When the Washington Capitals lost the opening two games of their first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets on home ice — including a Game 2 loss that seemed to only add to their playoff torment — it seemed as if they were headed for another bitterly disappointing exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Then they changed goalies.
Then Alex Ovechkin promised they were going back home tied at two.
Then they finally got a playoff bounce to go their way.
Then they won four games in a row, including Monday’s 6-3 Game 6 decision in Columbus, to eliminate the Blue Jackets and move on to the second-round where they will meet a very familiar nemesis — the Pittsburgh Penguins. For the third year in a row.
For now, though, the focus remains on what the Capitals accomplished in Round One and the way Ovechkin helped put the team on his back and lift them to the series win.
Do not let anybody ever tell you that Ovechkin doesn’t come through in the playoffs. If they try to, they are wrong. Horribly wrong. Laughably wrong. After his two-goal effort on Monday, he is now up to 51 goals and 98 total points in 103 career postseason games.
His 0.49 goals per game average is the second-highest among active NHL players that have played in at least 50 playoff games, trailing only Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
He has never had a postseason series in his career where he did not score at least one goal. Don’t think that sounds impressive? Consider that out of the top-25 active postseason goal-scorers in the NHL, all of them — except for Ovechkin — have had at least one postseason series where they were held without a goal. Only four of those players have had fewer than two postseason series without a goal. Scoring goals in the modern day NHL is difficult. It is even more difficult in the playoffs. There is something to be said for that level of consistency.
He brought it in the first-round against the Blue Jackets scoring five goals and adding three assists. He had at least two points in four of the six games, including three of the Capitals’ wins.
On Monday, those two goals were massive for the Capitals, scoring them just six minutes apart in the second period to help them open up a 3-1 lead. The second goal was a vintage Ovechkin power play goal that he scored from his office on top of the circle.
The greatest sign of dominance in professional sports is when the other team knows exactly what you are going to do, where you are going to do it from, and how you are going to do it, and they are still powerless to stop you. That is Alex Ovechkin on the power play.
That power play unit was 9-for-27 in the series.
Now the Capitals move on to the second round where they have to play the team they’ve had issues trying to solve. The Penguins and Capitals have met in the playoffs 10 times before. The Penguins have won nine of them, including in the second-round in each of the past two seasons and all three times in the Sidney Crosby-Alex Ovechkin era.
Will this be the year the Capitals get over that hump? They are not quite as deep as the teams that could not do it the past two years, but Braden Holtby appears to be locked in in net after regaining his starting job and Ovechkin is playing great. Both are great signs. If the past three matchups between these two franchises are any indication it is sure to be an amazing series that probably goes the distance.
Get ready for it.