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Steckel Is The Key For Cardiac Caps


With all of the incredible talent on both teams in this Caps/Pens series, perhaps the most important this far is the Washington Capitals David Steckel. Coming into this series, you’d have thought that Ovechkin and Crosby were playing one-on-one. Then of course, there were those two Russian guys, Semin and Malkin. That being said, the measuring stick for the Caps has been in the hand of #39.

Steckel’s main contribution is in the face-off circle. He has been spectacular on face-offs, winning 63.5% in this series. That’s 54 wins in 85 chances. Not too shabby.

David Steckel is also a key cog in Washington’s penalty killing unit. His size and long arms make him a real asset when down a man. He uses his reach to cover a lot of ice, poke checking, blocking passing lanes and shots, which is why his 4:02 of shorthanded ice time is third in the league for the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Those are both great contributions to the team, but in this series, its been his offense that has been the difference. Steckel has scrored three times and the Capitals are 3-0 in those games.

The 6’5″, 225-lb Winsconsonite started off the scoring for the Caps in this series, 13:10 into Game 1. The Capitals went on to beat the Pens 3-2.

In game 2, it really did seem like it was Ovie vs. Sid, with both players recording a hat trick. The Caps won 4-3. The difference: David Steckel, playing tough in front of the net gobbled up a Tyler Sloan shot that bounced off of Kris Letang right onto his stick, and slammed it through Marc-Andre Fleury’s five hole.

Then of course, came the game winner in game 6 to eevn the series and force a deciding game 7 on home ice for the Capitals. Steckel could have won game 5 in overtime, but fanned on the shot missing an open net. Then he took a penalty that led to the Penguins third goal in game 6. Being the big-game player he is, he begged his teammates to give him a shot and they did. He repayed them ten-fold.

The Caps had the face-off to the left of Marc-Andre Fleury in the offensive zone, and who better to work it than David Steckel, who was 10 of 14 in game 6 to that point. Stecks won the face-off to Brooks Laich and drove to the net. Laich, from his knees, passed the puck to Matt Bradley against the boards who passed it back to Laich for the one-timer. Steckel put his stick out and deflected the Laich’s shot in midair, past a butterflied Fleury for the game winner.

So yes, Simeon Varlamov will need to stand on his head again. Semin and Kozlov will need to play the same inspired hockey they played at Mellon Arena on Monday night. And, of course, Ovie will need to be Ovie, but the difference will be David Steckel.

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Clark: “It Feels Like a Rock Concert Out There.”


Washington Capitals fans weren’t just Rocking the Red, they were rocking the Verizon Center. During a TV timeout with 5:56 left to play in the third period, the Caps gameday staff played “Unleash the Fury,” a video that got the already roucous crowd whipped up into a frenzy.

At that point, the decibal level in the Verizon Center was deafening. In the arena, you could feel that something was going to happen for the Caps. When Sergei Federov, certainly no stranger to the playoff hero role, scored the game winning goal (and first of the series), the decibal level soared even higher, and remained there until well after the final horn blew.

Feds believed the energy from the crowd helped will the team to victory: “It was a great atmosphere all around. I’m sure any player who plays in an atmosphere like that would enjoy it and work hard and play hard… It really was an amazing experience.”

Bruce Boudreau agreed.

“The last five minutes after we scored,they never sat down, they never stopped cheering. If you look at the energy we had just in checking. The people brought that out. They wouldn’t let us not continue skating,”  Boudreau said, adding, ” it was really a thing to watch.”

Of course, going into the third period, it was an experience few thought would come to pass. For the first two periods, the Capitals were out-played and out-hustled. If not for the continued dominating play by the barely 21-year-old Simeon Varlamov, this game could easily have been 3-0  after five and a half minutes. 

In the first period, the normally gifted Washington offense had only managed two shots on the Rangers Henrik Lunqvuist. Luckily, one of them went in after deflecting off two Rangers defenders.

The second period was more of the same. It almost felt like the Caps were on penalty kill the entire period. Washington managed nine more shots on goal, but Lunqvuist looked to be back in form for this pivotal game 7.  The most telling stat of the second period was time of possession. While this isn’t an officially kept statistic, Mike Green mentioned in the locker room after the game that he felt like the Caps only had the puck for 2 of the 20 minutes in the period.

After the second period ended, there was a weird vibe in the air. Some thought that this series was set to end like last year’s opening round defeat at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers. Still others thought that the Caps were lucky to be tied at 1, and that the third period was the Caps period, so anything could and would happen. Most though, believed the Capitals would prevail.

Whatever the vibe in the building, the vibe in the locker room was much like the last. In his post-game presser, Coach Bruce Boudreau, when asked what was said between the dreadful second period and the fateful third, quipped:  “One of the messages was ’20 more minutes.’ How hard is that to work as hard as you can for one of the best feelings you’re ever going to have.”

Besides the motivation, the Coaching staff went to work, as well, trying to solve the dominating play the Rangers brought to the rink.

“We were used to them being a more passive team and they were very aggressive, in your face,” the Caps head coach stated. “We had to change what we were doing and I’m not that sharp. I took me two periods to figure it out.”

Whatever was said or done, it paid off. The Caps came out in the third playing like themselves. The passing was crisp, the effort was phenomenal and the results were there. Everyone in the building began to feel like a Russian was going to send the Rangers packing. Of course, everyone assumed that Russian would be Ovechkin or Semin.

Enter Sergei Federov. As Feds skated down the right side, pulling up to look for the trailer on the play for a pass, he noticed several things. First, Wayne Redden was playing way off, quite possibly because the ever-threatening Ovechkin was on the left side of the net. Second, there was no trailer on the play. Third, the top-shelf glove side of Lunqvuist, perhaps the outstanding goalies only weakness, was beakoning him. He let the shot go, kept a longer follow-through to get the shot up, and watched as the puck soared into the net for the eventual game winner with just under five minutes to go in the third.

Fellow teammate and countryman Alex Ovechkin was the first on the scene leaping onto the 39-year-old’s back, squeezing him hard and slamming him into the boards.  Since Federov was the Red Wing that ended the Caps Stanley Cup hopes oh so many moons ago, perhaps this game seven winner will reverse the fortunes of this young, exciting team in their current pursuit.  

Regardless of kharma and the existential side of the meaning of this goal, Federov has brought something the Capitals haven’t experienced since that 1998 run to the Cup finals and never since the best owner in Washington sports bought this team: a playoff series win.

While many thought Ovie would play the role of hero, Boudreau was not as surprised. “Experience sometimes pays off. He knew what he had to do and… when to do it,” the Capitals coach said. “That’s what makes him one of the greatest players ever.”

Washington Capitals fans everywhere sure think so.

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