Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Sally Jenkins of The Washington Post,
Based on their 2-1 victory over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night in the opening game of their Eastern Conference semifinal series, they are finally trending in the right direction. This is now a full on bona fide trend: The Caps are winning the close ones even when they don’t play great. They met a physical opponent and out-toughed them and won the mental battle, too, losing their 1-0 lead late in the final period only to rally and win on that gasp-inducing buzzer-beater by Joel Ward, a goal that sucked all the beery breath out of the Garden crowd.
“We were relentless,” Holtby said.
What was so interesting was that the Capitals didn’t start well. They had to work their way into the idea of winning this game. In fact, at first they couldn’t even find the puck. The Rangers were simply faster — at everything. Their hands were quicker, sticks were quicker. They made ice chips fly with their skating. The Rangers played as if they took Coach Alain Vigneault literally when he said of this series, “It’s a race to four. First team that gets to four wins.”
from Larry Brooks of the New York Post,
There couldn’t be a more sudden hockey death than the one the Rangers suffered at the Garden in Thursday’s stunning 2-1 defeat to the Capitals on Joel Ward’s goal from in front with 1.3 seconds remaining in regulation.
After all, it was just about that time to kick back and wait for overtime in Game 1, but the Rangers kicked back too early and the Caps had no interest in waiting, which could be why Nicklas Backstrom showed no compunction at all in leveling Dan Boyle into the right corner wall from behind to trigger the sequence that ended with the puck in Henrik Lundqvist’s net.
The Blueshirts have a kick, all right, on the non-call against Backstrom, but this has been a playoff tournament replete with referees swallowing their whistles, presumably under an NHL dictate. The act of hitting from behind has largely been codified.
But that doesn’t get the Rangers off the hook for this one. That doesn’t get the team off the hook for an ordinary effort that might not have been good enough in December or January and wasn’t even close to good enough on the final night of April.
There should have been a penalty called against Backstrom, but the greater misfeasance belonged to the Blueshirts, who seemed to freeze at the lack of a whistle, and presented no opposition to the ensuing winning play on which Alex Ovechkin’s beauty of a centering feed against the grain found Ward all alone to the goaltender’s left.
Watch the game highlights below...
Joel Ward with the goal and the Rangers were not happy with the hit on Dan Boyle.
added 10:32pm, NBCSN version is below...
from Zach Braziller of the New York Post,
The Capitals aren’t talking like heavy underdogs. They enter the Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Thursday night at the Garden saying this is just as much their series to win as the favored Rangers.
“Statistically, media-wise, obviously we’re the underdog, but I don’t believe anyone in here looks at it as far as being overmatched,” Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby said. “The league now is so close. You look at the last playoffs, it really doesn’t matter where you finish. It’s how you play, how you prepare. It’s something that doesn’t really cross your mind.
“We believe we can beat any team in the league. I’m sure everyone does, every team. We know that chances were we had to go through the Rangers to accomplish our goal. It’s not a shock to us. It’s not like we’re intimidated by any teams. We respect them a lot, but if you’re going to win, you have to beat the best regular season-wise. They were the best. We’re ready for the challenge.”
Capitals forward Tom Wilson, who drew the ire of the Islanders for his controversial hit on defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky that resulted in a concussion in the opening round, expects the series to be heated, with plenty of trash talking and physical play.
from Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post,
There was a fascinating technical breakdown on how to defend Ovechkin from Rangers’ captain Ryan McDonagh, who knows what to expect from the Russian winger whom he and partner Dan Girardi will see a lot this series.
Ovechkin led the league with 53 regular-season goals — 10 more than second-place finisher Steven Stamkos — and lining up on the left wing, he primarily will square off against the right-sided (and right-handed) Girardi. But that doesn’t mean Girardi is left alone to try and shut him down.
“He likes to make that move where he carries it in and makes a move to his forehand,” McDonagh said. “If anything, you want to try and support Dan in the aspect of maybe trying to take that ice away from him. If there’s a two-on-two situation or a one-on-two situation, he likes to get ahead of his guy sometimes. So if I can recognize that and it’s kind of them two on an island, hopefully I can come over and kind of cut that ice out for him so maybe he’s forced to go to his backhand or shoot it before he makes that move.”
Ovechkin may have his go-to moves, but McDonagh also is fully aware that is not the limit of his repertoire.
“He’s a world-class talent,” McDonagh said. “He’s got plenty of ways to be effective out there.”
from Ted Leonsis of Ted's Take,
Home ice advantage paid off in a big way last night.
Our fans were magnificent. Loud, proud, and supportive and caring and happy!
I am so very grateful to all of you. It was a sea of RED, and there was a positive vibe and an air of confidence in the building all night. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
The series was as advertised. So close, so competitive. The Islanders have a great young team, and had to over come much adversity, the series couldn't have been much more competitive and I am so very grateful that the Caps won the series as our fan base is so deserved to continue to see NHL play off hockey into May.
from Dan Steinberg of DC Sports Bog,
The Capitals took a new slogan into this spring. It sounds like a cliche — okay, it is a cliche — but that didn’t matter.
“I hear it all the time,” Joel Ward said after Washington’s series-clinching 2-1 win over the Islanders on Monday night.
“Going through the battle instead of going around it,” Nicklas Backstrom said, repeating the slogan.
Backstrom said the whole team uses it. But the phrase’s most colorful deployment came a few moments earlier, when Coach Barry Trotz addressed his team with the doors closed.
“We talked about going through it instead of around it,” Trotz told his players, in footage posted by Monumental Network. “We went [expletive] through it today, okay? You got a little test there today when they got it 1-1. There was no doubt. There was no [expletive] doubt.”
I lost count of the bleeps after 4....
Capitals defeated the New York Islanders 2-1 in game 7 and will now play the New York Rangers.
from Allan Muir of Sports Illustrated,
There’s no telling how tonight’s decisive Game 7 between the Islanders and Capitals will play out, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone that their first-round series got to this point.
There was little to distinguish these Metropolitan Divison rivals, results-wise, during the regular season. Both ended up with 101 points. Both won a combined 40 games in regulation and overtime. Both were strong on the road, picking up 22 victories. They were so close that home ice for this game had to be decided by a count of points gained in head-to-head play, the NHL's third tiebreaker. The Caps earned the edge, 6-5, on the strength of a shootout win over the Isles on Feb. 21.
Maybe that will pay off for the Capitals tonight. Or not.
In fact, losing that game might have been the best thing that could have happened to the Islanders, at least if recent history counts for anything.
Six series went to a seventh game during last spring’s tournament. Five of them were won by the visiting team, though home clubs hold an all-time mark of 91-65.
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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