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.

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CurtisGlencross

Photo credit: Julie Jacobson

For about an hour on Friday night, Curtis Glencross was 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.

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RangersGlencrossKathyWillens

Photo credit: Kathy Willens

With 11:51 left in the New York Rangers season, Al Pacino came onto the massive screen at Madison Square Garden. In a video familiar to Capitals fans, a scene from Any Given Sunday played.

“The inches we need are everywhere around us,” Pacino yells in the film.

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.

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Nope. Not Going to Analyze This.

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Not yet. Caps in six.

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.

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glencross-goal

Tom Wilson just made the biggest play of his young career.

After Henrik Lundqvist made a beautiful pass off the glass to a forward Carl Hagelin, the Rangers skated into the Caps zone with speed on a two-on-two break. Hagelin dished the puck to a trailing Kevin Klein. And that’s when Willy Baby came out of nowhere.

Wilson poke-checked the puck, fell over, slid into another Ranger, and slammed into the end boards. Matt Niskanen got the loose puck passed it to Curtis Glencross alone at the red line.

Glencross scored on the breakaway.

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The Washington Capitals may have just been jobbed out of a big goal.

Set up just outside of the crease, Caps forward Joel Ward screened Henrik Lundqvist as Matt Niskanen unleashed a bomb from the point. Then: craziness.

The shot, which was going wide, deflects off a Rangers stick towards the net. Derek Stepan shoves Ward, Ward collides with Lundqvist, and the puck bounces into the net.

Official Kevin Pollock immediately waves the goal off for incidental contact.

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braden-holtby-meme

Down 3-1 and playing in front of their home fans, the New York Rangers came out jacked for game five. Yet, it didn’t matter. Despite facing 16 shots on goal, “zen as fuckBraden Holtby stopped them all.

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TimesSpread

Photo credit: John Walton

Last week, I gave Braden Holtby his due in feature for The New York Times that appeared on their website. Over the past week, I’ve also contributed to their game recaps. But today is the big one: I’m in print for the first time.

The article focuses on Andre Burakovsky and Evgeny Kuznetsov. They’ve played some good games lately, which has lifted the pressure off Washington’s stars. But you already know that.

This is giant link to the article.

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Caps at Rangers Pregame: I’ve Got a Feeling

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Tonight, the Caps enter Madison Square Garden with a chance to end the Rangers’ season and advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since the spring of 1998. This won’t be an easy task. The Rangers are likely to play their best game of the series tonight, as their desperation level should be maxed out. Breathe people. The good guys are in the preferable position through four games.

Puck drop is at 7pm on NBCSN. Peter will be back at the helm for his usual game day duties once the game begins.

Team Record Possession PDO Power Play Penalty Kill
Washington Capitals 45-26-11 51.9% 100.3 25.3% 81.2%
New York Rangers 53-22-7 50.6% 101.7 16.8% 84.3%

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