The Washington Capitals didn’t just stave off the end of their season at the hands of the New York Rangers, they came roaring back for a 2-1 win to force a game 7 in New York on Saturday night. It should be pointed out, though, in defense of Braden Holtby, who was a superstar for his team in this clutch game, that this should have been a shutout. Late in the third period, Holtby was literally robbed on his doorstep by Hagelin who should have been called for goaltender interference as he squeezed Holtby’s pad and made it impossible for him to move to make a save.
It was garbage goal and the non-call was ridiculous. It will no doubt prompt the discussion about appealing calls on the ice and demanding a video review. If ever there was a time to do it, it was then. While it was disappointing, the fans know better and it may as well have been a shutout in the end. Holtby was the impenetrable fortress, playing with so much confidence and getting great support from his teammates, not only in blocked shots and scooped up rebounds, but in run support with two good goals.
The games have been so close between these two teams, just as the series has been, and a 2-0 margin is huge. Much of the talk before the game was on the absence of Jay Beagle for the Caps and the insertion of Jeff Halpern in his place and the fact that Ovechkin had to step up to the plate if the team was going to make it through. The statement was basically that if Ovie scores, they win, if he doesn’t, they lose. Less than two minutes into the game, Ovie answered the bell and came out with a huge first goal.
His ice time severely reduced, Ovechkin is showing why quality counts over quantity, as his contribution has improved tenfold in this playoffs. Less ice time has forced Ovie to focus and be more disciplined, as well as blocking and defending. Goal scoring is more sexy, but he’s become a better all around player and better teammate as a result of this approach and the Caps should stick with this formula because it works.
The Caps beat the New York Rangers at their own game, defending well, shot blocking and taking advantage of little mistakes. Their speed has been their biggest asset, as they’ve split the New York defense and used good long stretch passes to create more time and space for themselves on the ice. Their one weakness on the night was their penalties. Washington took too many penalties and gave the Rangers multiple chances to get back into this game and their play was much too casual opening up the third period with a 2 goal lead.
They can’t afford to let themselves relax in this series. They can’t give a single inch to the Rangers and they have to remember that if they want to make a complete comeback and win the series on Saturday night. Saturday will be a sweet day for hockey fans, with a game 7 in the Eastern Conference’s more dynamic match up. The Flyers failed to play to their potential in this round and lost to a much stronger Devils team. You could toss a coin on the Washington-New York series, that’s how close it is.
Dust off the edge of your seats, hockey fans. That’s where you’ll be sitting on Saturday night.
About the Author
Written by Mika Oehling
Office worker and sports nerd. Cannot play a professional sport to save my life, but love to write. Prone to rants, raves, snarky humour and caustic commentary. My team's the Ottawa Senators. Author of Armchair Hockey, a work of humourous fiction released this year and available for sale online at Chapters and Amazon.