By Dan Steinberg
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
PITTSBURGH, May 11 -- With three of its biggest stars sharing one second-round stage, the NHL has relentlessly promoted this Washington Capitals-Pittsburgh Penguins series, and the results have been promising. FSN Pittsburgh earned a massive 21.38 rating for Saturday's Game 5, the highest-rated NHL game on any FSN regional sports network. Versus recorded a 1.2 rating during its national telecast of Game 2, making that the highest-rated and most-watched second-round game on cable since 2002.
Which is why, in the chaotic aftermath of the Capitals' 5-4 overtime win Monday night, players from both teams joked that the decision-makers must be happy.
"I mean, there was a lot of [hype] before the series started, and it's everything it was made up to be," Sidney Crosby said. "Let's just say I'm not surprised it's going seven."
"I think league wants us to play seven games, Pittsburgh-Washington, so they got it," Alex Ovechkin added. "Fans probably happy, too."
The superstars story line, in particular, has smashed any reasonable expectations. Ovechkin, Crosby and Evgeni Malkin top the list of playoff point-scorers, in that order, and are each in the top five in goals and assists. Half of the games in this series have been decided in overtime, and five of the six games have been decided by a single goal.Green Sticks It Out
For much of this series, Mike Green hasn't looked like the defenseman who led the NHL in scoring; it turns out that his equipment had actually changed.
Early in Game 1, Green broke the last of his discontinued Easton Stealths -- the stick the slick-skating defenseman used to rack up 31 goals and 73 points in the regular season. For the rest of that game and the next two, "I felt like I was stickhandling for the first time again," Green said.
"It takes a couple of games," Green added, referring to the process of getting used to the heavier and stiffer Easton S17 stick. "It's weird how that happens."
Green took extra care of the 15 Stealths he had at the start of the season, hoping that batch would last him through the playoffs. After running out and switching sticks in Game 1, Green failed to score in the next four games and had a plus/minus rating of minus-3. He said that he's finally getting accustomed to the different feel. Even after Capitals staffers drove Green's last remaining Stealth -- which had been destined for the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto -- to Pittsburgh Monday night, he chose to stay with his newer equipment.
Alexander Semin has been another target of criticism after failing to score in the first six games of this series. Pittsburgh fans carried signs mocking Semin and Green Monday night, saying they were "missing" and "last seen in New York."Brashear Inactive
After completing his six-game suspension, Donald Brashear traveled with the team to Pittsburgh and participated in the morning skate but was inactive, allowing minor league call-up Jay Beagle to make his third straight appearance.
The Capitals are 3-1 with Brashear in the lineup this postseason and 4-5 without his services, but the enforcer said he was no longer frustrated by his suspension.
"That's just the way it goes, you know?" he said. "I don't live in the past."