Now we know how spoiled we were.
OK, so the final act of the Sid and Ovie drama was a bust; hey, the Seinfeld series finale was essentially a clip show, but that did nothing to tarnish the brilliant legacy created by all the shows that preceded it.
Nobody could have predicted Pittsburgh blasting the Caps 6-2 in Game 7 and that speaks to how accustomed we all grew to the spine-tingling hockey that occurred through the first six games.
Wonderful as one more epic clash would have been, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin – along with each of their teams – didn’t owe us one more second of scintillation. And anybody asking for a refund based on a Game 7 blow out needs to give their head a shake.
Truth is, Pittsburgh was a slightly better squad for most of this series and that discrepancy was exacerbated in the decisive game thanks to spotty goaltending from Simeon Varlamov and a more top-to-bottom team effort on behalf of the Pens.
So where to from here?
For the Pens, they continue to buck the trend of teams folding one year after making the final. The last team to advance as far as the conference final one season after making the Cup final was Colorado in 2002.
Pittsburgh seems to be picking up steam. Crosby is playing out of his mind, the power play is starting to hum and Evgeni Malkin is becoming increasingly engaged, even dropping down to block a shot in the final win over Washington.
As long as Marc-Andre Fleury doesn’t stray too far from his net and focuses simply on stopping pucks, this team is going to be a handful for anybody it meets.
The Caps, meanwhile, are obviously missing a few key ingredients. First off, it will be interesting to see how things play out in the Washington crease next fall. Varlamov has surely earned himself a shot at being No. 1, but how will a guy who has exactly six games of regular season experience respond to increased expectations?
Shoring up the blueline should also be a priority for this team. Mike Green is a terrific offensive talent, but when you look at the teams that go deep in the playoffs, they typically have more than one impact defenseman. If the Anaheim Ducks decide to move Chris Pronger at the draft, the Caps should be first to the phone. His nastiness would be the perfect compliment to Green’s grace and he would also bring a Cup ring – and all the knowledge that goes with it – to the mix.
As for a final note on Crosby and Ovechkin, good on you boys for giving hockey fans more than they could have ever asked for in one super-hyped matchup.
Here’s hoping the highlights from this series are only in syndication for a year before they’re replaced by a whole new set of spectacular moments from a rematch next spring.
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Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Fridays.
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