonen played 10:36 of the first period to get to that question. And at 6:06, of overtime, that question was one between Joffrey Lupul and Caps’ defensemen Milan Jurcina- and not, for all the hype and all the shifts, Ovechkin and Timonen. And for one brief moment Joffrey Lupul was- very satisfactorily- the greatest hockey player in world.

So bring on Le Bleu-Blanc-et-Rouge, La Sainte-Flanelle, Le Tricolore, Les Glorieux, Les Habitants and Le Grand Club. Le Grand Club? Lord, but they do sound like a bunch of fairy princesses. Heck, who isn't up for that?

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