"A playoff series doesn't begin until the home team loses a game". So says Barry Melrose anyways, and whether you agree or not with the disposed coach's philosophy, he's got a point. You gotta take care of your home-ice. And try as Sidney Crosby may, he just couldn't do enough to take his team over the top against another sensational effort by Alex Ovechkin.
- Physically speaking, business definitely picked up for Game 2. Even though technically the hits were 27-20 in favor of the Caps, both teams got several big shots across and bodies may be starting to pile up. Kris Letang got taken into the boards cleanly (but awkwardly) by Mike Green and Letang instantly doubled over grabbing his shoulder and wasn't seen from again. Brooks Orpik hacked at Alex Semin and the Russian was flexing his hand/wrist.
- Ovechkin 3 goals, Crosby 3 goals. The difference being David Steckel (quickly becoming a Penguin killer) got on the board, and no other Penguin was able to match.
- 36 shots again for the Penguins for the second consecutive game on Simeon Varlamov. Credit the young Russian for answering the bell with several great stops, especially when the Pens had a 5 on 3. But again, even though Crosby got 2 power-play goals, the power-play still let down the Pens as they couldn't score on it when it really counted.
- Hard to blame Marc-Andre Fleury for the goals. Ovechkin was ripping shots and when you give him the time and space--like Matt Cooke did by trying to support a faceoff instead of covering the point on the PK, or like Sergei Gonchar did when he let AO step to the side and rip a shot in full stride, it's hard to expect the goalie to get it. I thought Fleury did his part to get the pucks he reasonably had a chance on, but if you don't consciously make the effort to take Ovechkin's shot away, he's gonna hurt you more often than not.
- I'm not going to say Evgeni Malkin didn't show up, but it seems like he's spinning his wheels. Ovechkin's putting on a show, Crosby's putting on a show, Malkin isn't holding his end of the bargain up. Is it a lot to ask to take over playoff games? Yes, it is. But Malkin is a world-class player and the Pens need him to play like such. Namely by getting the puck in the net, like the other two top dogs are doing. It's true that Malkin's linemates aren't giving him a lot of help, but Sid and AO are putting their lines on their backs, the Pens need the same from Malkin.
All in all, this is playoff hockey. The Caps are obviously a solid team with a front line player. But, from the Penguins perspective, the Caps take two at home, now we go to Pittsburgh. If Pittsburgh takes care of their home ice, it's suddenly a new series. And given how competitive and hotly contested both the games have been, it could have gone either way. But the Caps pulled through.
Now Pittsburgh has to take the energy from the home crowd and pony up. One game at a time. Is it going to be an uphill battle to win 4 out of 5? You better believe it. But it doesn't have to be 4 out of 5. It just has to be win one game at home. And then win another game at home.
The Penguins should be able to take heart in that it hasn't been guys like Alex Semin, Mike Green or Nicklas Backstrom that's been primarily sinking them. It's been Ovechkin. And credit Ovechkin for what he's done, don't get me wrong, but I'd be a lot more discouraged if it was team skill that had beat the Penguins twice. Crosby's more or less matched Ovechkin's production. The Pens need guys like Malkin, Gonchar, Jordan Staal and somehow Petr Sykora to step it up and outdo the other Caps players like Green, Semin, Steckel and Brooks Laich. So far the Pens players haven't and that's why they're down 2-0.
But we're a long ways from curtains here. History doesn't smile on teams in a 0-2 hole, but history isn't going to lace up the skates for the Capitals, they're going to have to do it for themselves and do it the next two games in PIttsburgh.