It's Do or Die For Caps, Habs in Game 7

Ovie's time to shine

By Jim Iovino
|  Wednesday, Apr 28, 2010  |  Updated 4:11 PM EDT
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It's Do or Die For Caps, Habs in Game 7

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Alex Ovechkin

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Well, hockey fans, it wouldn't be a Capitals' playoff run without a Game 7. So the Verizon Center will be buzzing tonight with nervous energy as the home crowd rocks the red while hoping Montreal's seemingly unbeatable goaltender loses his super-human powers.

Washington hosts the Canadiens in a do-or-die Game 7. The Habs have roared back from a 3-1 deficit in the series and are riding the out-of-his-mind play of netminder Jaroslav Halak as far as he can take them. They're hoping that's at least into the second round.

Halak has frustrated the Caps the last two games, limiting the high-powered offense to one goal in each contest. And now, he has a chance to frustrate the Caps and their fans for a very long, painful offseason.

The Caps know they blew two chances to bury the Habs in games 5 and 6. Now, while their potential second-round opponents are resting, they're preparing for a hard-fought elimination game.

Pressure? What? Where?

"One team is going to be (going on) vacation," Alex Ovechkin said Tuesday, "and, you know, I don't want to think about vacation right now."

While head coach Bruce Boudreau won't state publicly that he's surprised as anyone that his team didn't make quick work of the Habs, he knows that the opportunity was there for the taking. And his team blew it.

"Did I wish we won it at Game 5 at home?" Boudreau said. "It's probably why I was a little wound up that night. I knew it would be a dogfight if we didn't win it that night. And we didn't. So here we are in Game 7."

The biggest key to the game? Getting something by Halak early. The longer the Caps go without scoring on the Montreal netminder, the more confidence the Habs will get. And if the Canadiens get on the board first, all bets will be off. That would deflate the crowd and allow the team to pull back into a full-scale defensive front, with everyone collapsing around Halak to fend off the Caps' offensive attack.

But if Washington can somehow score first, that will open the floodgates. The Habs would have to press more offensively and relax their defense-first philosophy, and in turn give Washington more chances to open things up.

So the first period, once again, will be huge. The Caps can't come out flat. They have to score early to get Montreal off its game.

And in a Game 7, the stars have to show up. Ovie, we're looking in your direction. If you want to be known for more than just a regular-season superstar, this is your game. Score and be a leader. All eyes will be on you.

Boudreau realizes this is another opportunity for Ovechkin's reputation to grow.

"I mean, people love Alex Ovechkin stories, and if he was to rise to the occasion -- and I know he will mentally; hopefully he can on the ice
-- then everybody will build that up probably twice as much as it should have been. And if he doesn't succeed, they'll build it up twice as much as it should have been in that respect, too."

No pressure, right Ovie?
 

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