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Caps should hold heads high in defeat

by Brian Compton / NHL.com
A few thoughts while we congratulate the Washington Capitals on an inspiring season:

Alex Ovechkin and head coach Bruce Boudreau took the Washington Capitals and their fans on a wild ride during the 2007-08 season. Video
A Season To Remember – In the end, what the Washington Capitals were able to accomplish this season was nothing short of remarkable.

A 6-14-1 record at Thanksgiving. A new coach with zero experience at the NHL level. A seven-game winning streak to finish the regular season – just to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Yes sir, what Bruce Boudreau, Alex Ovechkin and the rest of the Capitals gave the hockey world this season was indeed memorable. And this could just be the very beginning. Ovechkin – who scored 65 goals during the regular season – will turn 23 during Washington’s next training camp. Mike Green showed signs that he will be a premier defenseman in this League for years to come. Alexander Semin proved he can pick up the slack when Ovechkin is struggling during those 12 seconds per year.

Sure, the 3-2 overtime loss on home ice to the Philadelphia Flyers will sting in the coming weeks and months. But who would have thought the Caps would be playing a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs five months ago? How about three months ago?

''It's hard,'' Ovechkin said of the series loss, ''but it's good experience for us.''

And it was an experience Boudreau won’t ever forget. After spending his entire coaching career in the minors, the Jack Adams Award favorite (at least in my mind) finally made the big time this season. His “interim” tag was shredded faster than Enron’s documents. His players believed in him, and ultimately took a magic carpet ride to the Southeast Division title.

“I don’t think the disappointment will go away for a long time,” Boudreau said after Tuesday night’s loss. “They left it all out there. I told them they gave me the greatest year of my life.”

Congrats, Coach, for making hockey fans in the D.C. area smile again.

Ph-eeling Ph-ine – One year ago, they were planning for the NHL Draft after finishing with the worst record in the League.

Remarkably, the Philadelphia Flyers are now making plans for Montreal, where they’ll face the Canadiens in Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Joffrey Lupul’s overtime goal on Tuesday night made sure of that.

“It was great to see the excitement of the players and the organization, especially after last year,” said Flyers coach John Stevens, who deserves a ton of credit for this turnaround, along with GM Paul Holmgren.

“I don’t think the disappointment will go away for a long time.  They left it all out there. I told them they gave me the greatest year of my life.” - Bruce Boudreau, after Tuesday night's loss.

Martin Biron certainly played a huge role in the Flyers’ opening-round series win over Washington. The netminder stopped all 16 shots he faced in the third period on Tuesday night and finished with 39 saves overall.

''Every time you get a shot, you hope you can make that save, that next save, to buy your team a little time to get some bounces or to get on the offense,'' Biron said. ''In the third period, it was all about trying to buy some time.''

Crisis Avoided – Would heads have rolled in San Jose had the Sharks lost in Game 7 to the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night?

We’ll never know.

That’s because Ron Wilson’s club took care of business in the first Game 7 to ever be played at HP Pavilion in a 5-3 win. Veteran center Jeremy Roenick – who watched Game 6 – played a role in four of the team’s five goals. He had two goals and two assists in the victory.

San Jose will now face the Dallas Stars in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Game 1 is slated for Friday night at HP Pavilion.

"It was pretty depressing after we lost Game 6, but Ronny came up to me yesterday and said, ‘We are really counting on you,’" Roenick said. "We were very dominant tonight. We dominated three-quarters of the game and showed why we were so good in the regular season."

Flames coach Mike Keenan wasn’t surprised at all by Roenick’s performance in the biggest game of the year to date. J.R. now has six goals and eight points in six Game 7s in his 18-year NHL career.

“He stepped it up,” said Keenan, who coached Roenick with Chicago when the Blackhawks made the 1992 Stanley Cup Final against Pittsburgh. “He has responded well in Game 7s historically. He found himself in a position to make a difference, and he did.”

Contact Brian Compton at: bcompton@nhl.com.


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