Welcome to Hockey After Dark, a nightly recap of the NHL playoffs made possible by insomnia, playoff anxiety, and my BFF caffeine. Come for the topical social commentary, and stay for the sporadic in-depth analysis littered with obscure literary references. If you enjoy the snark, feel free to follow me at @DXTraeger.
Penguins Dodge Off Day Injury; “Coots” Travels to Pittsburgh
The Pittsburgh Penguins seem to have dodged a critical injury when goalie Matt Murray overcame some form of injury during the team’s Thursday practice:
The Post-Gazette’s Jason Mackey would follow Murray throughout the course of the day, and both the Penguins’ Twitter account and Murray himself seemed to play off the prospect of the Pittsburgh net-minder missing any time.
Meanwhile, Sean Couturier traveled with the Flyers to Pittsburgh and declared himself “Day-to-Day” but he did not practice with the team.
Pittsburgh will look to continue Philadelphia’s 43 years of misery with a win on Friday night.
Capitals Somehow Make the Worst Lead in Hockey Work
When the Capitals’ TJ Oshie scored 9:19 into the second period during Washington’s tilt against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Caps fans must have done the ol’ Joey “OOOOOOH ohhhhhhh” song and dance.
For those of you who haven’t followed the Washington/Columbus series, Washington relinquished consecutive two-goal leads in Games 1 & 2, falling in both during overtime.
There’s an old, nonsensical adage in sports that the “2-0 lead is the worst lead.” The idea– soundly refuted by statistics and history– still remains so prevalent that Wikipedia has a freaking entry on the topic.
(Go ahead. Read it.)
Even so, the Capitals managed to buck the odds and lose the first two games with 2 goal leads (at home no less), and the narrative in Washington was…well, frankly, the same narrative that it’s been for the past 10 years:
“You can’t spell ‘OVECHKIN’ without ‘CHOKE’!”
Okay, so that’s MY take on the Caps’ struggles since the GEICO Caveman entered the NHL, but the fact remains that Washington has failed to advance beyond the second round of the playoffs despite capturing the President’s Trophy (best regular season record) three times (2009-10, 2015-16, 2016-17)
For a player perhaps destined to be the greatest goal scorer in the history of the game, a shelf full of Rocket Richard Trophies and a remarkable resemblance to Richard Kiel isn’t enough.
I mean, a legacy of a perennial loser is plenty for ME (if I’m being honest, Ovechkin has always shown up in the playoffs), but once again, there’s that tiny shred of me that wants Ovechkin’s historic greatness to be ultimately rewarded with hockey’s greatest prize…
….just not at the expense of the Penguins and Pittsburgh’s HILARIOUS owning of the Washington franchise in hockey’s post-season.
Alas, the Capitals dug deep, and last night’s 4-1 win has turned a 0-2 series deficit into a 2-2 series tie against a Blue Jackets organization that has never seen the second round (let alone gotten past it).
I’m angry with the Blue Jackets for (finally) ruining my ongoing joke about Columbus not accruing enough playoff wins to win a Stanley Cup before Halley’s Comet returns…
…and I’m annoyed at the Washington Capitals’ insufferable fan base comprised exclusively of quasi-celebrities, so no matter which team wins, I lose.
The Boston Bruins Defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs; Auston Matthews Refuses to Speak With Media
Nobody that approaches NHL playoff hockey objectively is surprised that the Boston Bruins now own a 3-1 series lead over the Toronto Maple Leafs following Thursday night’s 3-1 win.
Toronto media is comprised exclusively of fanbois that live in a perpetual shared state of delusion & denial, so imagine their collective “GASP!” when golden child Auston Matthews refused to speak with them following the game.
It’s a bad look for the Maple Leafs’ burgeoning star, as it puts him and his demeanor in a negative light when compared to the other faces and voices of the game (cough- CROSBY -cough). Matthews can’t face the music only when things are rosy and happy; he needs to learn that leadership involves taking the brunt of questions and criticism for his teammates.
As for the Bruins, they got a stellar game out of netminder Tuuka Rask (31 saves on 32 shots) and early Conn Smythe contender David Pastrnak picked up two assists to bring his point total to 11 after four games.
Boston will look to end Toronto’s season and force the Steve Simmons of the world into making up stories come Saturday night.