Hockey gods smile: Penguins-Capitals delivers again

Are you there God? It's me, Margaret the Neutral Hockey Fan.


Oh, oh yes, I see by that video that you are there. After the Canucks single-handedly tried to destroy hockey in Game 4 by dragging the NHL kicking-and-snoozing back to 1995, I wasn't so sure. But then you did your "karma thing" and caused the Canucks to lose that defensive shell game in a most heartbreaking way.

And then you delivered yet another Capitals-Penguins game that was stunning not because of the hype, not because of the two network-friendly stars (I forget which star I'm supposed to hate right now and for what irrelevant paranoid reason), but rather because both teams of different-yet-aggressive styles simply went at it. It was beautiful, and I take back all those things I said about you (er, You), what with the wars and disease and Sean Avery 'n stuff.

So You had the Staal-Satan give-and-go. Then You had the Ovechkin stop-and-laser from the point. Then You had another give-and-go, this time the Fedorov-Backstrom variety. But enough with those stars, it was time for one of those storied unsung grinders of Spring, good ol' former Islander Ruslan "Tank" Fedotenko, who took a sweet drop-pass from Evgeni Malkin and drilled it, celebrating with the glee of a guy who knows what a big playoff goal is about. Then it was time for the irritating grinder type, so Matt Cooke picked up an ugly-scramble, old-style playoff goal.

Through it all, hits here, hits there, hits everywhere. My god, I'm sore just thinking about them. I thought they were supposed to look tired playing two playoff games in two cities in two nights?

Then it was back to the stars: Green to Backstrom to Ovechkin. Only this wasn't your typical Ovechkin goal, where he could coil back and unleash the blazing wrister. No, this was harder -- receiving the puck from his off-hand side and having to unleash it, just inside the post, with a mere scoop redirect and not the full wrist wind-up. That tied the game late, because this game was too good to end in three periods.

Then overtime -- are you kidding me? Are you trying to fry my heart? There was all of three seconds -- the opening faceoff -- when these teams were conservative in OT, on this second of back-to-back nights. Then it was three and a half minutes (I had to look it up, because it felt like ten) of heart-shredding chances and hopeful Caps penalty killing.

The penalty drawn by Malkin was deserved, and was the product of speed and force that required the Caps 'D' to trip him. Likewise, his winning goal was not all on Tom Poti -- because if Poti doesn't disrupt that pass, Crosby knocks it into the open net anyway. (Well, usually but not always.)

God Doesn't Win Championships. Defense Does.

I forgot to mention the defense. It wasn't exactly a stellar, Canucks-level display of repressive defensive tactics, of course. But there was great goaltending early on, and if defense is what gets a fella going, well there was Rob Scuderi keeping Ovechkin and his bullet speed to the outside and then blocking Ovechkin's cut back with a beautiful stop and hip-check. At the other end, John Erskine did something similarly brilliant later on, but I've already forgotten because the heart ... it stopped working a few times.

At this point, whoever wins this series, I'm pretty sure you (er, You ... whatever) could replay it 10 times and get 10 different results. These teams are that competitive. They're that engaging. They are that representative of what playoffs in the 2000s should be about.

So as I write this, Canucks-Hawks Game 5 is just beginning. If the Canucks didn't learn from defying you last game -- if they come out with more of the same soul-extinguishing, one-goal and a-yard-of-dust approach -- then I trust you won't reward them. I trust you'll do the right thing for God and Hockey, because sitting back is not why You gave them Luongo (see Fuhr, Grant; Oilers). Otherwise, I'm gonna wonder again what it is you're all about with this giveth and taketh away thing.

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