Capitals exit playoffs with a sense of hope for a change

Henrik Lundqvist (left) and Braden Holtby (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

When it came to giving themselves the best chance at playoff success, the Washington Capitals had just about every box checked off. They had a new voice behind the bench, they had a big, grinding team that could win the battles of attrition, their superstar player was showing up, their goaltending was all-world, their secondary scoring was decent and their defense corps had a really good blend of punishers and two-way players.

Yet there they were Wednesday night, once again shaking hands at center ice as the losers of yet another playoff series, another Game 7 and another defeat at the hands of the New York Rangers. Two things have to make it particularly grinding this time around. First, the Capitals were 141 seconds away from winning the series in five games. Second, in that same game, a goal by Matt Niskanen that would have provided the margin of victory in regulation time was waived off after Derek Stepan clearly pushed Joel Ward into Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

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Suspend him or not: Brooks Orpik steamrolls Dan Boyle

Brooks Oprik and Dan Boyle. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Dan Boyle has to be happy his New York Rangers fought back from a 3-1 series deficit and booked a trip to the Eastern Conference final. Aside from that good news, though, 2014-15 hasn’t been kind to him.

Boyle broke his hand in November and missed 14 games. When he was on the ice, his age showed, and he struggled defensively on and off throughout the season. In the second round of the playoffs he took a hard hit in the corner from Nicklas Backstrom in the dying seconds of Game 1, leading to Washington’s winning goal. And then, in Game 7, Caps blueliner Brooks Orpik positively erased Boyle:

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Report says Ovechkin to join Russia at World Championship

Jared Clinton
(Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)

Alex Ovechkin isn’t going to let the sting of yet another Game 7 defeat get in the way of him heading to the Czech Republic to represent his country at the World Championship.

According to Igor Eronko of Russian outlet Sports.ru, Ovechkin is set to join team Russia tomorrow at the tournament. However, Ovechkin may not even be able to suit up for a game should Russia lose in Thursday’s quarterfinal against Sweden. Read more

Rangers complete series comeback vs. Caps with another 2-1 win in Game 7

New York forwards Derick Brassard and Derek Stepan celebrate Stepan's game-winning goal in Game 7 of the Blueshirts' 2-1 overtime win over Washington. (Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

When the Rangers went down three games to one in their second-round series against Washington, Blueshirts players and fans looked to the previous playoffs and a New York team that was resilient and came back from just such a deficit to eliminate the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games. And wouldn’t you know it – the same team, with mostly the same players, wound up doing the same thing after Wednesday’s Game 7 between the Capitals and host Rangers: the Rangers leaned on star goalie Henrik Lundqvist and squeezed out just enough offense – in this case, a game-tying goal from Kevin Hayes, and the overtime winner by Derek Stepan – to push past Washington and set up a showdown with Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference Final.

Although the Capitals once again tested Lundqvist early and often – outshooting the Blueshirts 15-10 in the opening frame and taking the first lead on captain Alex Ovechkin’s goal – New York not only stayed in it, but fought back. They outshot the Caps 24-13 in the final two regulation periods, and were the better overall possession team on the night. They gave up three power plays to Washington, but got four of their own. They were dominated by the Capitals in the faceoff circle 47-32, but beat the Caps in the takeaway department 9-1.

They weren’t the best team all night long, but the Rangers put up enough of a fight to get them to overtime. And from there, Lundqvist turned aside all eight shots he saw, and Stepan scored on the Blueshirts’ fifth shot of the extra period at 11:24 to complete the series comeback and deny Ovechkin the first trip to the Eastern Final of his 10-year NHL career. Read more

Ovechkin following through on big promise with first goal of Game 7

Caps star Alex Ovechkin scores in the first period Wednesday past Blushirts defenseman Ryan McDonagh in Game 7 of their second-round series. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Prior to Wednesday’s Game 7 between his Washington Capitals and the New York Rangers – a game he guaranteed the Caps would win – superstar winger Alex Ovechkin hadn’t had his best series. But Ovechkin went a long ways toward backing up his words at Madison Square Garden, scoring the first goal of the elimination game on a stellar snap shot.

Ovechkin didn’t produce a single point in his previous four games against the Blueshirts, but with the Caps on the verge of blowing a 3-1 series lead, their captain grabbed a pass from Marcus Johansson and scored at the 12:50 mark of the first period for his fifth playoff goal this year: Read more

Top five Game 7s in the history of the Capitals and Rangers

Stephane Matteau's Game 7 overtime winner made him a household name. (B Bennett/Getty Images)

If you haven’t heard yet, the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals are set to faceoff in Game 7 Wednesday evening for the fourth time in the history of the two clubs.

Each of the Game 7 meetings between the Capitals and Rangers have occurred within the past seven seasons, but they’re far from the first time the franchises have had to take part in a seventh-game, winner-takes-all contest. Matter of fact, the Rangers took place in the first Game 7 in NHL history when they lost a seventh game to the Boston Bruins in triple overtime for the right to move on to the Stanley Cup final.

Over the course of their nearly 100-year history, the Blueshirts have played in a total of 13 Game 7s, boasting a record of 8-5. Meanwhile, on the other side of the spectrum, the Washington Capitals have played in just as many Game 7s over their 40-year history, but have only come out on top four times.

Some of the wins for both sides – as well as some of the losses – have made for legendary NHL moments. These are the five best Game 7s that either team has participated in: Read more

Watch the cinematic trailer for Game 7 between Capitals, Rangers

(via NHL/YouTube)

In every film there has ever been about hockey, there’s one, big showdown that has to happen as the movie draws to a close. The Mighty Ducks had games against the Hawks, Iceland and the varsity team. Goon featured Doug Glatt dropping the gloves with Ross ‘The Boss’ Rhea. And Slap Shot, well, Ned Braden’s on-ice routine helps the Chiefs win the Federal League.

The climactic ending in the second-round series between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers hasn’t happened yet. But Wednesday night it’s Game 7 at Madison Square Garden and, as if it were a movie, the game has its own cinematic trailer. Read more

Lightning rely on stingy defense to beat Habs in Game 6, move on to Eastern Final

Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop and Habs counterpart Carey Price shake hands after the Lightning eliminated the Canadiens in Game 6 of their second-round series Tuesday. (Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Lightning finished the 2014-15 NHL season with the same number of wins as the Montreal Canadiens, but because Tampa Bay had two fewer regulation time losses than Montreal, the Habs won the Atlantic Division and the Bolts finished second. However, as the second-round playoff series between the two teams demonstrated, Tampa’s roster had more balance and scoring prowess and commitment to defense equal to the Canadiens’ – and at no point was that clearer than Tuesday in Game 6, when the Lightning limited Montreal’s chances and made the most of their own en route to winning the game 3-1 and sending the Habs home for the summer with a 4-2 series victory.

The Bolts held the Canadiens to just six shots in each of the first and third periods and 19 on the night. Tampa was the better possession team and only gave Montreal two power play opportunities Tuesday. And although they got a goal from star and captain Steven Stamkos, the Lightning also continued to get goals from players throughout the lineup: Nikita Kucherov opened the scoring with 4:25 left in the opening frame – one of two goals and three points he’d post in Game 6, giving him six goals and 11 points in 13 playoff games – and Ondrej Palat chipped in his third goal of the post-season.

With that type of support at both ends of the ice, Ben Bishop’s job was made easier – but you still have to give the much-maligned Bolts goalie credit for coming through when Montreal did challenge him. He certainly wasn’t perfect in the series, but Bishop didn’t wilt under the heat of the moment and allowed just five goals in Tampa’s four second-round wins. And he retained his sense of humor after the game when he made reference to a P.K. Subban comment earlier in the series:

At the other end of the ice, there was Canadiens MVP Carey Price. Unlike so many nights this season, Price couldn’t singlehandedly save the Canadiens in Game 6. But his .889 save percentage wasn’t the reason why Montreal lost. Their lack of support on offense for him is the reason for their elimination. Read more