The Rangers win over Washington gave them back-to-back Game 7 wins and a trip to the East final against rival New Jersey. (Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)
The NHL Playoff Recap gives you THN's take of what happened in each game of the night and what the consequences will be for the rest of the series.
We also provide our Three Stars of the night, which will be tabulated after each round. First Star is three points, Second Star is two points and Third Star is one point. Be sure to vote on who you think the first star was as well.
Of course there's the other side of the coin: The Black Hole is a piece of the lineup that just couldn't get it going on a given night and contributed to a difficult evening for the team.
THN’s Take: New York, New York. You haven’t done it the easy way, but for all the times you’ve been counted out - or at least in trouble – you’ve persevered.
The Rangers have faced elimination three times this post-season and won all of them by a single goal. It’s the style of this team. And though they aren’t on the roll New Jersey is after stomping Philadelphia, it’s really hard to ignore or not be impressed with what the Rangers have done.
Sure, they were a No. 1 seed that went the distance with its conferences two lowest-ranked teams, but the playoffs are all about the big moments. The Rangers have a few proven big-moment players (Ruslan Fedotenko, Brad Richards) and even more who have quickly entered that realm (Ryan McDonagh, Michael Del Zotto), which bodes well for the next time they face a hole.
It’s fair to question the durability of the their leading minute-muchers, such as Dan Girardi, Marc Staal and McDonagh, because of the two long series they’ve been through. But heart and character are important intangibles this time of year and the Rangers have no shortage of either, with a coach who can bring it out.
Washington’s exit is even more crushing because they tried a new way of winning this post-season and earned accolades from all over, but looking back now this team didn’t achieve anything more than previous years.
The Capitals have a number of offense-minded players up for contract renewal (Alex Semin, Mike Green). The decisions made on them will impact just how similar next year’s team is to the one we saw under Dale Hunter, whose own future is uncertain. If any roster spot was won, though, it was certainly Braden Holtby in net.
As Ken Campbell wrote Friday Alex Ovechkin should be commended for allowing maturation in his game and can’t be slighted for being stuffed by such a skilled defensive team. But that’s little consequence for a guy whose career will always be tied to Sidney Crosby’s and is left going home early again.
1. Brad Richards – Patiently found the open ice in scoring the game’s first goal less than two minutes. Richards’ Conn Smythe experience was leaned on with 22:03 of ice and took a game-high 24 faceoffs, winning 14 (58 percent).
2. Henrik Lundqvist – Turning aside 23 shots isn’t the most difficult challenge King Henrik has faced, but there were a few times Washington was carrying the play where he had to make a flexible save.
3. Michael Del Zotto – His reemergence continues with a two-point performance, including the winning goal, and 23:16 of ice time in such a pivotal game.
Who do you think was the first star?
The Black Hole: Alexander Semin was a minus-2 and pointless in the biggest game of the year. He had been a black hole for most of the playoffs, as he logged on point in this series and hasn’t scored since April 21. He did nothing to enhance his value as an unrestricted free agent in the NHL and you have to wonder if we won’t see him in the NHL for a while, if ever again.