I was able to grab a couple upper deck tickets (sec. 424) to last night's game during the Capitals ticket release on Friday. Something that will never cease to amaze me is the overhead TicketMaster charges per ticket. The final cost for a $70 ticket is $84. No matter how you explain it to me, I will never understand how it costs $14 in overhead for me to purchase and use my own printer to print a ticket. Anyway, on to the game, and what a game it was. The two biggest stars in the NHL went head-to-head and both had their best performance of the playoffs. Seven goals were tallied in this game and only one was scored by someone not named Ovechkin or Crosby.
Both of these teams love to play a fast similar style of transition hockey, but one of the biggest differences can be seen in how they setup their offense in the zone. Once the Capitals set, they use their defense and the corners to control the puck, stretching the ice horizontally. The Penguins on the other hand give the Capitals fits by controlling the puck around the net. With 2 skaters, a center and a forward, playing very close to the goal usually right on each post, they try to cause as much traffic as possible or break away to control the puck below the blue line. The Caps have gotten caught on multiple occasions chasing them below the line leaving passing lanes open for Pittsburgh's skaters breaking towards the net. I was also disappointed with the transition defense of the Capitals again this game, relying on Varlamov to make highlight reel saves to keep them in the game early on.
While Pittsburgh took the first period both on the score board and on the ice, for the fifth game in a row the Capitals dominated the last period of the game. The talent level on the Capitals from top to bottom helps them turn it on late in games. The top 2 lines on both teams match up pretty well, but after that the Caps pick up the advantage. Looking at the time on ice for each team, the Penguins had 7 skaters on the ice for less than 15 minutes compared to the Caps 5, which is actually closer to 4 with Flesichmann coming in just under the 15 minutes mark. The Penguins have to run their top lines longer and more often, which catches up to you in the playoffs. Sergei Gonchar for instance led all skaters with over 27 minutes.
This seems to be the story for Caps in the post season. They come out flat in the first, play a pretty even second, then out skate their opponent in the third. By the end of the game, they look like the faster more aggressive team. Playing at home also helps, the crowd was almost completely red, with a few black and baby blue specs here and there. It was the fewest Pittsburgh fans I've experienced at the Verizon center. When Ovie scored his third goal of the night, hats instantly flew on to the ice, leading Crosby to wine to the refs about the short delay in the game, "People kept throwing hats," Crosby said. "And I was just asking if he could make an announcement to ask them to stop." I'm sure Pittsburgh fans will defend his every action, but really... throwing hats on the ice has been done a thousand times over involving almost every team in the NHL, get over it.