There really isn’t anything else like it throughout the rest of the sports world. The NFL has the “one and done” playoff race. The NBA doesn’t even count in my book anymore; nothing more than ghetto thugs wrapped in millions of dollars and tattoos. MLB is pretty close but unless they suddenly institute some rule changes that make hitting legal in baseball it will never quite measure up. If you watched any of the Game 3 matchup between Vancouver and LA then you know what I am talking about…I really thought someone was gonna end up dead and there would be brains all over the ice before the end of the second period.
Playoff hockey is just a whole different game than the regular season. Everyone finishes their checks (well, almost everyone….right Mike Green?) and you can feel the intensity in your seat, whether it be in your living room or in the stadium. Every shot on goal, every save, every drop of the puck is just magnified and sometimes you catch yourself sitting on the edge of your seat and having to remind yourself to breathe. I fucking love it.
The Caps, for the first time ever, have gone into the playoffs with the #1 overall seed and home ice advantage throughout the playoffs. As Game 4 looms on the horizon, here are my recollections about Games 1-3:
The opening game of the playoff series against Montreal. Red and Supe invited us (by us i mean me and D) over to watch the game and have some dinner. I threw on the old Pivo jersey and headed over to their place to have a few drinks and get into the spirit. D wasn’t leaving work until right around gametime so she was going to be a bit late for the start of the game and just going to meet me there. Red, as usual, made her phenomenal jalapenos wrapped in bacon to start on as we watched the first period. I absolutely LOVE these things.
The game was exciting through 2 periods being tied at 1 (This is about when D showed up from work). We really starting going nuts in the 3rd period when, just 47 seconds into the period, Nick Backstrom put the Caps ahead 2-1. We knew it was just a matter of time til we put the Habs in their place. After that goal Supe went outside to start the grill so that Red could throw the steaks on that she had been marinating all day. We were going to enjoy these steaks now because everything always tastes better when you wash it down with victory.
But fortune does not always favor the bold. Just as Red put the steaks on the grill Scott Gomez scored the goal to tie up the game. Grrrrrr….and that is how the regulation game ended tied at 2.
Just before the Overtime was about to start Red served up the amazing steaks, a cheesy potato dish of some sort and some really good corn concoction with cherry tomatoes in there. We all sat down and started to dig in just as the puck dropped on the OT. Everyone was sitting around chatting and leisurely enjoying the meal as the OT was underway…well everyone that is but me. I was cutting and chewing, chewing and cutting and trying to quickly devour my meal. I think I finished in record time too. When I was done with my steak I raised my hands over my head as if victorious. Everyone looked at me like I was crazy. I then proceeded to explain that the steak was too good to waste. This brought more quizzical looks. I told them that all it takes is one mistake to lead to an overtime goal for the Habs and if you are sitting there with half a steak sitting on your plate if we lose you will regret it. The steak will lose all of it’s flavor and your appetite will be gone. This brought laughter and ridicule for a couple minutes. And then Montreal scored.
F U Plekanec. Oh and Supe couldn’t finish his steak either…
Simply put…one of the best playoff games I have ever seen. This time D, Supe, Red and I all were at the game. And to be at the stadium and in the incredible seats we were in (First row, club level, center ice…Thanks again Red) was just amazing. Coming back from being down 4-1 is next to impossible in the regular season and you pretty much need Divine Intervention to come back from that deficit in the playoffs. But the “Cardiac Caps” did it again. With a phenomenal effort by Nicky Backstrom. Yeah, that is me over there on the left right after Nicky scored to tie it up at 4. I was sitting right next to the camera man and he snuck that shot of me…had I known I was on TV I would have done more than just stand there pumping my fist and saying “YES! YES! YES!”. You an click that link to see the video of the goal and me cheering like a foo’.
Going into OT in two straight games is pretty scary during the playoffs. We were all on the edge of our seats for the start of the overtime and were so glad that we hadn’t got up during the intermission. Usually we are up and about..whether that is in the can or over at the Acela Club to grab a quick smoke and that almost always means we miss the first minute or so of play making our way back to our seats. I was so thankful that we didn’t do that this time as 31 seconds into the OT Nicky scored that third goal for the hat trick and the game winner. As soon as Nicky scored, Supe and I looked right at each other for about 2 seconds and with each of us giving the other just the slightest of nods we launched our hats towards the ice. It wasn’t until later that I realized that was my favorite Caps hat but it was well worth sacrificing that hat to the Hockey Gods for that win. Here is just a little of the celebration after that goal and you can see all the hats littering the ice.
My boy Rob texted me, from up in Maine, during the 3rd to say he say me on TV and so after Nicky ended the game I tried to call him to let him hear the madness. It was so loud, even taking the phone outside in the streets, with all the Caps cheers I couldn’t even hear him at all. It was an incredible game and one that I can’t thank Red enough for taking us along.
The series moves up to Montreal for Game 3. We move back over to Supe and Red’s to watch the game (this time D was going to sit the game out and stay at home and avoid the drunks for a night) and grub it up. As the game started I just remember Supe bitching about Boyd Gordon being back in the lineup and Steckel being a healthy scratch. If there is one thing I have learned over the years of being friends with Supe it is that once he starts on the “I hate this player” groove that player is going to have an incredible night. And sure enough Gordon gets the first goal of the night….and it is even a freakin’ shorty. Not only that but he also wins 13 of 15 faceoffs and was one of the best players on the ice all night. Thanks Supe.
Speaking of luck….in the middle of the first period Woody made it to the house to watch the game. He has a lucky rubber chicken that he takes with him to every game. He was telling us all about this little kid sitting in front of him during Game 2 that started feeding popcorn to his chicken because, “It looks hungry” when the score was 4-3. The Caps scored to tie it and the Woody and the rest of his buddies in his section were telling the kid to keep feeding the chicken so the kid kept feeding it popcorn and the Caps kept scoring. So when the first period of Game 3 ended tied up at 0-0 Woody went out to his car to get the chicken. When he brought the chicken in and it was fed some chips what do you think happened? The Caps exploded for 4 goals in the second period. Go figure….that chicken really fucking works.
Game 3 was all about the Grinders. With goals by Boyd, Laich, Fehr and Bradley the Caps really came alive. Those 3rd and 4th lines really were the difference in the game as they played like their playoff lives depended on it. And with Boudreau having the difficult task of having to scratch healthy players alot of those guys are fence sitters and you could tell none of them wanted to be scratched for Game 4. Oh and not to forget Ov’s goal…it was classic Ovechkin. He started off his entry in the zone with 3 Habs all over him and then all of the sudden he is all alone in the slot and unleashing a laser beam one timer from Nicky while falling onto his knees. That kid continues to amaze.
So Game 4 is on the horizon. Do we go ahead 3-1 and come back to the Phone Booth ready to close it down in 5 or do the Habs show up and make it a series? I guess we will see tonight. I can’t wait.
LET’S GO CAPS!