Kukla's Korner Hockey
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.
from Alex Prewitt of The Washington Post,
The Washington Capitals have told themselves there will be another day, and without question this is cemented in their minds. They feel confident there will be another game beyond the winner-take-all, loser-go-home meeting with the New York Islanders on Monday night, the seventh and last in these Eastern Conference quarterfinals. They believe they will watch the next round while playing in it themselves, not sitting on their couches at home, stewing and wondering what could have been.
They have told themselves they will meet again inside this practice facility to scheme and watch video of the New York Rangers, the opponent awaiting whichever club emerges victorious from Verizon Center, and not to conduct exit interviews. They hope they will peel another frame from their advent calendar, the one with 16 squares, the number of wins necessary to capture the Stanley Cup. Deep down, they insisted all this work wouldn’t be for naught, that what they accomplished in Coach Barry Trotz’s first season wouldn’t get overshadowed by another early-round, Game 7 exit.
They convinced themselves of these things because concentrating on anything else would be to acknowledge the alternative.
“The main thing is having no regrets,” forward Joel Ward said. “You don’t want to have any shoulda-woulda-couldas.”
from Arthur Staple of Newsday,
from Chuck Gormley of CSNWashington,
Troy Brouwer, now in his fourth season in Washington, noted that all three of his playoff series have been decided in seven games.
He said he believes that with the arrivals of coach Barry Trotz and defensemen Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen, this year’s Capitals have a better chance of closing the deal in Game 6.
“We have to find a way where we can close teams out,” Brouwer said. “I like the pedigree of our team. I like how we’re embracing the situation right now. We know tomorrow night’s going to be our toughest game in a long time because that elimination game is extremely hard to win because the other team is extremely desperate. We have that same attitude as well, because we know what it’s like to exit the playoffs early and we don’t want to be doing that again this year.”
Orpik said he’s noticed a resilience in the Capitals that has served them well in this series. He pointed to the Islanders’ first goal as an example. Several Capitals thought Islanders captain John Tavares deserved a penalty for covering the puck with his hand in the moments leading up to Josh Bailey’s early goal.
“I think a lot of teams in that situation would have panicked,” Orpik said. “I think we did a really good job staying the course and not letting a missed call rattle us.”
from Mark Herrmann of Newsday,
Now the Islanders are in a uniquely desperate situation, or desperately unique. Not only are they playing for the survival of their season, they have one game to keep Nassau Coliseum alive.
They have one last chance to give themselves more chances, one opportunity to avoid having the lights turned out forever on hockey in the only home they have ever known. If they want to seize on omens, they can look at the fact that they haven't been good at closing things out or shutting them down this postseason.
If they had been better at those skills, they would not find themselves down three games to two against the Capitals, heading into a possible elimination for themselves and their building Saturday. Looking back on it, they put themselves in this position well before the 5-1 loss in Game 5 Thursday night. They were up by two goals twice in Game 2 and let that slip away. They were up two games to one and couldn't build on it. They even jumped ahead 1-0 Thursday night.
from Dan Martin of the New York Post,
An already depleted Islanders defense was dealt another blow in the second period of Tuesday’s 2-1 overtime loss to the Capitals, when Lubomir Visnovsky had to leave the game after a crushing hit by Washington’s Tom Wilson.
Visnovsky didn’t return and the Islanders weren’t happy about the hit.
“He’s an idiot,” Kyle Okposo said of Wilson, who was hitting hard throughout the game and wound up being penalized twice nearly in succession in the second period. “That guy runs around, he hits reckless. He jumps, leaves his feet. There’s no place for that.”
Coach Jack Capuano wasn’t pleased, either.
“From the bench, from my view, [Wilson] left his feet,” Capuano said.
continued and watch the hit below...
from Katie Strang of ESPN,
Boychuk has been key in neutralizing Ovechkin and the Capitals' top line, containing the five-time Rocket Richard Trophy winner to just one goal in three games. Put plainly, the Islanders would not be up 2-1 in the series without his stellar play.
“You can see he’s played in a lot of playoff games -- his experience, his ability to contribute in all areas of the game and certainly playing a lot against [No.] 8,” Isles captain John Tavares said. “It’s a tough job, and he’s been doing a great job for us.”
Matching up against Ovechkin, who has also played the past two games with dynamic playmaking center Nicklas Backstrom, is a top assignment and a daunting one, but it’s also one Boychuk takes pride in doing.
After all, that’s why he’s here.
“It’s playoffs. You have to shut down the top line on the other team and the top players. If you don’t, you’re going to be going home,” Boychuk said. “And no one wants to go home.”
“We didn’t deserve it. What’d we have, 13 or 15 shots or whatever after two periods? That’s not going to get it done, even though we had the lead. We’ve got to put pucks on net, we’ve got to make their D turn, we’ve got to make their goalie work. You could see when we started doing some good things and played down low we got some offensive zone time, but too little too late.”
-Jack Capuano, head coach of the New York Islanders after a 4-3 loss to the Washington Capitals. More on the game from Stephen Lorenzo of the NY Daily News.
from Alex Prewitt of Capitals Insider,
“The result is that we look like a slow team,” forward Brooks Laich said. “It has to get better.”
“If we turn the puck over against them, they’re really good in transition and they made us pay a few times,” defenseman Brooks Orpik said.
“We’re a quick team and we’re playing slow,” forward Troy Brouwer said. “Those types of frustration is what we’re not happy with.”
The Capitals had entered the playoffs preaching a “heavy” game built on pressuring forechecks and thundering hits, and instead the Islanders glided around them like red-sweatered cones. Their breakouts fizzled inside the neutral zone. Their passes sailed wide of their targets. On two occasions, ordinarily sure-handed skaters lost possession at the offensive blue line and forced themselves to regroup, without any opponents within striking distance.
Watch the game highlights below...
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