This series has lived up to legendary comparisons. Every game -except Game 1- has been decided by a goal. It has seen a late goal, an overtime goal and a triple overtime goal. It has been hard-hitting without need of suspensions, shot blocking without injuries and gritty in every way. Oh yeah, the goaltending has been better than top-notch.
With their Game 6 win, the Caps have won their FOURTH consecutive elimination game against the Rangers. Unlike the last series when the Rangers had a chance to eliminate the Capitals, head coach John Tortarella took his frustrations out on his team at the press conference and not out of fans behind the Rangers bench. Saturday night, one of these deserving teams will have their season end. The other will play the Devils for the chance to play for the Stanley Cup.
Series to this point:
- Game 1- Rookie Chris Kreider had a goal and an assist in a span of 90 seconds to win it for the Blueshirts.
- Game 3- Marian Gaborik’s Triple Overtime winner sparked the star winger who has scored twice more, but in losses.
- Game 5- Brad Richards tied the game with 6.6 seconds left and Marc Staal’s wrist shot found the back of the net in Overtime.
- Game 2- Alexander Ovechkin’s Power Play goal with 8 minutes to play was the difference in this tight game.
- Game 4- The Caps remain unbeaten with Ovechkin, Niklas Backstrom and Mike Green score. Green’s PP goal with 5 minutes left was the difference.
- Game 6- Facing elimination, the Caps extended the series without much doubt as Ovechkin and Jason Chimera scored.
The Rangers: Marian Gaborik is back, but it’s on Brad Richards. Richards has been Johnny-on-the-spot in this series. The former Conn Smythe trophy winner leads the Rangers in scoring and has scored the biggest goal in the series, but now it’s Game 7…again and that’s why Richards is here. His calm has been impressive and if the Rangers win, expect the Richards is the reason they advance.
The Capitals: How good has Alexander Ovechkin been? Even his detractors have to be impressed. Sure he’s getting bench, but when he has been on the ice, he’s been a terror. Three goals in the series, all in wins, one of them a game winner. Clearly, he and Jason Chimera have been two players the Rangers wish could not show up for Game 7. Unfortunately, they will.
Secondary player to watch:
Rangers: Ryan Callahan needs a big game. The Rangers Captain has played well and disappeared at times in this series. Lost in the Brad Richards goal is that Callahan’s deflection put the puck on net and his persistence led to Caps Braden Holtby trying to cover it. Callahan will have to be MORE physical than normal and be a terror in front of the net- more so than normal.
Capitals: Jason Chimera and Matt Hendricks. Both players need to be mentioned here. Hendricks has been a face-off winning, shot blocking machine in this series and will be matched up against Richards/Gaborik/Hagelin line. Can Hendricks stop him? Can the Rangers stop Jason Chimera? Chimera has scored 7 career playoff goals against the Rangers and 5 of them are game-winners. If Chimera scores, that’s bad news for the Rangers. Only time he scored in a loss was Game 1′s buzzer-beating goal in the second period.
Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist has been stellar. The King came up with a big time performance in Game 7 against the Senators and he’s been even better against the Capitals. The Caps got three goals twice against him. Game-by-game his goal totals are 1-3-1-3-2-2. Despite losing Game 6, he was the better netminder and made several great saves to keep the Rangers close. Does he have a Hart Trophy game left in him this series?
Capitals: Braden Holtby was amazing in the series against the Bruins and his encore performance was equally as impressive. One question wondered about him, can he do it again? So far, yes. Holtby still has yet to post a shutout and has not lost back-to-back game, but has only won back-to-back once as well. Holtby has been the main factor for the Caps success and hasn’t cracked when letting in a soft goal.
Rangers: Anton Stralman may be the key to the Rangers, both good and bad. Stralman was called for penalties on the first shift in Game 4 and Game 6. However, Stralman has three goals and has played well on the point both at even strength and on the second Power Play unit. He also will see action against the Chimera/Backstrom/Semin line and Chimera burned him in Game 6 twice. It’ll be interesting.
Capitals: Alexander Semin is under the Surprise Players and it’s not a misprint. Semin hasn’t scored a goal in the series, but was good in Game 6. His devastating shot hasn’t even factored and you won’t see him in highlights- not even on the Henrik Lundqvist save reel. So don’t need to worry about him, right? Of course you need to. His booming shot can strike at any time. If he has room, pray Henrik is in position.
The Rangers will win if…
Lundqvist has to remain stellar. If he keeps the Caps off the board, the Rangers advance. The anemic Power Play has to get shots. The Rangers can’t have another 4-minute Power Play and get ONE shot. If they score a Power Play goal, bet on the Rangers. The only time they lost in this series with a PP goal was Game 2. That said, the Rangers won Game 7 versus Ottawa with two goals by defensemen (Girardi and Staal).
The Capitals will win if…
Holtby has to do it again. Look out for Ovechkin and Semin while beating the Rangers at their own game. In Game 4, 5 and 6, the Capitals have blocked THREE TIMES more shots than the Rangers (who are considered one of the best shot blocking teams). Look for an unsung hero to step up like Joel Ward was in the Boston series.
It should be a great game and a shame this series will end, but this game maybe one for the ages. It’s also noteworthy that the Rangers are unbeaten at home in Game 7, but the Capitals haven’t been eliminated by the Rangers since May 9th, 1994 when now-head coach Dale Hunter played for the Caps. Something has got to give.