Caps-Canadiens series has its share of controversies that maybe aren't so much

By Dan Steinberg
Friday, April 23, 2010

This Canadiens-Caps duel is the third first-round NHL playoff series I've experienced first hand. Each has involved at least one story line that likely failed to merit Pulitzer consideration.

Like, remember that Flyers series two years ago, when Mike Wise somehow became part of the news without even going near a frozen canal? Wise, if you've forgotten, suggested Flyers fans looked like Megadeth security guards, prompting the Flyers to attempt to pass out his column to fans and presumably encourage the fine Philadelphians to projectile vomit on any stray D.C. media members they encountered. Megadeth recorded a video for the team, random fans in Philly asked me if my name was Mike, and somewhere in there guys swung hockey sticks at a puck.

That was thoroughly trumped a year ago by the Aquafina Series, in which John Tortorella was benched for a game after he squirted a Caps fan with a water bottle and then chucked the bottle over the glass, leading Caps fans to wear ponchos to Game 7.

Sadly, when seen in the context of Megadeth PSAs and beverage projectiles, this current series' short-lived controversies have been about as controversial as a bowl of Dippin' Dots.

"We're all looking for the littlest thing to make a story out of, and what we make stories out of usually are nothing," said Caps Coach and part-time media critic Bruce Boudreau earlier in the week, when asked about some since-forgotten bit of drama. "I mean, none of these things are really print-worthy."

Anyhow, with the series potentially wrapping up Friday, I wanted to memorialize the five best pseudo-controversies of this series.

1) Tomas Plekanec, a native Czech, causes blood pressures to rise with a quote delivered in English and then translated into French. The gist of the quote is that the Caps don't have a goaltender of the caliber of Ryan Miller or Martin Brodeur. Everyone saw this as a horrible slight. As I type this, Miller and Brodeur are on the brink of first-round elimination.

2) Alex Ovechkin irritates the Canadiens by pointing out that their goalie, Jaroslav Halak, seemed to be overtaken by shaky-hand syndrome after allowing the first goal in Game 2. The replays indeed show Halak's arm quaking like a feather over Eyjafjallajokull, but the Montreal side insists such suggestions of nerves are ridiculous. By the next game, Halak gets benched.

3) Montreal Coach Jacques Martin watches the Caps practice their power play between Games 3 and 4, a perfectly legal maneuver. In response, Boudreau doesn't run through his full repertoire of tactics. BlackBerries clatter. Then the Caps score their first power-play goal of the series in the ensuing game. Someone send Martin an invitation to Friday morning's skate.

4) Habs goalie Carey Price picks up two unsportsmanlike calls in a single period Wednesday night, one for whacking Nicklas Backstrom from the bench after an empty-netter, and another for flinging the puck into a crowd of celebrating Caps.

"Just frustration," he says by way of explanation. "It's not a good move, but [you want to] let 'em know that you're there."

I'm no expert, but an alternate method of announcing your presence would be to stop the puck before it goes into the net.

5) Ovechkin draws some online venom for spraying snow on a noble Montreal youth during Wednesday's pregame skate.

No, I'm serious. You know how much a D.C. kid would pay to get sprayed by Ovechkin? This is when you know it's time for the second round.

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