Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post,
There’s no less desperation. There can’t be when the Rangers have their backs against the wall yet again, and will continue to be staring the offseason in the face unless they can wrangle out two more consecutive wins.
Game 6 of this second-round series against the Capitals is Sunday night at Verizon Center, and the Blueshirts still are down in the best-of-seven, 3-2. But there is less frustration boiling inside their locker room following Friday’s miraculous 2-1 overtime win in Game 5 at the Garden, when they trailed 1-0 until Chris Kreider scored with 1:41 remaining in the third period and Ryan McDonagh won it 9:37 into the extra period.
“I think the way we won, certainly isn’t ideal,” alternate captain Derek Stepan said on Saturday afternoon at the team’s D.C. hotel, having the day off practice. “We just have to continue to find ways to score goals and continue to find ways to create offense.”
That has been the theme of this series: The Capitals have thwarted the Rangers’ potent offense, third-best in the league during the regular season, limiting them to seven goals through the first five games. Part of that has been the outstanding play of Washington goalie Braden Holtby, as well as the Capitals’ defensemen crowding shooting lanes and blocking shots by the bushel.
The Rangers struggled to cope with all of their terrific scoring opportunities going for naught. It’s not as if they had played bad hockey in going down 3-1, but they were not being rewarded, creating a built-up frustration.
from Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post,
These aren’t hockey games any longer, but something else entirely, something more visceral, something more vicious, something more exhausting. These are endless sessions on a treadmill with the speed on 12 and the grade on 5. These are water-polo wrestling matches, hard on the stomach, harder on the lungs, hardest on the heart.
In March, in the one-and-done NCAA Tournament, we often hear that old chestnut Jimmy Valvano dreamed up years ago: survive and advance. In March, in the NCAAs, that’s supposed to be a metaphor.
In May, in these NHL playoffs, as far as the Rangers are concerned?
It may not be literal.
But it sure seems literal.
And so it was that a stuffed Madison Square Garden learned to breathe again a few minutes past 10 o’clock Friday night. Nine minutes and 37 seconds into overtime, maybe half an hour after the Rangers appeared ready to lie in state, they were instead exploding off their bench, rushing toward Ryan McDonagh, speeding toward Sunday night.
Watch the game highlights below...
from Alex Prewitt of The Washington Post,
As Niskanen uncorked a shot from just inside New York’s zone, forwards Joel Ward and Derek Stepan jostled for space in the crease. When Lundqvist inched up to make the save, the puck struck Ward’s shoulder, looped over Lundqvist and settled into the net. Ward hopped into the air and pumped his fists, until he turned around and saw the official waving off the goal. Ward and Alex Ovechkin howled and pointed at the video screen, begging the officials to check the replay, but the rule stood.
“The goaltender wasn’t allowed to play his position in the crease,” said the pool report from series officiating manager Rob Shick. “Incidental contact [by Ward]. I support the call. Results in no goal, no penalty.”
“We felt obviously he was pushed in,” Trotz said. “But they made the call and that was it. We just deal with it and move on.”
more on the game...
Watch the waived-off goal below...
from Michael Traikos at the National Post,
Wearing a pair of flip flops, board shorts and a team hoodie, Barry Trotz casually strolled up to the dais at the Washington Capitals practice facility and broke out in a big open-mouthed yawn.
It was a long night, the head coach said with a sleepy-eyed smile. Couldn’t get to bed.
Was he, someone asked, up late basking in the glow of Wednesday night’s 2-1 win in Game 4, which nudged the New York Rangers on the edge of elimination and put the Capitals one more win away from a berth in the conference final?
Trotz, who gave his team the day off on Thursday, shook his head.
“There was no basking,” he said. “Too soon for that.”
He might have to wait until after Game 5 on Friday night for that. Then again, Trotz and the Capitals are not taking anything for granted. Not in a series where every game has been decided by one goal, where New York’s top snipers — Rick Nash, Chris Kreider and Martin St. Louis — have been suspiciously quiet and where goaltending has been the nightly difference between a win and a loss.
from Larry Brooks of the New York Post,
The Rangers need to try to win this game, not avoid losing it. They have to be aggressive, they have to pressure the Capitals, and they have to use their speed to disrupt even if the wheels in motion aren’t creating enough scoring chances. There has to be desperation in front of Braden Holtby that forces the goaltender to make second and — what a concept — third saves.
Oh, and if the Rangers get one goal, then Henrik Lundqvist has to find the way to make it stand up, the way he did in the 1-0 clincher against Montreal last year.
Of course that was then and this is now. But the Rangers’ created an identity for themselves last spring. That was the genesis of 2014-15.
It started with a vow back in September at camp, or maybe last June in L.A.. The Rangers have to be better, every one of them does, but it would be stunning if this is not their best game of the playoffs.
Until they say it, it isn’t over. And it is impossible to believe those words would ever come out of the Rangers’ mouths.
from Justin Terranova of the New York Post,
NBC Sports analyst Pierre McGuire breaks down what the Rangers have to do to get back into their series with the Capitals with The Post’s Justin Terranova.
Q: Has this been a Rangers breakdown or do the Capitals deserve the credit?
A: The Rangers have done a lot of really good things, but the Capitals have done a fantastic job of blocking shots and [Braden] Holtby hasn’t given up a lot of second-chance opportunities. The Rangers have had a lot of trouble scoring on the power play all playoff long, and even during the season it was a problem.
Q: What can the Rangers do to combat what the Capitals are doing to slow down the game?
A: What the Rangers did at the end of Game 3 and all of Game 4 is really jump their defense up, to try and create offense and some different cycle situations in the zone by being aggressive with their defensemen. And it’s really helped. They had some glorious scoring opportunities just because Alain Vigneault deployed some of those strategies. It just comes down to finding a way to beat Holtby. It’s hard to score because of the way the Capitals close down shooting lanes and the way they block shots. I do think the Rangers can find a way to do that, and I do expect this to be a long series.
from Katie Strang of ESPN,
If you’re not scoring when it really counts, don’t expect to slink away unscathed.
“It’s true, but that’s the way it is,” Nash said when asked about the intense scrutiny he’s facing this postseason. “The high-paid guys that are supposed to score are supposed to in the playoffs. When that doesn’t happen, this is to be expected.”
Nash was dutiful in trotting out Tuesday afternoon to field reporters' questions, many of which were different versions of those that followed the Rangers’ 1-0 loss in Game 3. Game 4 is Wednesday night here, with the Caps up 2-1 in the series.
In his even-keeled, unassuming way, Nash said all the right things.
He said that he isn't satisfied with simply playing well. That he’s got to be better. That it’s only whether the team wins or loses that really matters to him.
The Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers currently face uphill climbs in their respective series, if either want to return the Eastern Conference Final, they’ll need to step it up.
from Larry Brooks of the New York Post,
The Rangers are going to dance — and maybe that’s the operative word — with the ones who brung ’em to the league’s best record. They’re not going to become a half-court team now. But they’re going to need more. They’re not going to win 11 more games wringing blood out of a stone.
Nash needs to score. St. Louis, brought here at a great cost to be a game-breaking scorer, needs to finish before he’s finished. Keith Yandle, also brought here at great cost, can’t possibly continue to play as indecisively and ineffectively as he has in this series.
This is the player for whom the Rangers sacrificed a first-rounder and their top prospect? It can’t be. It simply cannot be.
Derek Stepan, whose numbers mean he’s in for $6 million next year, has to find the way to make a consistent impact in the offensive zone. He needs to win pucks. Ryan McDonagh hasn’t come close to the level of excellence expected of him. The captain needs to use his legs to create some space for himself.
And Vigneault himself has to be willing to adjust to the moment. Specifically, the coach needs to get Dominic Moore, one of the select few Blueshirts whose game is built for the grind of the playoffs, into a top-nine assignment, and maybe onto the power play.
from Alex Prewitt of Capitals Insider at the Washington Post,
The fortress erected by the Washington Capitals, the one built to protect their stonewalling goaltender, contained a gauntlet of traps guarding the front gate. They hurled bodies at airborne pucks, clogging shooting lanes and shuttering windows of opportunity for the New York Rangers. They boxed out with their butts and cleared rebounds with their sticks, ushering traffic away. They had always held the utmost confidence in Braden Holtby, because no sane person would consider otherwise, but when chaos came knocking at Verizon Center, even the NHL’s active leader in postseason save percentage needed help.
“It’s something we’ve been working on all year, just boxing out and trying to make sure that Holts can see the puck,” forward Jay Beagle said. “Whether it’s trying to block a shot, there’s a lot of stuff that we’ve gone over this year that we’ve changed just a little bit to his liking to give him the best chance to see the puck and not to become a screen. Our ‘D’ have been unreal in front of him.”
Three games into these Eastern Conference quarterfinals, a fluky bounce off two skates the only separation in Washington’s 1-0 victory and thus a 2-1 series lead, the Capitals have withstood slow starts, prolonged defensive-zone shifts and the Rangers’ speed. They have relied on Holtby, who made another 30 saves for his second career postseason shutout – both against New York, in this building, with the calendar reading May 4 — but also on themselves, trusting their system to steer them through the harrowing waters of close games.
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
Email Paul anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org