- What if the hockey world got it wrong? What if Alex Ovechkin isn’t the greatest player on the Caps? What if he isn’t the greatest player in the world? What if that player is in fact Nicklas Backstrom?
- The 22-year-old certainly looked like the best player in the world last night. He netted his first career hat trick. Not only was it his first, but it was during a come from behind miracle victory against the Montreal Canadiens in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He not only did he dominate, but he took control of the game. Backstrom had a hand in four of the Caps’ five goals, including scoring the game winner. In true superstar fashion he took all of the glory and said it was the greatest goal he had ever scored right? Wrong. “If you’re going to score you have to shoot. I was trying to get it on the net and I was lucky that it went in.” If this is just a taste of what is to come from this young center, then the NHL better watch out. Washington has probably one of the best centers in the league and if he keeps playing like he did last night, he may be one of the best ever.
- Pucksandbooks pointed out that rookie d-man John Carlson has scored two of the most clutch goals in 2010. The first was in the World Junior’s against Team Canada in overtime to win the Gold Medal and the second was last night’s tying goal with only 1:20 left on the clock. Perhaps the most intriguing part of his goal was how he got the puck. Watching the replay you can see Carlson tap the ice and call for the puck. He knew he could score and wanted the puck on his stick. In the media room we dubbed him “Captain America” for his clutch performances in the playoffs and the World Junior’s.
- John Carlson is on fire, but Eric Fehr has been just as clutch as the future star. In two playoffs games Fehr has a goal, was instrumental on another and has had several quality scoring chances. Last night’s goal was particularly important because it took a game that was in danger of getting out of hand and cut the deficit to 2-1 on a breakaway. Not only is he valuable because he scores important goals, but he also is just a straight up team player. When asked about his goal he talked more about the team than himself. “I just really want to help out anyway I can. Whether it is fore checking or hitting guys or scoring goals, anything I can do to help this team win I am going to try to do.”
- Of course, how can we talk about the last night’s game without mentioning the Caps’ fearless leader Alex Ovechkin. To put in perspective the type of game he had, the captain was shooting baskets with linemate Nicklas Backstrom while he was waiting to take the interview podium. If his demeanor after the game doesn’t tell you the type of night he had, maybe his numbers will: +4 with three assists and a goal. That should silence the doubters. Gabby was certainly happy with the way his captain played. “I think you could see his energy and leadership and desire. If we all watched the last game and today’s game, the difference was night and day and we need him to be like that if we want to succeed.”
- After Game 1, Ovie said he was going to play a different style of hockey. It wasn’t new, as much as it was a welcome flashback. The Russian superstar came out hitting, lowering the boom on Marc-Andre Bergeron on his first shift. It was clear that his physical dominance fired him up, though he tried to downplay it: “Strategy? To destroy people? No. My job is to score goals, if I have the chance to hit somebody I will hit him. It was good mentally for me when it was Bergeron, [who was] my first hit, he is not a strong guy.” It certainly wasn’t good for Bergeron. After seeing a cautious and subdued Ovechkin, it was nice to see him get back to his style of play.
- Everyone is going to be focusing on the brewing goalie controversy in Washington’s net. What they will be missing is the goalie controversy that may be in Montreal’s net. Sure Halak was stellar in Game 1, but he had a pretty epic collapse last night. He did face 37 shots, but he couldn’t make the saves necessary to keep his team in the game. Meanwhile at the other end of the ice, Varly was stopping pretty much everything he could. Varly gave up three goals in two periods, while Halak gave up four in 21 minutes of play, split between the third period and overtime. Could we see Price later on in this series if Halak continues to give up six goals?
- Every playoff series is knotted up at 1-1 (except Preds-Hawks of course). At this rate the team that eventually wins it all may need to be carried off the ice on a stretcher with the Cup.
- Bruce was in a pretty chipper mood after the game. Who wouldn’t be after the effort his team gave? He had several zingers on the podium. The first came when he was asked about how Backstrom was sick in bed at the beginning of the week, but played a great Game 2. Boudreau responded with, “He looked better.” He also must have heard about the 20 inning marathon baseball game between the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals, because he made several baseball references. The first was about Captain America: “There is just something about him, glory follows him. Some guys get that. They come up in the bottom of the 9th inning with the bases loaded and they do the damage.” The baseball references continued as he talked about the first goal Jose Theodore let up: “The first one was a knuckleball … it was a tough one.”
- Boudreau was not only cracking jokes, but also beaming with pride. He was clearly proud of the way his team battled. On top of being proud of his entire team, he particularly seemed to appreciate what Tom Poti did in the beginning of the third period. After the Canadiens took a run at Varly and Ovie, Poti took matters into his own hands. Bruce said this about the three rounds Poti went with Scott Gomez. “I thought it was great. First time I have seen Tom in a fight. … It told us something about how much he wanted to win.”
- I hope Washington was taking notes on how Montreal shut down Ovie, because they should probably apply those same tactics to Andrei Kostitsyn. The left wing has five points on three goals and two assists in two postseason games. It may just be me, but I think he warrants some attention.
- Stat of the night: Montreal is 24th in PP% at home, but first on the road. They are also 19th on the PK at home, but ninth on the road. Maybe Montreal doesn’t have any home ice advantage.
Finally, here is John Carlson discussing his first career NHL Playoff goal, as well as how it relates to his goal in the NHL World Junior Championships.