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Capitals’ Comeback From 3-1 Deficit Exposes Rangers, Sets Up Showdown With Penguins

The Washington Capitals have no more excuses to make. They’re still a young team, but they are no longer a rebuilding or developing team. The talent is there right here and now, and after winning a playoff series for the first time since 1998 and the first time in Ted Leonsis’ tenure as owner, they must expect to keep advancing.

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Through all the madness that permeated this series, the right team eventually won. The No.2-seeded Capitals are moving on and will now face the rival Pittsburgh Penguins in the Conference semifinal.

“Looks like we’re playing Pittsburgh,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said to Pierre LeBrun of ESPN moments after Carolina eliminated New Jersey. “Get ready for the circus.”

Not having Donald Brashear around for most of the series, if not all of it, will definitely make the series less of a “circus.” But it will certainly prove to be an entertaining, tough series with the first-ever clash of the young NHL superstars- Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin.

It could also be fellow Russian Evgeni Malkin becoming Ovechkin’s rival. But it’s pretty well known by now that Crosby and Ovechkin do not like each other. Crosby does not like the act Ovechkin puts on when he celebrates goals, and he also takes exception to how reckless he is when going after people.

For the sake of the league, lets hope this series not only goes seven games, but goes seven agonizingly tight and intense games. And let’s also hope the budding rivalry between Ovechkin and the Penguins’ dual superstars continues to grow. Both teams have legitimate chances to contend for several years, and a true championship rivalry may be what the NHL needs to regain its lost popularity.

As for the Rangers, who took the defeat in game 7 and lost the series after leading 3-1…They certainly deserve credit for hanging tough in game 7 and almost pulling out the victory, but ultimately they did what they were supposed to do. This series would not have been close if not for the stellar play of Henrik Lundqvist in goal. Games five through seven proved that the rest of the Rangers team wasn’t good enough to advance even with Lundqvist playing at an other-worldly level. This series made me realize that Lundqvist may have deserved MVP consideration for his season.

It was an up-and-down 2008-09 overall, but would the Rangers have made the playoffs without Lundqvist’s 2.20 GAA in March and April? The Blueshirts were 2-5-2 in the games Lundqvist did not start, allowing 40 goals. Despite Lundqvist’s 2.43 GAA on the season, the Rangers still allowed more goals than they scored.

When looking at those stats, one word comes to mind when thinking of the Rangers: FRAUDS! Take Lundqvist out of the lineup and give, say, Jose Theodore the same amount of starts, and they’re almost a last-place team. Lundqvist deserves more support than he’s getting. The Rangers have some serious questions to answer this off-season. I can almost see Marian Gaborik in Broadway Blue right now…

I hate to break it to New York fans, but Mark Messier’s not walking through that door. Brian Leetch is not walking through that door. And Mike Richter is certainly not walking through that door. But Lundqvist is. Are any skaters going to follow him in?

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April 29, 2009 - Posted by | hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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