New York Rangers Eliminate Washington Capitals In Game Seven Overtime Thriller
This is what playoff hockey is all about. Even if you absolutely hate the Capitals and Rangers, your eyes were glued to the screen last night as both teams, beaten, bloodied and tired, gave a 110 percent until the final minute.
The Washington Capitals, who walked into the playoffs a fourth seed, were not expected to do much this postseason. But they took a very talented Islanders and the Stanley Cup favorites to game seven in back-to-back series.
Still, it is safe to say that the inconsistent Capitals have been terrible in the playoffs: they have not made it past the Eastern Conference semifinals since making the Stanley Cup in 1997-98. Every year, they have the talent to go far, but a small piece of the puzzle has been missing.
However, though they had some cold streaks in the season, they seemed to hit their stride entering the playoffs. Braden Holtby played the two best playoff series of his career: only letting in 1.71 GAA and garnering a save percentage of .944. On top of this, while Alex Ovechkin, who scored last night, had a decent postseason — only five goals, nine points and four assists — Nicklas Backstrom, Joel Ward and Evgeny Kuznetsov each did their part.
Still, the Caps are a team that just cannot get over the hump, which is why it is not surprising that the veteran Blueshirts took game seven in overtime.
The hard hitting matchup, which certainly got chippy towards the end, was basically a defensive and goaltending clinic, with Holtby and Henrik Lundqvist playing amazing. Without the latter, the Rangers would not have survived the onslaught they saw at the beginning of overtime — he is also only the third goalie ever to win six separate game sevens, joining Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur.
In fact, the Caps dominated shots on goal in OT, but the Rangers remained composed and was able to end it on a Derek Stepan shot following a face-off win.
”We have a good group that keeps their wits about them and keeps calm,” said Stepan in the post-game press conference. ”There is no real panic. We just go out and play. We just see what happens and we just play hockey.”
This is certainly true. Even when down 3-1 in the series, they appeared way too calm, as if they handled everything on a game-by-game basis. They are the only team in NHL history to be down 3-1 and win in back-to-back years: in 2014 they did it against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
In the end, the Rangers will have to face a tough Tampa Bay Lightning team, who got to rest an extra night after defeating the Montreal Canadiens in six games.
Both teams are extremely hot, but the grueling seven game series could take a toll on the Rangers. Only time will tell, if New York can repeat the success of last year.