Ovechkin Ejection Spoiled Hawks v Capitals... and so did losing

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After Alex Ovechkin was ejected for sending defenseman Brian Campbell to the boards during the midpoints of today's 1st period at the United Center, I was overly disappointed. All week I had been looking forward to this potential Stanley Cup preview, and without Ovechkin on the ice for the Capitals I found myself saying, "I don't care if the Hawks can beat an Oveckin-less Capitals team." Well, that ended up not mattering either.

I wanted to see the Hawks tested against the only team in the NHL to have already clinched a playoff birth. I could have dealt with them losing to that Capitals team, but not to one that didn't even have Ovechkin.

It is disappointing that Brian Campbell  was injured enough to have to leave the game, but I missed out in seeing the Hawks battle not only one of the best players in the league, but one of the best teams... and then we still found a way to lose the game. Playing against the real Capitals would have been good experience for the playoffs despite a loss, whether or not the two teams meet again at the end of the road. Perhaps this will snap the Hawks up and get them focused again on finishing games.

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The Hawks lost 4-2 to WSH last year

I was ready to write about how it was nice to get a win today but that it was disappointing not to have seen us beat the Caps with Ovechkin. As soon as he was ejected I said we had to beat them, we couldn't stand for them to beat us without him. I just didn't think it would actually happen-- especially later after mounting up a 3-0 lead.

Unfortunately, the game was entertaining despite any of the Ovechkin craziness, so I cannot complain about that. The 3-0 Hawks lead evaporated in the 3rd period, spoiling an otherwise impressive goalie performance for the second straight day. Niemi looked good and had at least two remarkable saves, one coming in the 2nd period and the other before the Capitals eventually scored on their 5-on-3 power play. He did manage to stop a couple of potential game-winners in the final moments of regulation as well, but living through another heart-wrenching breakdown loss has overcome whatever highlights Niemi offered us today.

Although Niemi was facing a bit of an odd-man rush on the losing play in OT, marking the Hawks' first overtime (NOT shootout) loss of the season, this weekend has shown the Hawks with an inability to close games. If the team stands any chance of succeeding in the playoffs, it is going to have to rely on its defense to finish as strong as it starts by not surrendering frequent quality chances for opponents during the late stages of regulation and overtime.

Yes, I would love a better option at goalie next year, but our only chance this year is for the defense to be consistently dominant. Hopefully then we will see Niemi finish-out games with the authority he starts them with. 

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