Itâ€™ll be an Alex Ovechkin-Henrik Lundqvist showdown in Washington Thursday as the Capitals host the Rangers for Game 5. (Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)
At the risk of ignoring concealed intangibles and minute detail, can we just go ahead and declare Friday night’s duel between the Capitals and Rangers is all about ‘Alex the Great’ trying to conquer ‘King Henrik?’
Even if that’s not entirely true, it’s just way more fun this way.
Ovie finally got to Henrik Lundqvist in Game 4, potting his first goal of the series. But Lundqvist has been the story so far, barely squeezing out Sean Avery’s stupidity for that honor.
More on that later.
Obviously the Caps are going to need more than one player cooking to claw back from a 3-1 deficit in this series. The good news for Washington is it has been generating lots of chances from multiple sources. Nicklas Backstrom was awesome in Game 3 and might be the most underappreciated star in the league this side of Pavel Datsyuk. Alexander Semin wires the puck even harder than Ovie, but is a little more prone to brain lapses.
Sergei Fedorov saw his ice time spike to more than 20 minutes in Game 4 and something tells me he’s still got a trick or two up his well-worn sleeve – and that something is the way he weaved through the offensive zone and set up open teammates like it was Game 4 of a series played in 1999.
When facing a hot goalie, teams generally like to get in his kitchen and crank up the heat even more. And it’s not that I don’t think Brooks Laich and the like should be driving hard to the net in pursuit of greasy goals – that’s always a sound plan in the playoffs.
But to truly shift the momentum of this series, it feels like one of the Caps snipers has to own Lundqvist on a goal and get the home crowd going nuts. Maybe if Ovie comes flying down the wing and wires a puck to the back of the net like he did in Game 4 or Semin cranks one of his patented slappers past Lundqvist’s glove, the rest of the team will start seeing the Rangers stopper as a bit more human and less of an unbeatable force.
It’s a tall order to be sure, but one I believe Ovie and the boys are up to undertaking.
As for Avery, that little island he has unto himself at the end of the Rangers bench is going to have its borders more deeply entrenched should the Blueshirts take a lead in the third.
If he’s even in the lineup, there’s no way coach John Tortorella lets this guy see the white of ice if there’s any chance a bonehead penalty could alter the course of the game. That would be akin to crossing a busy highway with a blindfold on and complaining when a car knocks you into tomorrow.
Or Game 6 on Sunday.
Show off your hockey knowledge by entering The Hockey News’ FREE Playoff Challenge!
THN.com's Playoff Blogs, featuring analysis and opinion on the action from the night before and the games ahead, with insight on what happened and what it all means going forward, will appear daily throughout the NHL playoffs. Read more entries HERE.
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Fridays.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.