It's almost too predictable at this point. (ESPN)
The Washington Capitals lost game six of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the New York Rangers on Sunday at Madison Square Garden, falling 1-0 in a had-fought, defensive affair. Derick Brassard scored the lone goal of the game for New York midway through the second period while Henrik Lundqvist made 27 saves in net for the Rangers, stellar once again. The Capitals took five penalties in the game while the Rangers did not take one until the 20:00 mark of the final period, after it could have any impact on the game. With the loss, Washington is set up for yet another game seven, their third consecutive and sixth in their last eight playoff series.
The penalties were the story in this game. Though the Capitals were able to kill off all five power plays that the Rangers were awarded, they set the tone for the whole game, as I have said that they would over and over again in this series. You can complain about the officials all you want, and you may have a point. But the bottom line when it comes to stuff like this is that the Capitals have to keep their heads. They cannot lose their cool. The Rangers, like the Bruins, are a big physical team who will goad you in to crap like this and then take advantage of it. Mike Green, justified or not, lashed out late in the game after what he perceived to be a slew foot and it cost Washington any momentum they had as the game wound down, hurting their chances to tie. It’s not an excuse, and it’s over. Move on.
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Alex Ovechkin was held pointless for the fourth game in a row on Sunday afternoon, the continuation of a worrying trend that has come at a very poor time for the player that essentially got the Capitals to the playoffs. It’s certainly possible that he is hurt, but he’s still gotten some golden chances over the last two games and has failed to convert on any of them; of course Sunday saw him miss a yawning cage to get a goal for his squad. Ovechkin has yet to have a signature playoff moment like several of the most established stars in the League, and fair or not, he has to come up with a way to have one for his club. He is too good a scorer not to.
Tom Wilson was once again rather ineffective in less than seven minutes of ice time while playing on the fourth line, and has now played two of a possible five games before his entry-level deal kicks in, robbing Washington of a golden low-salary year for one of their best prospects. I’m not saying Wilson has been bad, because he hasn’t. But he’s been relatively unnoticed outside of some big hits and a funny wardrobe malfunction. If you’re going to use him, USE him, don’t let him wither away in the bottom three. It’s detrimental to team, cap structure, and player. Hopefully Martin Erat can get healthy soon not just for that reason but also because the Capitals need him.
Overall, this game had a pretty predictable outcome with all the penalties. Lundqvist has been amazing pretty much all series, it seemed like only a matter of time before he got a shutout against a Capitals team that is suddenly lacking offensive punch. That’s part of what the Rangers do, they suck all the life out of teams’ offensive capabilities and get them to sink to their level of defensive, grind it out hockey. Adam Oates and his staff now have less than 24 hours to make adjustments to create more offense against this Rangers team and trust that Braden Holtby can do his job. Otherwise, it will be yet another early summer for Washington.
Game seven is scheduled for 8 PM Monday night.
Harry Hawkings is a college student credentialed to cover the Capitals for RtR. Follow him on Twitter here for all your news needs this season.