Round 1 Wrap: Flyers-Capitals
Either of these teams could have legitimately won this series. When the Flyers play their game for 60 minutes, they can shutdown the best teams in the league. We saw that late in the season with the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils and in some of the early games against Washington. And had it not been for a 10 minute emotion meltdown in the second period, we would have seen that in Pittsburgh as well.
Conversely, the Washington Capitals have the firepower and tenacity to overcome great teams. Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom and Green are all bonafide stars. Washington lost primarily because they lacked experience and they lacked a shutdown defense. I recall Bruce Boudreau giving an interview back in January where he described the Capitals’ system as high-octane offense, that they would have to win games 5-4 and 7-6 rather than 2-1. That’s very reminiscent of Grant Fuhr, actually. It’s also extremely difficult to win playoff games under that style.
I’ll have plenty of opportunities to comment on the Flyers over the next 1-2 weeks, so I wanted to add some observations about members of the Capitals squad. This is a team I have followed closely since December. They are young and vibrant and fun. Wait for the end of the clip to see Ovie’s reaction to the question “Who’s the Ladies’ Man?” You can also check out the Capitals’ on Segway here. It’s worth a look if you haven’t seen it yet.
Obviously the Flyers will always come first, but I wish that both teams could have been successful.
– I first saw Mike Green when he was still a Hershey Bear. I went to college in the town adjacent to Hershey during the 2005-2006 season, and since my roommate’s aunt worked for the GIANT CENTER (where the Bears play), we got to see a lot of games. I tend to gravitate towards defensemen who play a hard-hitting, porch-clearing style – think Mike Komisarek or Chris Pronger. But Mike Green floored me with his speed and his ability to slip through holes in the opposing team’s coverage.
Watching him in this series, Green is the real deal. He tallied 3 goals and 4 assists. The Flyers, who managed to contain Ovechkin fairly well throughout the series – even in the period when Timonen was absent – couldn’t stop the young Capitals defenseman effectively beyond small time intervals. Green’s playoff performance combined with his regular season stats should garner him fantastic contract terms this summer.
– Alexander Semin may very well prove the Evgeni Malkin to Alexander Ovechkin’s Crosby. The young Russian can shoot the puck from any location and is difficult to defend. Braydon Coburn, well known for his good skating ability, appeared to struggle to keep pace with Semin at times. Semin did get frustrated at times, taking ill-advised penalties. But if he can pull those aspects of his game into check, Semin may break out in the next few years to give the Capitals a dynamic one-two punch.
– With all the attention given the team’s young stars, Brooks Laich often gets lost in the shuffle. The Versus broadcasters covering a Washington game about six weeks ago described him as a role player who scores infrequently. That only shows how little they actually watch the Capitals play.
Unlike the finesse players surround him, Laich is the crash-bang-boom element among Washington’s top six forwards. He’s a big guy who plays like one, forcing himself through checkers, winning board battles, and crashing the net. At age 24, he appears to be the type of guy who will improve with age – think Mike Knuble or Tomas Holmstrom. And that could prove problematic for the Capitals in a salary cap world.
– Coming out of the lockout, many anticipated that teams would become younger since rookies receive cheaper paychecks than veterans. While that has occurred to an extent, the 2007-2008 season also witnessed a resurgence of several vets: Sergei Samsonov, Alexei Kovalev, and Sergei Fedorov. Fedorov was a terrific trade deadline acquisition – kudos to George McPhee on that one. The well-decorated Russian seemed to inspire Semin and Ovechkin, and the young blood appeared to rejuvenate him as well. It’s more than possible that Fedorov will resign in Washington for the pure joy of playing with this team.
Great job to the Capitals for an amazing season. Great job to the Capitals’ fans for supporting your team. Best of luck next year.