Day 20 of 2018 Stanley Quips: [Alex] Jonesing for the Rest of the Capitals-Penguins Rivalry

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AP Photo/Nick Wass

So the Washington Capitals found a way to overcome some minutia of adversity last Sunday to pull off the 4-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. While such a scoreline indicates the Capitals blew out the Penguins from start to finish, that definitely was not the case if you are to look at the shot attempts and/or if you are a true believer in some magical force called “momentum”. Still, even with the help of score-adjustment, the Penguins out-attempted the Capitals at even strength 56.5-54.9. In the second period alone, Sidney Crosby and Co. might as well have pitched a tent, made a campfire, cooked up some smores and tell scary stories in Washington’s zone because I don’t know how else I can describe the horror I felt after Brett Connolly’s goal to make it 3-0. Yeah, a 28.6 to 18.8 shot attempt differential during that 20-minute segment can do that to you.

The two major turning points of the game will forever stand in the ire of Penguins fans everywhere. The first being the sandwich hit from Tom Wilson and Alex Ovechkin that lead to Brian Dumoulin missing the rest of the game due to a “not concussion”. Hey, until the entirety of the NHL grows up and publicly releases injury information ASAP to everyone, speculation and ridicule is well deserved. Never forget that what the Rangers did to their fan base when it came to failing to release the injury news about Mats Zuccarello’s fractured skull during the 2015 playoffs is the gold standard for this debate. No penalty was given, nor was there a suspension that came about it afterwards. Penguins fans surely think now that the only way a suspension happens is if one of their own gets killed on the ice. More on that matter later.

Next, after Kris Letang’s seeing-eye shot cut the deficit to 3-1 before the second intermission, the third period was defined by having Sidney Crosby’s attempted wrap around play being collected by Patric Hornqvist, who shot it on goal and look like he cut the deficit to 3-2. However, the on-ice officials determined after replay that there was no sufficient evidence to call it a good goal. On the other hand, many will argue that there was some distance between the puck and the goal line that it crossed. On the other hand, perspectives. Therefore, narratives.

Add in the usual funny business like Patric Hornqvist being the most bullied in a scuffle with Devante Smith-Pelly or vise versa, the Capitals maybe or maybe not having Jake Guentzel next on their “hoping to concuss him out of the postseason” hit list, and Evgeny Kuznetsov being an idiot for slashing Kris Letang without taking into context that Letang started all the commotion and you once again have a rivalry that will never be less than a rivalry; regardless of what the playoff series win-loss record is.

All I know now is that you can just get those spidey senses tingling that everybody in Western PA is out there wearing tin foil hats and calling their local congress member to change the laws of the sport of hockey to make sure calls go in their favor. It’s how that city works. Add in the fact that the size and loyalty, hence the volume of their rage, of that population has multiplied like cockroaches since January 12th, 1975 and you understand the enormity of it all. But let me be here to tell everyone to settle down for many reasons. Particularly from what happened in 2017 alone…

1.  January 17th, 2017: Penguins 8, Caps 7 OT.

Ok, ok, it’s a regular season game that everyone and their mama will say shouldn’t matter, but bare with me on this if you actually know a thing or two about listening. First, after the Caps went up 3-0, Patric Hornqvist began his crusade to become the real Public Enemy Number One: by head hunting the crap out of TJ Oshie. After the refs decided not to call a penalty on that play, Daniel Winnik had no choice but to pick a fight with Hornqvist to settle the score. Otherwise, we all know Don Cherry’s and Nick Kypreos’ will continue to get riled up and call the Caps soft. The refs decided to punish both for matching roughing majors, but anyone with a brain knows that the Capitals should have had a power play instead. As usual, until the quality of refereeing skyrockets, I seriously don’t know how you can ban retaliatory fighting from hockey.

Since the Penguins have more than enough skill to take advantage of open ice, they scored immediately and, thanks to our good friend momentum, scored another two unanswered goals within two minutes. By period’s end, it was 6-5 Penguins. I’m almost glad I forgot that Evgeni Malkin got a hat trick just before intermission via maybe or maybe not goaltender interference. But that wasn’t the end of the garbage that came from PPG Arena.

Washington had the endeavor and mental strength to tie it up at seven and send it to overtime. Surely enough though, Sydney Crosby tripped Alex Ovechkin to start the extra frame. Surely enough, the refs missed the call. Seconds later, Conor Sheary caused permanent damage and scored the game-winner.

Say all you want that that was a regular season game. But beforehand, the Capitals had a 2-0-1 regular season series advantage over the Penguins. They win again and the mental psyche goes completely towards the boys south of the Mason-Dixon line come postseason play. Instead, both teams shared the same record and the greatest roster the Capitals ever had were never able to grab a mental edge on the Penguins from here on out.

2. April 20th, 2017: Penguins 5, Blue Jackets 2

Again, this is an example where I might be grasping straws here, but bear with me on this. It’s 3-2 in Game 5 of this first round series heading into the depths of the third period with Pittsburgh advancing to the next round if they win. All series, Columbus was showing great effort in the shot attempt battle, but were constantly losing in key moments of the hockey game. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh time and again feasted on these moments and that is why they 2007 Anaheim Ducks’d or 2006 Carolina Hurricanes’d their way towards their second straight Stanley Cup.

Anywho, with Columbus trailing, Oliver Bjorkstrand collected a juicy rebound to score only for Alexander Wennberg to look like he ran into Marc Andre-Fleury to not only disallow the goal, but also be penalized for goaltender interference. However, watch the video again and tell me how in the world does Scott Wilson not be the sole reason Wennberg ran into Fleury in the first place? What on Earth was Wennberg supposed to do in that moment?!

Surely enough, Crosby scores on the ensuing power play to make it 4-2 instead of 3-3 and that same Scott Wilson really puts the stake through the soul less than a minute later to make it 5-2. Again, say what you want about Columbus needing to keep their cool and all that stuff, but you’re essentially telling me that you don’t believe in momentum of any kind if you don’t think the penalty was not only uncalled for, but also a back breaker. Pittsburgh might have finished this series off anyway if they didn’t win Game 5, but you can see a chain of events happening here.

3. April 27th, 2017: Penguins 3, Capitals 2

Just so I can avoid going on one of the great temper tantrums on record in human history, just do me a favor and read this entire link with regards to Game 1 of the second round. I permanently stand by the fact that, despite it only being the first game of the whole second round series, that this completely gave the Penguins the advantage they needed to advance to the Conference Finals. All those against that sentiment haven’t watched or understood that playoff hockey, especially in the 2017 season, has loads of luck in play. Any opportunity is needed for a mismatched underdog to take it and win it all. Surely enough, that was the 2017 Penguins in a nutshell.

4. May 6th, 2017: Capitals 4, Penguins 2

In a must-win-or-go-home Game 5, Patric Hornqvist couldn’t help but be his usual self and start the game off with this firecracker. Did Patric Hornqvist get penalized? OF COURSE NOT!!! HE’S P.A.T.R.I.C. H.O.R.N.Q.V.I.S.T.!!! What do you expect out of him and the referees that Jim Rutherford bribed out of the money he saved from Matt Murray’s lack of a cap hit? If you want a complete encapsulation why I’ll never respect the former Nashville Predator, do me a favor and play that GIF so many times that it gets tattooed into your memory bank for all eternity.

Did I mention Pittsburgh scored the first goal in that game? Or that the Caps were trailing 2-1 heading into the third? Any notion that the Caps should have shaken off that call doesn’t understand the magnitude of how hard that is.

5. May 29th, 2017: Penguins 5, Predators 3

If you have paid attention to my twitter history, I basically decided to live in a cocoon throughout the entire Conference Finals round because I refuse to ever forgive what the 2017 Capitals, and especially Barry Trotz and his continued lack of and/or poorly timed roster maximization, did to my soul.

So now let’s fast forward to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. Pittsburgh’s first goal came off of a 5-on-3 power play, but this was not before Sydney Crosby decided to not draw an interference penalty via a forearm shiver to Mattias Ekholm’s face before turning fully around and playing the puck. As a result, the Predators failed to clear and the Penguins scored off of an Evgeni Malkin one-timer. Oh, and this was after Nashville had a goal dissallowed for offside. Oh, and thanks to our good friend momentum, Pittsburgh scored twice more in the next four minutes.

Momentum always is on that city’s side. Always.

There’s a reason the Jacksonville Jaguars had to score 45 points to knock off the Steelers from this year’s NFL playoffs.

6. June 11th, 2017: Penguins 3, Predators 2

Lastly, at least for my definitive memory bank, let’s talk about THE game that decided the Stanley Cup was going to the Steel City again. That’s right my friends, we’re going to bring up the Colton Sissons no-goal again! Sure, you can argue that a mistake was made and there was nothing you can do about it, but players were playing beyond the whistle here and the crowd was going berserk without a care in the world that the whistle was blown. Why? Because all 20,000+ had a better view of the play than whatever Kevin Pollock had and it shouldn’t have been blown in the first place! Even if it did, shouldn’t there have been a linesman out there with a better view of the play than Pollock’s to tell him how much this was a mess up and the most correct decision possible has to be made to make up for the mistake? I find it unforgivable and hard to believe that simply restarting play with an offensive zone face off is enough to have everyone let bygones be bygones.

Surely enough, our favorite human being Hornqvist may or may not have either interfered with Pekka Rinne’s left skate blade or his stick to score the Cup-clinching goal. Sure, I have seen more controversial goals being given than this, but considering how disgraceful the previous goal-decision was, the only fair thing you could have done is bring in a brand new officiating crew and see if they can do a better job observing this chaos, right?

Just don’t ever forget how loud the booing from the Predators fans, a group that was in euphoria all postseason and has never felt the 40 years of pain Capitals fans have, reverberated through the Penguins celebrations.

———

So there you go Pens fans. I’ve been sprinkling hints of this on social media from time to time, but now I’ve had the chance to claim that, at maximum, six games were controversially given to the 2017 Pittsburgh Penguins to win the Stanley Cup. Even if you still feel like the Pens won it fair and square, they’ll still be remembered as the worst Stanley Cup champions in the past decade due to your horrendous puck possession all postseason and your growing list of injuries. They should stay thankful forever that their Conference Finals foes Ottawa were so lucky that previous season that it was genuinely that predictable for them to be one of the worst teams in the league this season.

Lastly, if you would like to argue that Washington or any other previous team has been lucky the exact same amount as I described Pittsburgh has, feel free to be my guest. I still haven’t even touched upon Kris Letang’s miniscule suspension in 2016 in comparison to Brooks Oprik’s, what happened in Game 1 this postseason even if it didn’t ring the exact volume of contoversy as previously mentioned, this non-tripping call that led to this Jake Guentzel goal and all the other gibberish Game 6 of the Flyers series provided.

It’s one thing to complain about the Capitals head hunting your players for the past three seasons, but to have so many non-calls and officiating decisions go in such a way that it permanently changed the fates of the entire sport, let alone the Capitals and Penguins like last year did is just astounding to me at the horrifying least. I genuinely would like to know in the over-100 year old history of hockey if any team has lucked out more than the 2017 Penguins ever did because I haven’t seen it yet.

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