*Results May Vary

*Results May Vary

I wonder after Game 7 between the Rangers and the Caps, when Ovechkin guaranteed that Washington would “come back and win the series,” if he was trying to motivate his team or he really felt like they were going to win.  Game 7 was set to be his prophetic stage to show the world that “Hey look I’m right!”  Game 7 was set to be his leadership moment, the time when he finally breaks out and steps up to the plate and leads his team out of the second round of the playoffs.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve learned to appreciate Ovi and respect his talents this year.  Seeing him in the Islander series I thought he finally found his way and came around to being a better team player.  It felt like he was finally living up to the “C” that is stitched into his jersey.  When he first came into the league, I struggled to see his leadership qualities because it always seemed like he was a “me first” player whether that was unfair justification or not I’m not sure.

Unfortunately for Ovi and the Caps it wasn’t meant to be, however for the Rangers and Ranger fans, Lundqvist continues to own Game 7s in the Garden and he continues to play well between the pipes.  That’s not to say that Ovi didn’t play well, plus Braden Holtby played a whale of a game and Barry Trotz coached a hell of a game, but the Rangers weathered everything that the Caps threw at them and took every punch until they caught the Caps sleeping in overtime.

I have a hard time with some sports breaking down plays.  Normally in football I can watch it and see where someone is running and understand where the coverage went and I can break it down pretty quickly as it is going on even as it is live.  You kinda see it unfold.  You kinda get it.  Maybe it’s just me from watching it so quickly as a kid.  Maybe it’s from growing up watching it.  I ate, slept and pretty much did everything football as a kid, so it’s in my blood.  But when it comes to hockey and I watch it, I don’t see the plays.  I heard the announcers last night talk about the Rangers having plays off the face-off and kinda scratched my head, and in full disclosure here, I missed quite a few of them.  But that’s what makes them pros and me a dumb writer on a blog.

Watching the faceoff to the scoring of Derek Stepan’s goal in the OT of Game 7, I slowed it down and broke it down in my head trying to put it together to figure out how difficult it must be to script these things.  But you know it’s probably just like football when you never really know if the play is gonna work until you try it.  Seeing Jasper Fast pass the puck back to Yandle who throws it to Girardi with a quick shot on Holtby and the rebounds comes out to Stepan and in watching the replay it seems like he’s so wide open but yet he has so much time on his own to find the open net.  I can’t imagine being in that situation, a wide open net like that with so much time, the nerves going in Game 7.  It feels like I’d probably shoot it at Holtby.  But Stepan didn’t and the Rangers made the Caps pay.

That’s what this game is about, making the other team pay when they make a mistake.  The Caps didn’t cover Stepan on the rebound and he made them pay.  The Rangers made some mistakes, they let Ovi skate with the puck across the zone in the first period to beat Lundqvist on his glove side, they committed some bad penalties and turned the puck over too many times, but Washington couldn’t make them pay enough times.  The good teams will time in and time out make you pay.  Washington couldn’t finish out the series because they just couldn’t make the Rangers pay enough times.  The last three games the Rangers kept hammering away at Holtby and they kept making the Caps at crucial times.  This Rangers team still has that core that went to the Stanley Cup Finals last year and you can see that in the way that they play.

The one thing I think that Ovi is going to learn from all this is that guarantees are great, but it takes the whole team to buy in.  Sports is such a hit and miss thing.  You can have a great team and that team can be felled at any time.  The puck can bounce the wrong way or someone can do something dumb and the whole thing can fall apart.  It’s great to be confident, but it’s another thing to be over confident and when you become over confident you can run your mouth and inspire the other team.  Maybe if he gets into this situation next year he can keep his guarantees to himself.

Guarantees*

Side effects may include: Over confidence, inflated ego, self-importance, lack of focus.

Use as directed.

*Results may vary.

King Me

I hesitate to write this, much like the normal superstitions I’m starting to feel like maybe it’s not a bad thing to keep silent after Games 5 & 6.  But then again maybe the Rangers didn’t need luck, maybe it was that scary man in the mask between the pipes.

On a weekend when the first Atlantic tropical stormmade landfall, the Canadiens silenced the Thunder two straight games to crawl back to a 3-2 deficit, the Rangers stormed their way back into the series and tied it on Sunday night in Washington with a 4-3 win.  

On Friday night, King Henrik allowed only one goal in the Blueshirts 2-1 overtime win that they desperately had to have at the Garden.  Lundqvist stopped 28 of 29 shots, cementing himself between the pipes for the home squad.  It seems at times the Rangers give everything they can to block shots and dive in front of passes or break up whatever they can, they are giving up anything and everything for the cause.  I believe that’s what playoff hockey is all about right?  

Much has been made of the two goaltenders in the series, especially Holtby because he wasn’t expected to play as well as he has.  It’s forced the Rangers to maybe try too hard at times, play too cute passes or take the difficult shot.  But they’ve calmed down and gone back to their game, tried to reduce turnovers, put pucks on net and made Holtby work.

Ovechkin now says “we’re going to come back and win the series.”  It’s a bold, big mouthed prediction for a guy who seemed to have let his game talk for the most part in the series.  At times he did disappear and make it difficult for me to justify my feeling about him being a team player.  I don’t know that momentum exists, many times I think it’s just a made up word for a certain mindset.  I think for the most part any sporting event has an ebb and flow it’s about who takes advantage of the other teams’ mistakes.  

At this point the Rangers are doing just enough, and holding the Caps back from making their own advantages.  Some say “work hard and you shall be rewarded.”  Quite simply if you don’t give your all, go home and play golf.  The playoffs are gonna be tough, that’s the point but for the Rangers they have a King who trumps every card, he’s 13-3 since 2012 in the Stanley Cup playoffs in Game 7 elimination games.  Yeah Henrik’s got the Rangers going, another round another Game 7…Lets Go Rangers!

Capital Punishment

I seriously am getting tired of being the one to say it but Alex Ovechkin is turning into that guy that can lead his team to a Stanley Cup.  I’m certain that you know he’s won a multitude of personal awards when it comes to scoring and points but it’s that giant silver Cup that has always eluded him.  After watching him and the Washington Caps in Game Three of their series against the NY Rangers I have to believe that they have a chance to make some major advances toward that chalice.  

To be completely fair I am a Rangers fan, so I’m a bit biased but it’s hard not to give credit to Washington after their 1-0 win.  They pounded the Rangers on the boards.  Yes the Rangers are a faster team but if you can’t use your speed and are forced to play someone else’s game you will struggle, and struggle the Rangers did.

It’s said that to win in the playoffs you need to score goals, have good goaltending and get the lucky bounce, right now the Rangers are only getting one of three.  Lundqvist is giving them a chance and bailing them out of as many situations as he can but they got to stop making terrible turnovers.  Keith Yandle was supposed to help the power play, it doesn’t seem like he’s done that in the playoffs, this power play was terrible tonight.  In fact Yandle made a terrible turnover behind the Rangers’ net that almost led to a Caps goal if not for the work of Lundqvist to keep out the shot.

Dan Boyle has played well this year but in Game One of the series he gave the puck away in the dying moments of the game that led to Joel Ward’s game winning goal to suck the air out of the Garden.  He has been less than stellar for sure in this series.  Rick Nash’s magnificent season seems to be overshadowed by the fact that I can’t find him on the ice.  Inconsistency is killing this team, turnovers are killing this team, being unable to convert on the power play is killing the team, hell its so bad that Jasper Fast started on the wing in Game Three.  What is a coach to do?  

My guess is to shake things up as best as you can.  Push things back somewhat to basics however the Rangers are kinda against it right now because Ovechkin has his team flying and they’ve bought in to what Barry Trotz is selling.  Not only that but Holtby is keeping his net clean along with the fact that the Rangers aren’t making him work.  They are doing it to themselves.  For a team that is a season removed from the Stanley Cup finals it’s time to wake up and smell the Sabrett water.  I can’t stress it enough, overlook Ovechkin now at your peril, he’s bought in, he’s bringing capital punishment.