Wednesday morning, Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner was asked about the defensive pairing of Nate Schmidt and Dmitry Orlov. They were both set to make their NHL playoff debuts in Game One of the first round against the Philadelphia Flyers. He paused halfway through his answer.
“You know, I’m just thinking, laughing in my head about Schmitty,” Alzner said. “He’s always so excited for a regular season game, I can’t imagine what he’s gonna be like for a playoff game. It’ll be fun.”
“You do what you have to do,” Richards said of the incident. “Willy’s a really high energetic player. That’s the way you want to see him play. He wants to stick up for his teammates, but at the same time you have to understand the situation.”
Just before four AM this morning, I pulled myself from bed, took my medication, and crawled back upstairs. But I never went back to sleep. Playoff hockey is here. Time to grab the wine. Things are about to get real.
After a sluggish start, John Carlson opened the scoring with a blast from the point. Naturally, there were 38 minutes of penalties, but skill won out in the end — especially after Jay Beagle’s late third-period insurance goal. Caps blank Flyers 2-0! One-nil series lead.
With everything locked up and only days to wait until their first round playoff matchup with the Philadelphia Flyers, the Capitals experienced injury scares at the worst time of the season.
First, Jay Beagle went down after blocking a shot with his left ankle during Saturday’s win over St. Louis. Beagle was scratched for Sunday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks, necessitating an emergency recall of Hershey forward Zach Sill. Beagle, however, is set to play Thursday night. Jason Chimera is expected be in the lineup as well after leaving practice for a few minutes the day before because his “mom called.”
Braden Holtbylay on his back with his eyes glazed over looking at the rafters of Madison Square Garden. Derek Stepan celebrated in the corner as the New York Rangers headed to the Eastern Conference Final. Holtby had posted one of the best postseasons performances in National Hockey League history with a save percentage of .944 and a goals against average of 1.71 over 13 games. He had kept the Capitals afloat all playoffs, but he finally cracked.
A year later, Holtby comes into the postseason on a team with one of the best assemblages of talent we’ve seen in recent memory. Holtby is still the Washington Capitals’ rock, but he no longer has to do everything himself. Last year, Holtby played in 73 games, the most of any goalie in the league. As usual, Holtby handled the pressure well, but there was a lot of it. This season, the Caps were able to play Braden less. With a strong backup in Philipp Grubauer, Washington didn’t need Holtby to win every single night. In return, he delivered a Vezina-caliber performance, matching Martin Brodeur for the most victories in a single season. But come Thursday night, Playoff Braden will return.
“There’s something about Holts,” Nate Schmidt said. “Even just watching the last two days of practice. He’s incredibly dialed in. He kicked it into another gear.”
First impressions make a difference. In December of his rookie season, Tom Wilson made himself known to fans of the Philadelphia Flyers with a savage charge on forward Brayden Schenn. Since then, Wilson has been a marked man.
“We don’t want to be liked by them,” Wilson said of the Flyers Tuesday, two days before the Capitals face Philadelphia in Game One the opening round of the playoffs. “Hopefully, we can keep it that way, that they hate our guts.” Continue Reading