A Fine Sendoff to Mellon Arena

Controversy arrived very late in last night’s 6-3 Capitals’ triumph over the Pittsburgh Penguins, the final regular season contest between these teams in the Igloo. With just two-tenths of a second left in the game, Bruce Boudreau chose not to have Alexander Ovechkin take the center-ice draw and attempt to miraculously bat the dropped puck out of mid-air and into the Penguins cage for his 49th goal of the season, increasing the Caps’ lead from three to four goals and nudging Ovi past Sidney Crosby and alone in the lead for the Maurice Richard trophy. Perhaps a decision by the bench boss to rest Ovi a bit in the final week of the season?

When weighing sportsmanship versus the opportunity to heap on humiliation to this opponent and its fans, in one of the final games in its mausoleum of a rink, the call here is an easy one: heap it on, baby! Ovi’s sub-one-second-left empty-netter was a wondrous calling card for the Igloo, as if he was saying Here’s a little extra sour cream for your pierogie!

The Igloo as it’s known was the setting of the masterful Jean-Claude Van Damme bit of cinema, ‘Sudden Death,’ and also some hockey, and it has provided the Caps with mostly down moments in its history. Last night’s win however was a team triumph and, we think, a true turning of the page in the contemporary history of this storied rivalry. You just know that the Pens didn’t want to get swept by the Caps on the season, but they were powerless to avoid it, never much gaining control of the game’s tempo. Last year’s Caps went 3-1 versus Pittsburgh during the regular season, winning both games at Mellon, but this year seems different. The Caps are deeper and bigger than their former Patrick division rivals, even though their depth wasn’t on display last night. The Caps were without Brendan Morrison, John Carlson, Mike Green, Eric Belanger, and Scott Walker. Pittsburgh was without Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz.

  • Can the Capitals ask the league to recall its just-released 10 Best Games DVD collection so that last night’s game can be included? It was, after all, the final regular season game contested between these teams who loathe each other in Mellon Arena. Oh, and with the win the Capitals swept a season series with Pittsburgh for the first time in team history.
  • A sweep for the first time in team history — that speaks volumes of both the Penguins’ past dominance of the Capitals and the noteworthiness of the Caps’ 4-0 run this season. The District’s schools should be closed today in acknowledgment—at the very least the Caps’ accomplishment merits as much attention as the Redskins’ acquisition of another team’s cast-off quarterback.
  • It appears that it won’t much matter where the Caps play the Pens, one thing won’t ever change: the Pens will get the calls. For the fifteenth consecutive game in this rivalry the Caps failed to win the tally of the power plays, and in just four of those games have the Caps earned an equal number of extra man advantages. The tally last night was 4-1 against in penalties. Alex Semin takes elbows to the head, Tomas Fleishmann sticks to the throat, and it’s see no evil from the men in stripes. It’s getting to the point where a Presidential Commission ought to investigate. And make no mistake, while the Capitals this season have aptly demonstrated their superiority over this talented Pittsburgh team, should they face them in the postseason there will again be eyebrow- and blood pressure-raising  issues with officiating. It is seemingly ever thus in this series, but especially since Sidney’s arrival.
  • Anyway, we’re going to keep a sharp eye out for word of the demolition date of Mellon Arena, and work with other Caps’ blogs on organizing a roadtrip work party for Caps’ fans to assist in the endeavor.
  • Sarge was Large: Jeff Schultz’s play post Olympics hadn’t matched his pre-break level — well, how could it? — but last night Sarge offered up his best game since play resumed from the February hiatus. He had two assists and skated a +5 on the evening, eliminated some of the giveaways that had crept back into his game, and did an effective job of tying up Pens forwards down low.
  • Semyon Varlamov? Super solid. He’s finally rounding into difference-making major league form. He was beaten last night by a Sidney Crosby bullet from the high slot while Capitals’ defenders (Tyler Sloan especially) offered conspicuous deference to him in that area. And Jordan Leopold launched a laser from the point that Shaone Morrisonn deflected by his netminder. Bruce Boudreau has to feel a lot better about his goaltending than he did perhaps two weeks ago.
  • Ovi is heating up all right, and the timing couldn’t be better. It seems fair to say that Ovi changed his game of late in responding to all the scrutiny of his questionable hits this season. Now he seems to be more the Ovi of old. It may have been Brian Engblom in the Versus studio last night who suggested that there’s been too much East-West to Ovi’s game in the past month, when he’s at his most dynamic and game-breaking best when skating North-South. We agree.
  • Eddie Olczyk sure was a voice of dispassionate analysis on the Versus broadcast last night, wasn’t he, weighing in on everything from the milliseconds of tardiness the zebras took in whistling the game’s lone penalty on Pittsburgh to extolling the virtues of Jordan Staal winning a draw in his own end that Ovi snapped into the back of the Pittsburgh cage two seconds later.
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This entry was posted in Alexander Ovechkin, Jeff Schultz, Media, Morning cup-a-joe, National Hockey League, Pittsburgh Penguins, TV, Versus, Washington Capitals. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to A Fine Sendoff to Mellon Arena

  1. angela says:

    Agreed on all counts! What a wonderfully satisfying game – especially in the face of the aforementioned blatant black and white blindness.

    And, God yes, The Olczyk thing was so ridiculously obvious. He just couldn’t seem to mention Ovi’s first goal without muttering petulantly about it touching the official’s skate. Whine, whine, whine. Did anyone else notice Joe B’s reticence (sometimes to the point of one word responses)? I miss Locker.

  2. Geo says:

    I hate to be such a cinematic nerd, but Sudden Death was a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie (not Steven Segal), and actually one of his better ones. 🙂 Sudden Death: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114576/

  3. Victor says:

    One difference: The bounces went our way. Whistle just before the puck crosses the line? Used to be our disallowed goal. Lucky bounce off the face-off? Used to be a goal for the Flightless Fowl.

    OTOH, two officials are twice as blind as one.

  4. Mike Ellis says:

    My favorite comment by Olczyk was at the beginning of the telecast, when he said he was surprised that BB didn’t sit him out for this one, especially since the Caps played the night before. What sort of bonehead comment was that — as if Ovi would ever voluntarily sit in a game against the Penguins, or that BB would do that!

  5. penguin pete says:

    you’ve certainly earned all of the nauseating eloquence here, and hopefully (who am i kidding?) these teams will meet up again in the playoffs.

    congrats, and until then, i’m throwing up in my mouth…

  6. Thanks Geo, we’ve fixed the post.

  7. DPSisler says:

    @Mike Ellis: I heard that as well, and both my wife and I went WTF? I asked Eddie if Crysby was going to sit as well. I mean, if Ovie sits so should Sydney, right? I hate Olcyzk..what a loser! I miss Locher as well. No more Caps on Versus.

  8. Geo says:

    “Masterful” is a bit much, lol, though I appreciate the change. 🙂 Lets Go Caps! 🙂

  9. Mike E,

    I too remember that Eddie O inanity from the pre-game! Our stud is in a uniquely competitive race for the Richard, the Ross, and the Hart, and he thinks it’s *wise* to bench the world’s best player? WTF? Not that any serious hockey fans in western Pa. might have wanted to watch him perform for perhaps the final time in the Igloo, either. Jeesh!

  10. Hittman says:

    mmmmmm, pierogies. Enjoyed all over PA, not just in Pitt of Despair.

  11. OvieTracker says:

    I totally agree with the summary and analysis of this game. I also totally agree with those who say Eddie Olczyk is an idiot for suggesting Ovie sit this one out. Excuse me? Such a comment shows EO knows NOTHING about what makes Ovie tick and what motivates him. Sitting out a game for no reason is BS. Not to mention the fact that the Maurice Richard, Art Ross, and Hart trophies are at stake. EO should keep his ignorant comments to himself if he doesn’t get what’s important to Ovie.

  12. errantelf says:

    I watched that face-off several times in slow-mo and stop motion: I came to the conclusion that Staal’s stick came up empty. The puck bounced off the linesman’s right skate, which aside from the puck never being visible on Staal’s stick would clearly indicate that Backstrom won that face-off but didn’t get all of the puck. Edzo was just looking for an excuse to give the Pen’s credit and claim Ovi’s goal was just luck.

    Who got the official credit? Staal?

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