Samuel Miller’s pump-up video for Game Seven. Goosebumps!
Tonight, the Washington Capitals will try to do what they so awesomely did to Boston 17 days ago: knock off a higher-seed in their own barn. If the Caps manage to beat the Rangers in Game Seven, they’ll advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in 14 years. And just like a few weeks ago, Caps fans are doing whatever they can to send up their good karma to the Big Apple.
Ed. Note: Justin Goldman is the founder of The Goalie Guild, an independent goalie scouting service and overall resource for all things professional goaltending. He’s written for NHL.com, been interviewed by Stephen Whyno, and knows more about goaltending than everyone in this blog put together. Check out his story below and make sure to check out his site. Padtracker is the best.
I’m writing this note during Game 6, because regardless of whether he wins or loses, my message remains the same.
You have a very special young goaltender in Braden Holtby.
For his age, he is very polished, composed, and adaptable. In fact, when I break down his game at the elemental level, I come to find that he has many positives, and very few negatives.
Most of you are keen enough to see this with your own two eyes. It’s just the way he moves in the crease, the body language he displays. The statistical results act as the perfect “visual proof” most of us need to argue that he has a very bright future.
The Capitals had they backs against the wall Wednesday in Game 6, down 3-2 in the series after dropping Monday’s game in heartbreaking fashion. For this team, during this year, that was nothing unusual. Their head coach was fired in November. They were on track to miss the playoffs late in the season. But they beat the defending Stanley Cup champions in the first round. And they just pushed the number one seed to a final, deciding game in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
“Everyone would like it to be smooth sailing all the time, but it’s just not the way it works around here and the way it works in the playoffs,” John Carlson, nestled in a corner of Washington’s locker room, told reporters. “I think everyone is paying the price for each other. I think everybody is sacrificing, doing what it takes, whether it’s playing, whether it’s not playing, whether it’s chipping the puck out instead of trying to stick handle, whether it’s getting the puck deep — everyone’s committed and knows when they look left, look right, look across that people want it. If you look in the playoffs right now it’s the best team teams. Teams that work together the best are most successful.”
Alex Ovechkin was feeling good tonight, with an early power-play goal and several other quality scoring chances, including one that rung off the post. He seemed like he might score from anywhere tonight — even from the seat of his pants.
As Ovi carried the puck into the Rangers’ offensive zone with 15 minutes to play in the second period, Ryan McDonagh upended him. Instead of giving up on the play, Ovi twirled around on the ice, regained possession of the puck while doing a 360 degree spin, and rifled what we’re going to call a 60 MPH wristshot on net.. Insane.
This is his Ranger-killing face. (Photo credit: Patrick McDermott)
Braden Holtby has not lost back-to-back games in the NHL in 29 games now. The Caps are the first team ever to win four straight games following overtime losses.
Let’s talk about resilience. Two wins this series following some of the most heartbreaking losses in recent memory, two instances of the Caps picking themselves back up and putting themselves back together. Two times when it wasn’t just talk. For the second time this postseason, we’re going to seven games.
The Great 8 scored on the power play, 88 seconds in. I could not make this up if I tried. Chimera finished off a strong play from Semin to make it — stay with me — an actual two-goal lead. It lasted for most of the game, but unfortunately someone on NBC said “shutout”, so Marian Gaborik scored. Caps beat Rangers, 2-1.
Of the 12 playoff games the Capitals have been a part of so far, 11 were won by the team scoring the first goal. Needless to say, with the Caps’ back against the wall in an elimination game tonight, that first goal became pretty important. We didn’t have to wait long.
Jason Chimera drew a penalty within the first minute of play, and Alex Ovechkin scored on a beautiful PP sequence at exactly 88 seconds into the first period. He does have a flair for the dramatic.
As I was wrapping up my chat with Alex Semin just outside Caps locker room at Kettler last Sunday, Dmitry Orlov was just coming off the ice.
While it is official RMNB policy that any time is a good time to interview Dima, I was a bit hesitant to put my recorder in the young Caps defenseman’s face. After all, anybody can understand how frustrating it must be for Dmitry to fulfill his dream of becoming an NHL player — and then to find himself firmly planted in the press box for the duration of the team’s playoff run, even after playing in all but a handful of regular season games since he was called up in late November.
Luckily for me, Dima came to my rescue by initiating the conversation himself. “Come on, interview me,” he said with a wry, but welcoming smile. “I am a forgotten man now. I am not playing, so nobody wants to talk to me!” I didn’t need to be asked twice.
The Capitals are back in Washington with a chance to keep their season alive. It didn’t have to be that way. With half a minute left to protect their lead in Game Five, Joel Ward high-sticked Carl Hagelin. The ensuing Rangers powerplay cost the Capitals the lead and the win– and what would have been a veritable chokehold on the series.
After he bested the Bruins in the quarterfinal round, Ward was the target of some vile and feckless trash from Boston fans. After his double-minor penalty led to Monday’s loss, that same pernicious evil erupted from Caps fans as well.
Here are Three True Things:
Joel Ward is not at fault for the team’s loss.
This hate is as rare as it is unacceptable.
Joel Ward is a great hockey player and a great addition to the ’11-’12 Washington Capitals.