Today is both a beginning and an ending for several teams. The opportunity to advance, and the opportunity to extend are two ends of the same rope.
The Pittsburgh Penguins entered action against the Philadelphia Flyers at noon today. They needed more from the backend. Goaltending was not a duel of excellence but a competition to be less execrable. The defenses only prime time performances for either team in this series were in passing the puck to the eventual goalscorer. Entering action today the “experts” favorite to win the Cup had their backs to the wall for the third straight game. Twice they rose to the occasion and struck back at their cross state and divisional rival striking the net seemingly at will. Today their knees struck the ground and they surrendered.
The Washington Capitals had the chance to play to the level everyone expected of them at the start of the hockey year. They signed a solid goaltender. The brought in gamers like Brouwer and Ward to get the right mix of attitude in the room and on the bench. They were all set to win the east, and potentially the Presidents Trophy. They barely scraped their way into the playoffs costing a coach his job on the way. When they jumped ahead in the series fans and admirers were ready to anoint them top dogs again. They let their foot off the snake. They never held a lead, they took a few silly penalties and missed on a few good shots. They made poor plays giving up odd man rushes and failed to clear the puck from the net mouth.
When two teams with championship pedigrees stepped up to the line today, one grabbed hold and climbed back to even ground, the other team let go of the rope and fell into the abyss of “there’s always next year”.