Alex Ovechkin (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals have gone from a 3-1 series stranglehold against the New York Rangers to heading back to Madison Square Garden in New York for Game 7. Ovechkin's solution? Confidence. The Capitals captain told media that Washington is going to win Game 7 following Sunday's 4-3 Game 6 loss.
In New York Rangers lore, "The Guarantee" brings forth memories of Mark Messier calling his shot before Game 6 of the 1993-94 Eastern Conference final against the New Jersey Devils and putting the team on his back with a natural hat trick in the third period en route to a 4-2 win. If it's up to Alex Ovechkin, the Rangers will be on the other side of a guarantee come Wednesday.
With Sunday's 4-3 loss to New York still fresh in his mind, Ovechkin met with media following Game 6 and delivered his version of the Messier Guarantee.
"We're going to come back and win the series," Ovechkin told CSN's Chuck Gormley post-game, before adding that Washington will move on to play whoever wins the second-round series between Montreal and Tampa Bay.
Though it may seem strange for Ovechkin to use the words "come back" to describe what the Capitals have to do against the Rangers, it might be a fitting term. As far as momentum goes, Washington did their best to take it back at the end of Game 6 by nearly staging a comeback, but New York has rattled off two straight wins and now has the Capitals looking for a way to win at Madison Square Garden in Game 7.
What makes Ovechkin's guarantee -- or confidence in a Washington victory, if you will -- more interesting is that he hasn't found the back of the net or the score sheet in any of the past four games. In Game 5, he was even limited to just two shots on goal, nothing considering he has averaged more than four shots per game this post-season.
Much the same as Messier's guarantee was one of the defining moments of his career, Ovechkin outright stating that Washington will be playing the winner of the series between the Lightning and Canadiens could be one of those moments associated with him forever. Like Ovechkin, though, Washington coach Barry Trotz said he believes in his group because of their character.
"I know this team has got a lot of character," Trotz said in his post-game meeting with media. "They've showed it all year. Probably not the path, when you're up 3-1, that you want to take...I know this team very, very well and it's got a tremendous amount of character."
Oddly, this is the third time since the 2004-05 lockout the Rangers and Capitals will meet in a seventh game to decide playoff series.
In 2008-09, the two teams squared off in a first-round series that saw Washington exit with a 4-3 series victory. The other two meetings, in 2011-12 and 2012-13, were won by New York in seven games in the second and first round, respectively.
If Ovechkin can manage a Messier-esque feat and record a trio of goals, there's little doubt that the Capitals will be moving on to the Eastern Conference final. But if he's held off the board again, it could very well mean the end of what looked to be a promising Capitals' run.