Well, thank you very much, NHL. First, you made me stay up late for the Anaheim-Edmonton game on Wednesday night, and then you made me choose between the Rangers-Sens and Pens-Caps games by running them at the same time. Aren’t you wonderful?
Couldn’t you have split the East and West so that there would at least be an early and late game? I could handle the lack of sleep better than choosing one or the other.
Of course, you can’t.
Wouldn’t ratings be better if you didn’t force us to watch only one? I’m not going to DVR hockey, inevitably someone on twitter will play the spoiler or I will impatiently venture over to check the scores halfway through.
Must Be Nice to Have Minions
— Jeff Tristan (@pauloverholt82) January 31, 2021
Mr. Bettman, here’s a secret if you want ratings people have to be able to watch. So far, I don’t know anyone that can ably split their attention and watch two games at the same time even if they have two television sets in the same room.
I guess Bettman has his minions, and perhaps the eyes of an iguana that are capable of going in separate directions at any time?
So what was I to do? I can only watch one game, will it be the Rangers and Sens and the battle of the Cup-less netminders? Or the Battle of the Titans with Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin going head to head?
A Tale of Two Cities
I wanted the most exciting matchup, so I went with the Ovechkin and Crosby duel. This was bound to be the more high-octane matchup with the teams two stars and their two Vezina winners in net with Braden Holtby anchoring the wave of the future and Marc-Andre Fleury clinging to past greatness.
What was my reward for choosing this matchup? A first period that produced a whopping ten shots on goal, combined! The Pens dominantly (seriously this is sad) outshot the Caps 4-1 for much of the period, but the Caps were able to battle back in the final minutes to earn a 6-4 edge.
I felt like I needed to keep a defibrillator nearby because the action was so intense in the first (I’m kidding). The period ended knotted at 0-0.
So, I figured that would be a good time to switch over to see how the Sens and Rangers were faring. Collectively, they outshot the Caps and Pens 33-10. If only I had chosen the other matchup.
I’ll add this to the list of things that Gary Bettman and I do not agree on. It’s a long list.
A Flurry on Fleury
While the Caps-Pens game started off a little bit more on the low key side than I wanted, it did get a bit more exciting as the periods turned. Fleury is not the puck mover that his counterpart in red is or his crease-mate in Matt Murray, but he is still capable of some impressive saves when he is under siege.
The game seemed to play in spurts with the Penguins looking like the sharper team for much of the early goings, and Crosby did what Crosby does. Every time he threw a leg over the boards, he was there to win faceoffs and put pucks on net.
In one stretch to start the second, Sid won a faceoff and buried the puck twice behind Holtby who looked like his interface was in the middle of a reboot.
The first goal came just 12 seconds into the second period.
While the second came 52 seconds later looking an awful lot like the cat that strolled through the Matrix.
Paging Mr. Ovechkin, Mr. Alex Ovechkin
For the rest of the period, the Capitals were scrambling to get back in the game. The Caps had a flurry of opportunities (11-13 in favor of Washington) in comparison to the first period, but either Fleury had eyes on the puck all the way in, or it bounced off a leg to a Penguins stick or flopped harmlessly out of play.
And so far, Ovechkin had been far more effective playing the gracious host as he introduced Pens players to the boards than he was on the scoresheet.
But, this was billed as the Ovechkin and Crosby show. Certainly, Ovie was bound to show up. And he did.
Roughly 18 minutes after Crosby tallied for the first time Ovechkin interrupted with his own version of terror on twine lacing a shot right through Fleury.
The Capitals were back in the game, and the ice was starting to tilt in their favor as they spent an awful lot of time in the Penguins end. Fleury was once again under siege with several instances that he had to scramble to make stop after stop it seemed. Unfortunately, the Capitals are like the friend that you invite to the party who has too much to drink and proceeds to overstay their welcome. Give them a little time and they’ll ruin everyone’s night.
Evgeny Kuznetsov was bound and determined to complete the Capitals rally with the hopes that they could at least ruin Fleury’s.
Kuznetsov canceled out Crosby’s pair of goals with his own tally at 8:05 into the third, but a familiar hero from last season’s Stanley Cup run emerged stepping into the spotlight that was once reserved for the marquee’s in this matchup, Sid, and Ovie.
With the Minutes winding down, Ovechkin turned into Gollum as he hovered around his precious firing shot after shot on Fleury, but the Pens Vezina winning, Stanley Cup Champion backup netminder was up to the task stopping shot after shot from Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie and helping his Pens secure the first win on the road.
On a night with two stars earning top billing, it was the Pens past heroes who stole the show.
While the Ovechkin and Crosby show got off to a slow start, Henrik Lundqvist put on a clinic in Ottawa.
The King was often under siege as the Sens blasted shots at the Rangers veteran backstop, but he did everything in his power to keep his team in the game from Buzzer to Buzzer.
some hank saves from the first period that i did not see originally because i was….doing important work. (i was asleep) pic.twitter.com/FNx6OMjKWD
— steph (@myregularface) April 28, 2020
Unfortunately, some late heroics from the Sens captain Erik Karlsson ended his bid to send it to overtime giving the Sens the first win of the series with a score of 2-1.
The more underrated showdown in Ottawa gave us every reason to call it must see tv for Game 2. Again, I thank the league for forcing us to choose.
Feel free to join the conversation on Twitter as we will once again be live tweeting the games on Friday night.