OvechkinGoal

Photo credit: Bruce Bennett

Alex Ovechkin has never made it past the second round of the playoffs. It’s a trite fact, but unavoidable. He’s been in the NHL since 2005, with his window as a primary goal-scorer closing. In 10 years, he has yet to win a Stanley Cup. Some core players around him, like Mike Green, are likely to leave this summer or within the next few years. This may be Ovechkin’s best chance to win a Cup as the undisputed leader of the Washington Capitals. Ovechkin seems to know that. In this year’s Division Final against the Rangers, DC’s captain has put on an astonishing display of talent and dedication, nearly winning games for the Capitals off his play alone. On Saturday, he came up short, but it was another immortal individual performance.

“He’s a force,” coach Barry Trotz said. “No question.”

Midway through the third period, Washington was down 3-1, having just given up a crushing goal to Rangers forward Derick Brassard. Just 90 seconds before Rangers fans were to begin their eight-minute mark “Ovi Sucks! Ovi Sucks! Ovi Sucks!” onslaught, Ovechkin bumbled down the ice with three Rangers on him. He knifed straight through Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh, New York’s top defenders, as the two hopelessly whacked at Ovi. Falling to his knees, he let off a perfectly placed wrist shot that went top shelf on Henrik Lundqvist. It was a goal that was nearly impossible to imagine another player in the NHL scoring. It was utter brilliance, under immense pressure, on a huge stage. Save for the cheers of Capitals players, MSG fell silent.

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holtpunch

During game one, New York Rangers’ pest Tanner Glass tried to rattle Braden Holtby by spearing him in the neck. At that point, the Holtbeast had shut out the Rangers through 46 minutes and, for Glass, desperation was setting in.

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holtbeard

During the national anthem tonight, NBCSN cut to a close-up shot of Braden Holtby standing in the crease. Look at that beard. It’s growing so rapidly that I’m worried Holtby will look like this when the Caps return home for game three.

The Holtbeard is a sentient being. Like a sun-hungry seedling, it is searching for light. It made two of Holtby’s saves in the first period. During a stoppage in play, a morning dove flew out his beard, searching for food for its babies.

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RangersCapitalsJaredSilber

Photo credit: Jared Silber

So, it’s the Rangers again. For the fifth time in seven seasons, the Washington Capitals will square off against the folks from Madison Square Garden in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. These series have produced signature moments in Capitals history, such as Sergei Fedorov‘s game seven winner in 2009, and crushing defeats, like when the Rangers outlasted the Capitals by just one goal in game seven of the second round in 2012, booking a spot in the Eastern Conference Final. But, as is their pattern this year, the Washington Capitals will tell you this team is different. They don’t pay attention to the past.

“All that old stuff, get rid of it,” head coach Barry Trotz, in his first year with the Capitals, said. “Let’s look to a new era. Let’s build something.”

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KuznetsovGameSeven

Photo credit: Alex Brandon

The Washington Capitals dominated play in game seven against the New York Islanders through two periods. They were constantly parked in the Isles zone, putting pucks on goaltender Jaroslav Halak with ease. The Islanders could barely muster a whimper, with just six shots on goal as the middle frame wound down. Somehow, though, Washington hadn’t found a way to convert: missed deflections, timely saves, and bad bounces led to a scoreboard that reflected little about what happening on the ice.

Then, with 1:25 left in the second period, Joel Ward broke through, poking Brooks Orpik‘s shot through the legs of Halak. Verizon Center erupted into a shining display of pure human joy. But it was still full of Washington Capitals fans, ready to have their hearts ripped out with final game, final period collapse. And just three minutes and 13 seconds into the closing frame, Frans Nielsen did just that with an innocent-looking wrist shot from the slot that trickled through Braden Holtby’s pads. With that, the game was tied. Though the Caps had dominated play, the game looked like it would end with another bitter, bruising fight, with one bad bounce deciding each team’s fate.

But instead, the game-winner would buck the thuggery the series had shown. With around seven minutes left in the zero-sum game, Evgeny Kuznetsov picked up Jason Chimera‘s pass at the far wall, before cutting right through the heart of the New York zone. The play was magisterial, with Kuznetsov floated past Islanders defenders. Instead of firing the puck off at his first look at the net, Kuznetsov held on to it until he got to the near circle. That’s when Halak went down. Kuznetsov saw an opening.

“I just put puck in the net,” he told reporters after the game.

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BradenHoltbyStud

He’s ready. Are you? (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)

One-by-one, as they stepped off the ice and into the locker room at their Virginia practice facility, mic flags went flying into the faces of members of Washington Capitals. Tonight, the team will play its eighth game seven since the Ovechkin era began. Five of those games have ended with crushed looks on the faces of the boys from Arlington. The questions were obvious.

“The media is the only people that bring up the past,” Jason Chimera scoffed. “It’s history for a reason. We wanna make our own history tonight.”

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puck-no

The second period of game six was intense. There were many dangerous scoring chances, including this shot by Mikhail Grabovski.

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Philipp Grubauer Will Start Game Two

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The Washington Capitals just announced that Philipp Grubauer will get the start tonight over Braden Holtby who is under the weather. Justin Peters will serve as the back-up. We knew something was up when the Holtbeast didn’t come out this evening for his pre-game visualization routine.

Around 6:45pm, Holtby arrived at Verizon Center according to CSN’s Jill Sorenson.

Alex Prewitt reports that the Caps will leave for New York immediately after the game and practice there Saturday.

So tonight should definitely be interesting with Grubi in goal!

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Braden Holtby Sick, Philipp Grubauer Recalled

grubauer-clapping

Photo: Kyle Mace/Chocolate Hockey

Good morning, Caps fans. Everything is fine on this lovely spring gameday morning except your franchise goalie is sick. Alex Prewitt reports that Braden Holtby isn’t feeling well today. We don’t know exactly what that means yet, but the Capitals have recalled Philipp Grubauer from the Hershey Bears.

At least Caps fans are having fun with it.

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holtby-100-wins

Photo: @WashCaps

At mid-season, Braden Holtby was near the top of almost every important goaltending statistic in the NHL. He was also starting nearly every game for the Washington Capitals.

NBCSN’s Pierre McGuire asked the Holtbeast in January about his heavy workload after a nationally televised game (which he won). Holtby’s response:

Since then, Holtby has played even more. He’s got a 41-19-10 record, nine shutouts, a 2.21 GAA and .923 save percentage. He’s set a franchise-record 24 consecutive games and faced over 2000 shots. If Holtby plays Saturday against the Rangers, he’ll match Olie Kolzig‘s franchise record for most appearances in a single season (73). If that happens, Holtby, according to CSN Washington’s Chuck Gormley, would become the 21st goalie in NHL history to play in 73 or more games in a single season.

So, the question is this: Should the Caps rest Holtby on Saturday?

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