Tag: semi-guarantees


East update: Panthers, Capitals clinch playoffs; Sabres are done


Thursday night ended up being bittersweet for the Florida Panthers, bitter for the Buffalo Sabres and just plain sweet for the Washington Capitals.

With the Capitals’ 4-2 win against the Panthers and the Philadelphia Flyers’ 2-1 regulation victory against Buffalo, this much is clear:

1. The Sabres have been eliminated from the playoffs.
2. The Panthers are officially in the postseason for the first time since 2000 – the longest playoff drought in NHL history.
3. The Capitals will capture at least the eighth seed.

Point No. 3 is the most interesting because of what hasn’t been settled. In a made-for-TV blessing, the Capitals can wrestle the Southeast Division title from the Panthers if they get any sort of win and the Panthers lose in regulation on Saturday (the last night of the season).

The Capitals might actually feel more comfortable facing a team they’ve booted from the playoffs twice in the Ovechkin era in the No. 1 seed New York Rangers, but a seventh seed – and thus a match with the defending Stanley Cup champions the Boston Bruins – is still plausible if Washington wins and Ottawa doesn’t register another point.

Either way, Washington shook off a disturbing Michal Neuvirth injury when they only had a 1-0 lead to build it to 3-0. The Panthers found a way to get back into the game with two goals but Alex Semin scored a late insurance backhander as a power play expired to put it out of reach at 4-2.

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Meanwhile, the Sabres face a summer of “What if?” questions, beginning perhaps with giving up a slim 1-0 lead to the Flyers. Philly certainly isn’t an easy draw, but Ryan Miller & Co. must live with the fact that the orange and black ended their season two years in a row. (This time before the playoffs.)

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Oh, and if you’re into somewhat-ridiculous comparisons between Brooks Laich’s guarantee and Mark Messier’s famous one, guess who scored tonight’s game-winner? Brooks Laich.

Here’s a video update of what the East standings look like after a big night:

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Alex Ovechkin tries to rally Capitals: ‘It is not over. We’re going to win’

Alex Ovechkin
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If you want to test the validity of a Washington Capitals critic right now, the simplest way is to ask them about Alex Ovechkin. If that person says that he’s “choking,” there’s a solid chance that person hasn’t witnessed a single game in the series.

Simply put, Ovechkin has been willing his team to near-victory in their first three games. He has two goals and one assist for three points in Washington’s three losses and nine points in eight playoff games, overall. If there’s a valid criticism, it’s that he occasionally tries to carry the team on his back. There’s also the possibility that coach Bruce Boudreau might be stretching him a bit thin; NHL.com reports that Ovechkin played 5:45 of Game 3’s final 11 minutes.

You won’t confuse Ovechkin’s statement as the second coming of Joe Namath’s Super Bowl III guarantee, but he still provided what could be a rallying cry (of future punchline) when interviewed after Game 3. (You can also watch video footage of his responses here.)

Q: How would you describe what you’re up against now. Is this still winnable?

A: It is not over. We won’t give up. We’re going to win.


Q: Did you think after the second period that you guys had things under control?

A: I think we’ve had all three games in our hands, but we lost all three. It is hockey and it is hockey. Again, it is not over. They win three. We can win three. It is going to be a battle.

One thing that cannot be overlooked – although spotlighting it might make those losses hurt even more – is the fact that all three games have been very close. Throwing out one empty-net goal, all of the Lightning’s wins were by one goal.

That indicates that Tampa Bay has been better in tight games, for sure, but it also should bolster the Capitals’ confidence that a breakthrough might turn things around.

The thing is, Ovechkin’s been throwing his body around and creating scoring chances this whole time. If Washington hopes to come back, they’ll need some of their other players to step up. (We’re looking at you, Nicklas Backstrom.)