The Washington Capitals keep surviving and the New York Rangers keep pushing themselves to the brink. The Caps beat the Rangers 2-1 last night in the lone NHL playoff game on the docket, and in doing so forced a Game 7 on Saturday afternoon in Madison Square Garden.
For the second straight game, the Rangers played a pretty good overall offensive game. They got shots—31 of them to be precise—and while I’d have liked to have seen more involvement from Marian Gaborik, he did get the team’s lone goal with less than a minute left in the game, while Ryan Callahan got four shots. But the danger for New York—and the hope for Washington—is that Braden Holtby is getting locked in again. New York’s hit him with 69 shots in the last two games and the kid has turned back 66.
I’m sure regular readers of TheSportsNotebook’s NHL playoff coverage must be sick of hearing me harp on this kid, but this is an extraordinary sports story. The 22-year-old started five games all season, only got the playoff gig because the two mediocre veterans in front him were hurt and all he’s done is first win a seven-game series against Boston’s Tim Thomas—in a series where the Double T was also locked in—and now he’s headed for a Game 7 against New York’s Henrik Lundqvist, who has only been the league’s most renowned goalie all season. And as the shot volume, both in this series and the Boston one attest, it’s Holtby, not good team defense, that’s doing this. It’s the equivalent of an unknown rookie quarterback—let’s just say Kirk Cousins, since we’re on a Washington D.C. team—jumping into the playoffs and calmly winning shootouts against Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees.
Washington got on the board first, with Alex Ovechkin scoring on a power play goal, assisted by fellow veterans Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green. Backstrom then delivered an assist to forward Jason Chimera, who stayed aggressive offensively in getting five shots.
There’s two days off in the NHL playoffs now. Tomorrow we’ll post a preview of the Phoenix-Los Angeles Western Conference finals—no schedule has been announced, but I’m still thinking it makes the most sense to begin on Sunday.