Capitals-Bruins closest series ever

Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin (second left) celebrates his goal against the Bruins with teammates...

Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin (second left) celebrates his goal against the Bruins with teammates during Game 3 of their NHL Eastern Conference quarterfinal series at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., April 16, 2012. (LARRY DOWNING/Reuters)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:28 PM ET

BOSTON - Why wouldn't the closest, most tightly-contested playoff matchup the NHL has ever seen end up in a nail-biting, gut-wrenching, heartstopping Game 7?

Did you expect anything less? Really?

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, never before has there been a Stanley Cup post-season series in which the first six games were each decided by a single goal prior to this first-round clash between the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals.

Chicago and Phoenix had the opportunity to equal that mark in their Game 6 on Monday after the first five games had been one-goal decisions. But Phoenix's 4-0 series-clinching win squashed that possibility, leaving the Caps and Bruins in the record books heading into Game 7 at the TD Garden Wednesday night.

When informed Tuesday that this clash had made hockey history, Bruins goalie Tim Thomas wasn't surprised.

"It's fitting we go to a deciding game," Thomas said.

Even 39-year-old Caps forward Mike Knuble, a veteran of 59 career playoff games, has never experienced anything like this.

"You can't say that one team has outclassed another team on any night," Knuble said. "Very easily somebody could have swept it 4-0, somebody could have won it 4-1, 4-2. But here we are 3-3. It's about who is going to get that break at the end.

"It's a big mystery (Wednesday), you know? It's almost more mysterious than anything. It's like, who is going to get that break? Who is going to get the final bounce?"

For those in Canada who haven't been able to see much of this series on the tube because of scheduling conflicts with the Ottawa-Rangers series, here's a quick look at the good, the bad and the wild of a truly compelling six games.

THE NUMBERS GAME

- Three of the six games have been decided in overtime.

- Two others featured the winning goal being scored in the game's final two minutes.

- Both teams have scored 14 goals.

- In more than 19 periods of hockey, there has been only one two-goal lead, that one held by the Caps in Game 5. It only lasted two minutes, 54 seconds.

- Both Thomas and rookie Caps goalie Braden Holtby have goals-against averages of 2.18. Holtby's save percentage is .935; Thomas's is .922.

- Both teams are 1-2 on home ice.

WATCH THIS!

While those in the Great White North have, at times, been forced to tune into CHEX Peterboro to see some of these games, hockey fans here in the U.S. have been watching in record numbers.

Boston's 4-3 overtime win Sunday on NBC drew 3.52 million viewers, making it the most-watched NHL playoff game (excluding Stanley Cup final games) in 15 years. The previous high came on May 25, 1997 (Rangers-Flyers conference final, Fox, 3.61 million viewers).

Boston (16.3 rating) and Washington, D.C. (8.6) both registered the best rating for an NHL playoff game (excluding Stanley Cup Final games) in their respective local markets in Nielsen People Meter history (dating back to 1993).

PAIN IN THE GLASS

Imagine the shock of Bruins forward David Krejci when his celebration of Chris Kelly's overtime winner in Game 1 was soured by a pane of glass that raucous TD Garden fans banged loose, sending it crashing down on Krejci's head.

Scary stuff. Fortunately he was not seriously injured.

HERE COMES THE PREZ!

You've got to hand it to those inventive Caps fans who greeted Thomas's arrival on the ice for Game 3 at the Verizon Center with four-foot cutouts of President Barack Obama's head.

'Twas a brilliant gesture to mock the Bruins goalie for skipping the team's visit to the White House earlier this year.

SAY WHAT?

Caps coach Dale Hunter's claim that Nicklas Backstrom's crosscheck to Rich Peverley's head at the end of Game 3 was a defensive action to protect himself, well, that was a head scratcher.

So, too, was Brad Marchard's insistence that he doesn't dive (at least to his critics, anyway).

But the coup de grace was when Caps owner Ted Leonsis, responding to Backstrom's subsequent one-game suspension, alleged that "the defending Stanley Cup champs will always get the benefit of the doubt" from the league.

Memo to the NHL police: If that's not worthy of a fine, what is?

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/zeisberger


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