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Pens-Caps Game Seven Bound

May 11, 2009 by Big Tony · Leave a Comment 

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What else should anybody have expected but to see Pittsburgh and Washington go to a seventh game. After an intense back and forth battle Monday night both teams will have to retool and focus their energies on playing what is all but certain to be another incredible match-up. The difference in the game will likely not be Washington having home ice advantage, or superstar play from Crosby, Ovechkin, Malkin, Semin, etc, but it will come down to the goaltenders. Sure it seems obvious that the last line of defense will determine who wins and who loses but it is more than the obvious. Which of the two will make the big save at the right time and who will make the easy save when it’s necessary? Which will push the play up the ice when the puck comes into his respective zone or make a simple play when a simple play is required rather than trying to be a hero with the puck? Smart play from the netminders, not just great saves, will be the difference in game seven. As the games have gone on Varlamov has been the one people are waiting to fall apart, and it was believed that finally happened in game four. But he has stood his ground and been able to battle back from the adversity he faced. The series is six games old and he has not caved yet and he won’t—quite frankly neither will Fleury. Varlamov has played well but Fleury has another level to take his game to, it’s a level we saw last year in game five of the finals and it’s a level we’ll see Wednesday night. Because of Fleury kicking it into another gear he will simply outduel Varlamov and the Penguins will head into round three.

P.S. This is my 100th entry. Thanks very much to everyone who reads these and I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them. Here’s to the next 100!

Down and Out? Caps Hold Serve, Pens Must Rally

May 4, 2009 by Big Tony · 1 Comment 

penguins down 240x300 Down and Out? Caps Hold Serve, Pens Must Rally
The Capitals and Penguins have played a fairly even series so far. Both Crosby and Ovechkin recorded hat tricks Monday night and both goaltenders have made some incredible saves. The difference so far has basically been timing. The Penguins have taken the early lead in both games but the Capitals are answering quickly before Pittsburgh can extend the lead to get a reasonable chance at protecting it. The Capitals are also getting timely goals as they have taken the lead late in both contests. Timing is key point one, but key point two is Varlamov making the mistake of giving very little in goal. Varlamov has given up a soft goal here and there but has done it at a time when the Caps can battle back, whereas Fleury gave up two soft goals in a row to Ovechkin with under five minutes left to play in regulation. So how does Pittsburgh right the ship? Evgeni Malkin has to step up his game and get himself on the score sheet. Malkin was a difference maker all season long and into the playoffs which is part of what separates Pittsburgh from the rest of the competition. As a Hart trophy finalist, Malkin (along with the other wingers) has to make a discernible impact to take some of the pressure off of Crosby and Fleury. Washington on the other hand simply needs to keep doing what they’re doing: make the Penguins play for every penalty they take, keep Varlamov from getting caught up in the moment of the big stage he’s on, and keep getting timely goals to keep the morale of the Penguins low. Now the series moves back to Pittsburgh where the Penguins need to win both games if they want any chance of advancing. The time to rely on last year’s finals appearance is now, because upstart Washington can taste the Conference Finals.