Kukla's Korner Hockey
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...
from Alex Prewitt of Capitals Insider,
At the end of his first regular season atop the Washington Capitals’ front office, General Manager Brian MacLellan discussed the transformation that unfolded under his watch. Last summer, MacLellan was the surprise in-house successor to George McPhee, charged with reshaping a franchise that missed the postseason for the first time in seven years. His moves were minimal but calculated: hiring Coach Barry Trotz, three summer signings, two deadline trades. And in just his third interview session since the season began, MacLellan assessed the Metropolitan Division’s No. 2 seed, a team with home-ice advantage in the first round against the New York Islanders.
“Obviously it’s a noticeable difference in the way we play and the energy that’s brought in the room and on the ice,” he said. “It’s been fun to watch and develop throughout the year. I feel optimistic that it’s going to continue to move into the right direction and grateful that it’s happened.”
MacLellan echoed what several players have voiced in recent days: that the Capitals’ current style would lead to more postseason success. While serving as an assistant general manager, mostly in a professional scouting role, MacLellan watched Washington reach six straight postseasons but never advance beyond the second round.
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
We've all been fooled before by the regular-season Caps, who turned into pumpkins when midnight struck in the playoffs, but these guys look different this year.
"This is a different team than before," observed one NHL scout at Thursday’s game. "They’re more physical, they look heavier."
One Caps player quipped to me on the way out of the rink after Thursday's morning skate that people were sleeping on his team.
"We're going to surprise people in the playoffs," said the player,
Thing is, I’m not sure anyone is sleeping on the Caps. People are taking notice.
They are indeed a heavier team. These aren't your older cousin's Caps of yesteryear, when it was all about offense. This appears to be a team that can grind out a 2-1 game in the playoffs, something that was difficult for Washington teams of the past to figure out.
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.
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