Home > Uncategorized > Choking Dogs, Men of Steel, and a Goaltending Legend…

Choking Dogs, Men of Steel, and a Goaltending Legend…

Wow. I think I might actually be speechless, or at the least suffering some mild cardiac arrhythmia. If you are a sports fan and you weren’t watching Washington-Montreal game seven tonight, well… I’m sorry for you. That ladies and gentlemen was the pinnacle of sports. You have a league’s most storied franchise facing its (theoretical) best team. You have an offensive powerhouse facing a franchise steeped in goaltending tradition. You have Ovechkin… You have Halak. You have 18,000 rabid fans witnessing their team go down in a hail of flames. Basically, add it all up and what you have is a giant bowl of awesome.

One-nil Montreal for most of the game, the tension was absurd. Washington was swarming like wasps around a half eaten hot dog, blasting shots from every angle and crashing the net like Vince Vaughn on a crab cake. Once again, Jaroslav Halak was retarded. Seriously, saying he stood on his head would be quaint. He did more than stand on his head, he stood on his feet, his elbows, his stomach, his ears, his butt, his… well, you get the picture. For a franchise that has seen men like Bill Durnan, Jacques Plante, Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy stand between the pipes, I seriously doubt that the Habs have ever had a three game clinic like Halak just provided for our pleasure.

Over games five, six, and seven, with the odd numbered games on opposition ice, Halak saved 37, 53, and 41 shots, while giving up 3 goals. In case you don’t want to do the math (and I can’t blame you if you don’t), that’s 131 saves in a 134 tries against the NHL’s top scoring team. Or, it’s an absurd .978 save percentage. I don’t know how the rest of Halak’s career will play out, but what Halak just accomplished is how legends are born.

And it wasn’t just Halak. The men in front of him, players seemingly made out of steel, dropped their bodies in front of everything leaving a Capitals’ stick. Tonight alone, the Canadiens’ blocked 41 shots. FORTY ONE. That’s insane. Hal Gill, a mountain of a man blocked 6, as did Andrei Markov. Ryan O’Byrne blocked five, Tom Pyatt four, and another 11 Canadiens threw their bodies in front of a shot or two. Think this was just another game?

Before game five, the Capitals had not been held to a goal or less in any home game this season. Halak and Montreal’s defenders did it twice in the span of five days. Insane. I know that some in the media, including the Emmy winning Tony Kornheiser, will call the Capitals choking dogs and that’s valid.

They did squander a 3-1 series lead and they did gag on a great season and home ice advantage, but when Halak saves 41 shots and his teammates block another 41, well…. That’s 82 times the Capitals shot the puck. For their part, the Habs had 16 shots on goal, with Washington blocking another 12. Add that up and by my math you have 82 shots to 28. Let’s just repeat that for emphasis: eighty-two to twenty-eight. Sure, on some level the Capitals choked away this series, but they also dictated the play.

They dominated the Canadiens, swarmed all over, controlled the puck, shot the lights out, but they just could not break the wall. Eighty-two times tonight the Capitals put stick to puck and only once did that puck find the back of the net. You might say that the Capitals choked this game away, but I would say that they were beat. They were beaten by a goaltending legend and his men of steel.

  1. Stephen
    April 29, 2010 at 10:25 am

    Ken Dryden started a stellar, though brief NHL career winning the Conn Smythe for playoff MVP before winning Rookie of the Year the next year – as far as I know the only player in professional sport to win a playoff MVP before winning a rookie of the year. Be interesting to see if Montreal can ride this wave to the finals. But just to try to placate my playoff jinx I don’t expect it, I’m not predicting it, and I’m cheering for Sid the Kid. (Honest Habs – it’s the best thing I can do for you!)

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