Boudreau: 'Welcome to the Circus'
Well, the Caps did it. With last night's 2-1 victory over the Rangers, they're finally into the second round, 11 years after the last time they ventured past the quarterfinals.
Their reward for bouncing back from a lousy first two periods and becoming the 21st team to rally from a 3-1 series deficit to advance? Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the rival Penguins. The Caps went 3-0-1 against the Penguins during the regular season. But they are a gruesome 1-6 against the Pens all-time in the playoffs. As if you needed any reminding.
"Looks like we're playing Pittsburgh," Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Welcome to the circus."
Indeed, it's going to be a circus, especially from a media standpoint. But since Saturday is still a few days away, let's take a look back the night's events:
That was Boudreau's message to his players during their pregame meetings yesterday. Boudreau said 12 of the first 17 goals this season on Henrik Lundqvist went high to the glove side, including the first two on Sunday and, of course, Sergei Fedorov's winner last night
"We all watched that this morning, where we were beating him," Boudreau said. "I don't know if Sergei did that on purpose or if that's what was given. But that's where we seemed to be beating him."
Captain Clark Returns
Chris Clark, who played his first game since Jan. 27 and his first playoff game in five years, did not record a shot on goal, but recorded three hits and skated a total 8:13. In my opinion, he played well enough to warrant more playing time in the second round.
"Being able to step into a Game 7 like that, all those guys work their butts off for six games, and I get all the good stuff," Clark joked after the game.
Rookie goalie Simeon Varlamov has allowed only eight goals in six games, stopping 152 of the 160 shots he faced for a .952 save percentage and a 1.17 goals against average. He also been one of the game's three stars four times in his six starts in this series.
"He is tremendously poised," Boudreau said. "Still haven't talked to him since Game 1. I don't want to screw him up, so I am just leaving him alone. With the way they were coming for the first two periods, for him to have the poise that he did, that was tremendous."
He only had to make 14 saves. But a few of them (Nik Antropov's breakaway in the opening minute comes to mind) had a high degree of difficulty.
"I don't know what his stomach was doing," Boudreau added with a smile, "But he seemed really calm out there."
The Rangers played perhaps their best two periods of the playoffs in the opening 40 minutes. They were aggressive on the forecheck. They owned the neutral zone. They won puck battles in the corners and along the boards.
Even the Rangers felt they had the Caps right where they wanted them: "That's what we talked about after the second period: We were right where we wanted to be," Coach John Tortorella said.
But the Caps were a totally different team in the third period and wound up out-shooting the Rangers 13-1. There was more energy. They were more physical. And, of course, they had Fedorov.
"They made it really hard on our defense tonight," Brian Pothier said. "They put a ton of pressure. They forechecked well. They were relentless. We were really good on the wall. We weren't getting pucks out of our end. We were turning pucks over in the neutral zone. But in the third period we figured it all out."
Follow the Leaders
Varlamov is tied for the playoff lead with two shutouts, Alexander Semin is tied for the playoff lead with five goals and Nicklas Backstrom leads the playoffs with seven assists.
Boudreau on the Crowd
"To me, it's great," he said. "I think it means more to the organization and to the city of Washington. I don't know what Chicago is like as far as building, other than the National Anthem, but that was the loudest five minutes after we scored. They never sat down. They never stopped cheering. If you look at the energy we had in checking; the fans brought that out of us. They wouldn't let us not continue skating, not continue anything, it was really a thing to watch."
Odds and Ends
The Rangers lost a playoff series for the first time after leading 3-1, falling to 12-1. ...Washington was held to just two shots in the first period. They had taken at least three in every period prior to tonight's game (regular season and playoffs.) ...Michael Nylander was a scratch for the fifth straight game. ...The Caps allowed only one shot in the third period, the third time they've done that in the playoffs.
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