Photo credit: Bruce Bennett
As the second period of Wednesday night’s game seven against the New York Rangers ended, Eric Fehr remained on the ice as his teammates walked to the Capitals locker room through a tunnel at the corner of the rink. He kicked his legs and circled Washington’s offensive zone for a minute before joining them. Playing his first game since April 19, Fehr had taken six shifts through two frames, a member of a fourth line that hardly received ice time.
As the game wore on and headed to overtime, head coach Barry Trotz began utilizing Fehr and Brooks Laich more. Fehr was on the ice when the Capitals iced the puck in the middle of a line change past the midway point of the fourth period. Fehr, who missed almost a month with an upper-body injury, would be required to take just his fourth faceoff of the night. He won it, but the Caps sent the puck to the other end on a failed clearing attempt. Seven seconds after beating Derek Stepan on the draw, Fehr faced Stepan again. The pair tied each other up, but Rangers forward Jesper Fast poked the puck to the point. The Capitals’ season was over a few seconds later.
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.
Photo: Scott Levy
Coming into Friday night, the Caps had been playing well. On Tuesday and Wednesday, they nearly beat two of the league’s best teams. But then they played Columbus. It was a disaster, and a moment of reckoning.
After the game, the fan base — and the team — seemed to hit the panic button. People on Twitter smashed their keyboards, pointing out Washington’s glaring defensive holes and overreliance on the power play. None of that, however, is anything new. It’s not likely to change before playoff time either.
On Saturday, Adam Oates came up with wacky line combinations in hopes of righting Washington’s four game skid. It didn’t work.
The game got off to an awful start when Rick Nash picked off a silly defensive zone pass from Dmitry Orlov to put New York up just 70 seconds in. Fifteen minutes later, Nash was at it again. A lack of spatial awareness led to two hooking penalties on the Caps. On the ensuing 5-on-3, the former Blue Jacket floated a weak wrister through Phillip Grubauer’s legs. About a minute and a half later, Derek Stepan put the nail in Washington’s coffin with a shot though traffic. Braden Holtby came in, but the game was already over.
Ovechkin tried to give the Caps life with a 5-on-3 bullet early in the second, but Ryan Callahan put Washington back in their place just 86 seconds later. This was never a game anyway. Rangers slam Caps 4-1.
Troy Brouwer collided with New York’s Derek Stepan in the third period of Wednesday’s garbage fire. Brouwer hit Stepan in the head as he skated to the bench. My original assessment of the hit, on Twitter and in the game recap, was that the hit was dirty and Troy Brouwer should be suspended.
I’m not so sure now.
Photo credit: Scott Levy
Okay, the subject line is a joke, but some people are being silly about Derek Stepan‘s game-winning goal last night. They’re saying it was Alex Ovechkin‘s fault– that his laziness on defense is a problem.
Here’s how it really went down.
After a long shift in the defensive zone, Marcus Johansson failed to clear the zone and pass to Alex Ovechkin, who was skating toward Lundqvist at center ice. A scramble for the puck ensued, and Stepan scored from the weak side. Ovechkin skated lazily towards Stepan as it happened.
Bad visual, but that’s all.
Erat lies on the ice after colliding with Ovechkin and Stepan. (Photo credit: Bruce Bennett)
The Washington Capitals power play was very good this season; they scored a lot of goals on it. In the first period of game 4 on Thursday Night, though, it was very bad — so bad that the Rangers had more shorthanded chances than the Caps had shots on goal. One of those opportunities for New York was rather disastrous for Washington.
The Pregame: Fun! Today’s installment of “Places That Smell” has us visiting the big macher of smells, New York City! Boo-yah!
This is fun because it’s true. The entire place is one massive reek… or, more accurately, hundreds of smaller little reeks. Did you know, for instance, that the five boroughs of New York City were formed not for political reasons, but as a way of keeping one smelly New Yorker from having to endure his pungent neighbors? The subway pretty much put an end to that, and now the whole place stinks like the laundry room in a European hostel. Anyone who’s been in either knows this to be gospel truth.
Photo credit: Chris Gordon (Click to enlarge. He’s got beautiful blue eyes, you know.)
Evgeny Kuznetsov has had quite a year. Not only did he win a gold medal with Team Russia in the 2011 World Junior Championship, become the youngest player to ever be in the KHL All-Star Game and get engaged, but he also had the second-most goals ever in a season for a Russian player under 19-years old (17 to be exact). But how can we measure his success compared to the NHL?
Photo credit: Chris Gordon
Mike Green was back in a Capitals jersey on Friday, though unfortunately for him, he won’t be seeing game action in one for at least a week. Suffering from a concussion after taking a blow to the head from Derek Stepan of the Rangers, Green was placed on long-term injured reserve, holding him out until March 22nd at the earliest. Russian Machine Never Breaks caught up with the 25 year-old Canadian on Friday at the White House. Green had been invited to participate in a street hockey clinic at part of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign. The First Lady even asked Green how to drop the puck to begin the event. “I told her, ‘Just drop it. Don’t throw it up in the air,’ Green recalled. “She was fine.” He also had a front row seat when the Chicago Blackhawks were honored for their 2010 Stanley Cup championship by President Barack Obama. I assume, however, he would me much happier to be on the other side of that picture next year.
Photo credit: Rob Carr
Shutout and embarrassed by the New York Rangers. Now where have I heard that before? The Caps certainly did their best December 12 impression on Friday night, with the added twist of dropping the game in front of their home fans, who didn’t respond kindly.
“I am absolutely not happy,” said Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau. “I mean our fans deserve better. That’s three games in a row at home. You know, we deserved to get booed there. It’s not fun when you come home and you got the best fans in the world and you play like that.”
The first action in the contest came when Jason Chimera delivered a hard check along the boards to the Rangers’ Michael Sauer, who didn’t take well to Chimera’s rough play. After a little back and forth the two dropped the gloves with neither getting too much of an upper hand. Just under six minutes into the game the period got ugly for the Caps. It started when Mike Green and Derek Stepan went for the puck in the corner with Stepan catching Green with an elbow. The recently injured Green immediately hit the ice, clutching his head before heading to the locker room as soon as play stopped. Just seconds after Green’s injury Steve Eminger gave the Rangers the lead, as the puck knuckled past Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth. At 14:47 in the period Sauer got into the action again setting up Erik Christensen in front of Washington’s net, putting New York up by two. The Capitals would get a chance to rally when Alex Ovechkin skated down the wing, beat Ryan McDonagh, and fired a shot on Rangers ‘keeper Henrik Lundqvist as he slid down the ice on his rear. Sounds familiar, eh? This time, however, Ovi was unsuccessful.
In the second frame, things would only get worse for the Capitals. At 4:19, while on the power play, Christensen would pot his second of the night, set up by an excellent backhand pass from Ryan Callahan. The Caps in-game entertainment crew responded by playing “Unleash the Fury” much earlier than usual. But that did little to stop Washington’s poor play as later in the period Stepan would extend New York’s lead to four after a misplay by Neuvirth.
In the third, the Rangers put a five-spot on the Caps when Vinny Prospal flicked a wrist shot over Neuvirth’s shoulder. But that wouldn’t be it. Brian Boyle would extend the lead once again in the waining moments of the game. Are you still reading? Rangers rout Caps, 6-0.
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