Three of the second round series of this year’s NHL playoffs were over rather quickly. however, the Rangers and the Capitals went all the way to a game seven, both of them having been pushed to the limit for the second series in a row. The game went down in New York on Saturday. Who would win and move on?
The Rangers struck first, as Brad Richards lit the lamp a mere 92 seconds into the game. There would then be no scoring the rest of the first period, and there was no scoring in the second period. That isn’t surprising with these two defensive minded teams. Then, halfway through the third period, a deflected shot by Marian Gaborik ended up on the stick of Michael Del Zotto, who gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead. their celebration would be short lived, however, as Roman Hamrlik scored 38 seconds later. however, the Capitals couldn’t find the back of the net again. New York won 2-1, and they took the series to move on to the Eastern Conference Finals to play the New Jersey Devils.
Henrik Lundqvist was strong in net, as per usual, making 22 saves. Braden Holtby, meanwhile, stopped 29 shots. Holtby was a major question mark heading into this postseason. Tomas Vokoun was supposed to be the guy, but injury kept him out down the stretch. however, Holtby was very impressive. He was key to Washington’s first round victory over Boston, and he helped push the Rangers to a seventh game.
The problem was Washington couldn’t score, which is mildly surprising considering they have guys like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alexander Semin. of course, they have pretty much no defense, and Dale Hunter’s style of coaching stifled the offensive talents of his best players. The Capitals, after a few playoff exits deemed too early after great regular seasons, went all-in on defense this year. they gave guys like Joel Ward big money for “grit” and “playoff experience.” what they got was their worst regular season in a while and another second round playoff exit. The plan didn’t really work out, and now Bruce Boudreau is gone from behind the bench, and Hunter may not stick around. at least they have a goalie of the future.
The Rangers, meanwhile, had the best record in the East during the regular season. Then, they had to sweat out two playoff series that went to seven games, one against the eight seed and one against the seven seed, but they still made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. they aren’t going to complain. they haven’t been this deep in the postseason since 1997. This is a really strong team. they have a great goalie, a strong defensive corps, and some offensive depth, led by two great forwards in Gaborik and Richards, their big money get this offseason. now, the Rangers are taking on the six seed in New Jersey. In theory, they couldn’t have asked for an easier run, especially if they do beat the Devils and then face the eighth seeded Los Angeles Kings. That would be pretty amusing. it remains to be seen if that happens.
Speaking of the Kings, they begin their series with the Phoenix Coyotes on Sunday. I’ve already previewed this series. Both of these teams have great goalies. which offense is going to be able to do just enough to get the W? The game begins at 8:00 PM Eastern on NBC Sports. The Conference Finals are here. enjoy the game.