Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Katie Strang of ESPN,
Plenty of pundits predicted Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist would give the Rangers the definitive edge in goal, but that hasn’t been the case. Plenty also anticipated that Holtby might wear down after a heavy workload during this regular season -- a career-high 73 starts, 25 straight heading into the postseason. But that hasn’t been true, either.
Instead, Holtby has been resolute between the pipes for the Caps, steadying the team with his signature sense of calm, one that comes across as an almost Zen-like presence on the ice.
It’s that even-keel equanimity that he exudes even the day before one of the biggest, if not the biggest, games of his life, as he essentially shrugs off any questions about the enormousness of the moment.
"It’s just another game," Holtby said after the team’s practice Tuesday. "The game doesn’t change. The circumstances outside of it do. I do what I enjoy doing, and that’s playing hockey. Circumstances aside, I expect the top level in myself of every game I play, so tomorrow’s just another challenge."
Beyond that cool, collected, unaffected demeanor is also a fierce competitor, teammates will assure you.
from Larry Brooks of the New York Post,
So here we are for the third time in the last two years and the sixth time in the last four springs. Here we are at Game 7.
Here we are at Rangers Time.
But what we’ll get from the Blueshirts in Wednesday’s winner-take-all showdown against the Capitals is what we’ll see on the Garden ice, and not what we’ll hear leading up to the match.
For though the Rangers are confident as they seek to extend their season and their Game 7 record to 6-0 since 2012 (and 3-0 in that span against Washington), there is neither bombast nor the need to verbally respond to Alex Ovechkin’s post-Game 6 remarks in which he foretold a Caps victory.
“You’re not going to get any guarantees coming out of this room,” Chris Kreider told The Post after Tuesday’s practice. “That’s not our style.”
The style, which took root before Alain Vigneault took over behind the bench last year but which perfectly suits the coach, is low-key. No one in the room feels compelled to stir the drink.
from Don Brennan of the Ottawa Sun at the Toronto Sun,
If history counts for anything, the New York Rangers will soon be on their way to the Eastern Conference final.
Owners of a stunning 13-3 record in elimination games since 2012, the Blueshirts have played five Game 7s over that stretch.
They’ve won them all.
Oh, and they are also a perfect 6-0 in Game 7s at Madison Square Garden all-time.
“There’s no doubt I have a lot of confidence in this group’s individual preparation and the team’s preparation,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said on a conference call with reporters Monday, a day in which both teams rested and stayed clear of the rink. “This group has done it many times, in many important moments, and hopefully we’ll be able to continue to do it.
“There’s no doubt experience, and positive experience, helps in the preparation and your mental state. There’s still a lot of individual work that needs to go into getting yourself ready, and they need to do that Wednesday.”
“Let’s talk about the Caps losing Friday and Sunday. Losing Friday in New York, which might well have been expected. Losing last night, which was not expected. Losing last night at home, fighting back, from 2-0 and 4-1, but not getting there. Not getting there, threw 45 shots on Henrik Lundqvist, and didn’t get enough goals. Didn’t do it. Lost the game. There are people in town who are going to tell you this is not a choke. And it’s not yet. It’s not a choke yet. There are people in town who are going to tell you it’s a very, very close series. And you know, the Rangers came in with more points, better team all year. That’s all true. But if you go 3-1 up and then you lose that series. The only way mathematically you can lose it is to lose three games in a row. That’s all there is.”
“You lose three games in a row in the playoffs when you had established dominance, if you lose three games in a row to whomever you lose it, you’re a choking dog. And there’s no other way of looking at that.”
-well known sports personality Tony Kornheiser. More at the Washington Post.
from Larry Brooks of the New York Post,
No team in the history of the Stanley Cup playoffs has ever come back from 3-1 deficits to win best-of-sevens in back to back seasons.
But now, the Rangers get the chance to make that history. The Rangers get to try to pull off the Houdini escape act they pulled last year against Pittsburgh in Round 2 again on Wednesday, when they will play Game 7 against the Caps at the Garden.
They have made it this far, have made it back to Game 7 in the wake of Sunday’s 4-3 victory here in which Henrik Lundqvist’s spectacular 42-save performance prevented the sky from falling on the Blueshirts, who nearly conspired to blow an early 4-1 period lead.
But they did not blow the lead. They would not go down. Lundqvist would not allow it.
Now, it is the day after tomorrow that is another day.
Game 7. A chance to make history.
A chance to survive.
“I’m exhausted,” Lundqvist, his face bearing a sheen of sweat under a Broadway Hat appearing as battered as the goaltender, said after surviving an onslaught over the final 15:35 after his team took a three-goal lead.
from Katie Strang of ESPN,
from Michael Traikos at the National Post,
You need players of all shapes and sizes and salary structures to make contributions in the playoffs. As Trotz continues to say during this post-season, “we’re looking for a new hero every night.” And yet, every year, the same cliché rings true: you only go as far as your best players will take you.
In Games 1 and 2, Ovechkin was a monster in Manhattan. He terrorized the city like he was King Kong, scoring twice on goals that had even New York fans shaking their heads at in disbelief, and setting up a game-winner right before the buzzer. But since then, the Rangers defence has tamed him.
Ovechkin, who has 11 shots in the past three games, has not exactly been invisible. Far from it, actually. Every time he is on the ice, like when he uncorked a wrist shot that handcuffed Lundqvist on Friday night, there is the possibility that something special will happen, that he will change the course of the game with a get-them-out-of-their-seats goal.
“He’s been dangerous the whole series,” said Rangers centre Derek Stepan. “He’s been really good for them. His two goals in Games 1 and 2 were something that we have to try to continue to limit, because he’s going to get his looks.”
Ovechkin is getting his looks. But with no points in Games 3, 4 and 5, he is starting to mirror the performance he had two years ago against the Rangers, where he stormed out of the gates with a goal and an assist in Games 1 and 2, and then went missing in action as the Capitals were shutout in Games 6 and 7.
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.
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.
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