The Montreal and Washington series is full of drama and it's only going to get better now that things have evened out. Like most of the first round series, these competitions are not one-sided and a healthy sense of competition is definitely in play.
Last night's game was full of drama, with Theodore pulled after 2 goals on 2 shots in favour of backup Varlamov and two hat tricks for Kostitsyn and Backstrom. One of the best stories of last night's game? The awakening of the Russian Bear. Ovechkin went from being a non-factor in game one to a plus 4 in game two, delivering the big hits that we know him for, and playing the kind of gritty, in your face game that we're used to seeing. This is the reason why crazed Washington fans actually want Ovie to run the Oval office. It has a nice ring to it.
One of the fun quotes that Ovie delivered before the game? When asked what he was going to have to do to make a comeback in last night's game, Ovie responded that he would have to drink more energy drinks and listen to more music. You can always count on the man to have some great quotes in his heavily accented English.
The big difference in Washington's game seems to be more disciplined play. In game one, passes seemed to be going everywhere in the offensive zone and defense was lackadaisical and even lazy for the Caps. It's as if the attitude was pretty much "yeah, we got this, we'll just score the hell out of them in the third and that will be game over."
The Caps are probably one of the only teams in the NHL with their offensive power that can rely on this kind of game plan. The problem is, this is the playoffs, and Montreal wants it bad. They know that their best game plan is to contain them as much as possible and to take advantage of the big gaps in defense early on in the game to get the early goals. Getting the upper hand early on is the best way for Montreal to maintain momentum and confidence so that they can get to that third period shut down mentality. And it worked in game one.
If Washington wants to finish this series a winner, they have to start playing with more respect for their opponents. They have to take them seriously and come out to play on every single shift. Shooting the net a couple of dozen times in the third period isn't going to be enough anymore. The game has to get better at every level.
It seems like all the top teams needed to learn this lesson on the first game. Let's see if this increases the level of compete for the underdogs or drives them into the ground. This is definitely where true character comes out.
I also hope that Plekanec doesn't get the last laugh on Theodore. I'm disappointed for him that he didn't get the results that he wanted out of this series so far. I hope that he gets the last laugh over the trash talk and rejects him in the final. I also hope that he has enough class at the end of it all to shake his hand after the last game and not say a word. Just as winning is the best revenge, sometimes silence is the best answer.