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.”
Willie Desjardins of AHL’s Texas Stars is one of the best coaches not currently in the NHL (Photo: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The common thought among Capitals fans is that the team’s new coach must have NHL experience. The Caps last five hires — Adam Oates, Dale Hunter, Bruce Boudreau, Glen Hanlon, and Bruce Cassidy — were all rookie head coaches. This time around, names like Barry Trotz and John Stevens are getting a lot of buzz, whereas Willie Desjardins and Phil Housley are getting little.
Experience matters. All other things being equal, you should hire the guy with more experience, but that does not mean the Caps should discount what a rookie coach might bring. Because if a coach’s best quality is his experience, that’s not a great sign.
Photo credit: Greg Fiume
Saturday night revealed the Capitals’ playoff foe, and that foe is really, really familiar.
The New York Rangers locked up the 6-seed and will be headed to Washington early this week to begin the quarterfinal round. This will be the seventh time the teams have met and the third time RMNB will have written about a WSH-NYR series. The John Tortorella Rangers are a shot-blocking, workaday-type crew– but this year they’ve added convincing possession to the mix (they’re ranked sixth in unblocked shot attempts at even strength when the score is close). The Rangers may be a better match-up for the Caps than the Senators (whose Craig Anderson posted the best goalie stats this year) and the Isles (whose John Tavares is a convincing young star), but the Rags are no slouch either.
If you’re already anxious, you’re not alone. But this is the playoffs, where the gentle hum of anxiety is your stalwart dance partner.
Photo credit: Patrick McDermott
Four hours and 34 minutes, 222 attempted shots, and a 2-1 lead in the series for the New York Rangers. Those are some numbers from Wednesday/Thursday’s triathlon triple overtime Game 3, which ended with a Marian Gaborik wrist shot after over 102 minutes of play.
“Probably half the players on the ice have blood on their jerseys by the end of it,” Brooks Laich said after the game.
It was a battle all the way to the end. Both teams had numerous chances to put it away in the overtime periods, hitting posts and missing pointblank.
“When you get into that many hours of playing it becomes a mental game,” said Rangers coach John Tortorella. “Just not giving in. That’s the key, just don’t give in.”
“The impact is that we’re up a game,” he added. “They have to win three, we have to win two.”
Long, Strange Trip: The past few months have been a roller coaster for the team and fans alike. As the regular season was winding down and points were becoming ever more precious, the playoff picture was coming into focus for a lot of teams that were not named the Washington Capitals. That sucked. The last month or so was a teeth-grinding, butt-clenching, freaky-outy nightmare. Night after night, we saw our playoff chances dissipate in loss after loss, points squandered, a team in name only, flailing about the ice with no apparent sense of mission or urgency.
Photo credit: Michael Connor/The Washington Times
Editor’s note: To get you properly revved up for the season, each member of the RMNB crew will take a longing look back at some of our favorite goals from days gone by. You can call it nostalgia or cheap summer content, but it’s really a reminder: WINTER IS COMING.
The date was April 24th, 2009. The Washington Capitals had taken up their old tradition of digging a hole for themselves. The count was three-to-one, and the New York Rangers were looking to wrap this series up on the road.
So here’s the scene: John Tortorella is still dry, Sean Avery is wearing some D&G three-piece instead of his hockey sweater, and the Rags are on the power play. Your boy Boyd Gordon gets the puck behind Varly and sends it around the boards. It takes a weird bounce to get past the blue line– with Matt Bradley in close pursuit…
Is Arnott happy or angry he scored? (Photo credit: AP)
Thanks to tallies authored by the two Alexes Wednesday, the Capitals opened up their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series against the Rangers with a 2-1 overtime victory. Who would pot the goals in game two? Um, obviously the Jasons.
After a scoreless first period, Brooks Laich decided to hold a forechecking clinic at 2:11 of the second period, taking on towering Rangers’ defenseman Matt Gilroy. After being knocked to his keister not once — but twice — Laich pushed the biscuit with only one hand on his stick to Marcus Johansson. Mojo — acutely aware of all of his surroundings — immediately sent a tape-to-tape pass to Jason Chimera, who roofed the puck high and glove side past a stunned Henrik Lundqvist.
1:57 later while on the power play, Jason Arnott would win a face-off. Alex Semin then passed it back to Alex Ovechkin at the point. Ovechkin, when pressured by a Ranger penalty-killer, skated across the blue line with the puck and fed Mike Green who was rotating down to the slot. Green then wound up to the sky with all his fury and released a slap shot. Gilroy blocked the attempt both with his skate and stick. Unfortunately for him, the muffed puck then deflected across the ice directly onto the blade of Jason Arnott’s twig, who was skating towards the net already looking for a rebound. As Lundqvist panicked and made a quick move to block the right corner of the net, Arnott made a veteran move and waited as he fell down and then shot the puck past. ANGRY SCOAR FACE.
That would be all she wrote. Michal Neuvirth would get his first career playoff shutout. Caps beat Rangers, 2-0!
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