Hello, darkness, my old friend. I’ve come to play game seven again.
The Washington Capitals were designed by the Enemy to make your life unbearable. They get dominated by the Rangers, the fall in a three-goal hole, they mount a comeback, they almost do it but fall late.
Chris Krieder scored the first and second goals of the game in the first and last minute of the first period. Jason Chimera cleaned up a rebound to get the Caps in it in the second, but Rick Nash and Dan Boyle scored early in the third to put us in blowout territory, but hold on.
Joel Ward forced a turnover and Evgeny Kuznetsov sunk it to restore some vitality to Verizon Center, then Ward did it solo– crashing the net to make it a one-goal game. A huge push late yielded nothing except stress.
Caps lose. To game seven, good ol’ gay sev, we go once more.
The Caps at one point during the third period were down 4-1. Then Evgeny Kuznetsov and Joel Ward scored and made it a game! First, the 22-year-old rookie scored his fifth goal of the playoffs off a broken play in front of the net. He now leads the Caps in goals.
Don’t even try to play it cool. Tonight’s game is humongous big, much like the universe. So, if you have someone special to celebrate Mother’s Day with, go take care of that and then settle in for a night of yelling, screaming, cursing, nail biting and, hopefully, celebrating.
Sporting event broadcasts come filled with narratives. This isn’t narratives in the baseless and meaningless “hot take” sense, but narratives as actual storytelling, which sometimes just happen to be baseless and meaningless. During the playoffs, narratives are thrown into high gear. Everyone likes a good story in their sports, and more eyes are on the sport during playoff time, so it makes sense to try to reel in the casual viewer with a good story.
But these stories, a.k.a. narratives, shouldn’t be told at the expense of facts. Some fact-less narratives are easy to detect. When an announcer basically makes it sound as if the Caps were the laughingstock of the NHL and Alex Ovechkin was a player not playing to his potential before Barry Trotz came around, the false narrative alarm should ring. After all, the Caps have been a playoff team, and at times a serious Cup contender, for much of the Ovechkin era, and Ovechkin himself has led the league in goals five times and won three MVP awards.
On the other hand, there are some narratives that aren’t as easy to evaluate for truthiness. Below are a couple narratives that have continued to pop up this series, whether it be on TV or in conversations with friends about the games. Being that the eye test can often lie to me, I wanted to take a deeper look.
For about an hour on Friday night, Curtis Glencrosswas a playoff hero. His breakaway goal with 10:54 left in the third period looked like it was going to send the Capitals to the Eastern Conference Final for the first time in 17 years.
The Rangers, however, tied the game late. In overtime, Glencross attempted a cross-ice pass to spring Brooks Laich. It was a bad one. The trade deadline acquisition stopped and flipped the puck lazily into the hands of Rangers forward Jesper Fast. Within a few seconds, the game was over. Glencross fell to his knees as the Rangers celebrated their comeback victory.
Speaking to the media after the game, Glencross was shellshocked — and perhaps headed for a benching. But instead, he will play tonight, skating once more with Laich and Tom Wilson on the fourth line as the Caps look to close out the series in game six at Verizon Center.
For the Rangers, the winners of the Presidents’ Trophy this year, a few inches here and there had put them on the verge being eliminated from the postseason in early May. In their last eight periods coming into Friday’s game, they had scored two goals. After every loss to the Capitals, three of them heading into game five, they insisted they were about to break through. Every night, the Rangers showered Capitals goalie Braden Holtby with pucks. Though his teammates prevented many of those shots from reaching him, most made it through towards the net. Holtby, as he has all season, stopped nearly all of them.
In a series with some of the most spectacular goals imaginable, Holtby, 25 and a restricted free agent at the end of season, has been Washington’s most remarkable player. In the regular season, Capitals coach Barry Trotz played him more than any other goalie in the league, 73 games total. Through game four of this round, he had given up just 15 goals in 10 postseason games. His 1.48 goals against average and .950 save percentage topped all goalies still playing in the postseason.
But the Rangers offense, which netted 248 goals in the regular season, never disappeared. As their head coach Alain Vigneault reiterated after every game, they were knocking on the door. In the opening three games of the series, they put 94 shots on net. They added another 35 the first 58 minutes of game five. But their chances were running into the league’s hottest goalie, a guy who had been benched for weeks on end just a year ago.
But finally, 101 seconds before New York’s season was set to expire, Chris Kreider beat Holtby on the Rangers’ 36th shot of the night, a one-timer from the near circle.
“I just didn’t see it,” Holtby told reporters after the game.
The New York Rangers have forced game six with some late-game drama. Caps in six.
No one scored in the first. No one scored in the second. No one scored until nine minutes left in the third, when Matt Niskanen set Curtis freaking Glencross loose in the offensive zone to score all alone. With 101 seconds left in #rego, goalie-hurter Chris Kreider converted on the rush to force overtime. Your playoff hero wore blue. It was Ryan McDonagh.
Rangers beat Caps 2-1 in overtime. The Caps lead the series 3-2. Caps in six.