Tale of the Tape: Capitals vs Rangers

On Saturday, the Washington Capitals will host the New York Rangers in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semifinal (12:30 pm ET, NBC). The Rangers lead the series 2-1; here’s a look at recent history between the two clubs.

Leading scorers

Washington: Alex Ovechkin (3G-3A-6PTS) | New York: Brad Richards (4G-5A-9PTS)

Starting goalies

Washington: Braden Holtby (5-5, 1.94 GAA) | New York: Henrik Lundqvist (6-4, 1.55 GAA)

Head-to-head

Season series split 2-2.

Nov. 25: New York 6, at Washington 3
Dec. 28: at Washington 4, New York 1
Feb. 12: At New York 3, Washington 2
Apr. 7: Washington 4, at New York 1

Game 1: New York 3, Washington 1

One of the things both teams had in common in the first round is that they blocked a ton of shots. That trend persisted into the series opener. The Capitals and Rangers blocked 14 shots each and they combined for a mere 32 shots on goal.

The lack of action proved to be an unusual challenge for Braden Holtby, who had faced at least 29 shots per game in the first round. He admitted after the contest that it was hard to stay focused.

That didn’t seem to be an issue for Henrik Lundqvist, who turned aside 17 of 18 shots. In the battle between these two defensively adept squads, the Rangers struck first.

Game 2: Washington 3, New York 2

Holtby looked much better in Game 2, but he wasn’t the story of this contest. Alex Ovechkin logged a mere 3:33 minutes of playing time in the first period and was even held off the ice during several offensive zone faceoffs. However, the Capitals had a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes, so it was hard to fault coach Dale Hunter for his choice.

The Capitals maintained their one-goal lead until Ryan Callahan found the back of the net at 6:58 of the third period. With the game now tied, the Capitals scrambled to regain their edge. As luck would have it, the Rangers were willing to help them by committing two minor penalties in the span of less than three minutes.

New York successfully killed off the first penalty, but Ovechkin scored his third goal of the playoffs shortly after the Rangers committed their second penalty of the period. Ovechkin still ended up with just 13:36 minutes of playing time, but he made a big difference.

Game 3: New York 2, Washington 1 (3OT)

After 114:41 minutes of playing time, Marian Gaborik finally ended Game 3. The contest took well over four hours to complete.

This match featured several warriors, but none more noteworthy than Ryan McDonagh, who logged a stunning 53:17 minutes of playing time. Marc Staal finished just 26 seconds shy of breaching the 50-minutes mark.

Gaborik’s winner was his first goal since Game 1 of the first round on April 12. After nearly two months of failing to find the back of the net, he might have finally broken out of that slump.

Injuries

New York: Brandon Dubinsky (lower body), Mats Zuccarello (wrist), Michael Sauer (concussion)

Washington: Tomas Vokoun (groin), Tom Poti (groin)

Lupul apologizes, takes ‘full responsibility’ after calling out Maple Leafs on Instagram

Getty
1 Comment

Joffrey Lupul made headlines earlier this week after appearing to make accusations against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Instagram.

The comments — which have since been deleted but caught on a screen grab — came after the Maple Leafs announced Lupul failed his physical prior to training camp for the second year in a row.

“I’m ready … just awaiting the call,” Lupul wrote in the comments section of the Instagram post, per the screen grab. “haha failed physical? They cheat. Everyone lets them.”

On Wednesday, the 33-year-old forward, who hasn’t played since the 2015-16 season, posted a statement on his verified Twitter account, saying his Instagram comments were an “inappropriate response.”

Here is his entire statement:

What’s also significant is that he stated he will not seek a second medical opinion regarding this failed physical. As previously noted, that option was available to him, although, per reports, the deadline for this was 5 p.m. on Thursday.

Lupul is in the final year of his five-year, $26.25 million contract.

Erik Cole retires as a member of the Hurricanes

Getty
Leave a comment

Erik Cole has officially retired.

The Carolina Hurricanes made the announcement on Wednesday, stating that Cole signed a ceremonial contract with the NHL team and retired as a member of the Hurricanes.

Now 38 years old, Cole played 892 regular season games in the NHL, scoring 265 goals and 532 points. A number of his best seasons occurred while he was with the Hurricanes, reaching 30 goals with the 2005-06 Stanley Cup winning team.

His best season came with the Montreal Canadiens in 2011-12, as he scored 35 goals and 61 points.

His last season was in 2014-15. He began the year in Dallas and was moved to Detroit at the trade deadline, but a spinal cord contusion essentially meant an end to his playing career.

From the Detroit Free Press in April, 2015:

Cole revealed Wednesday that he has a spinal cord contusion severe enough doctors have cautioned him not to play again this spring.

“It stems back from my neck injury in 2006,” Cole said. “When I ran into the player in the Arizona game, I bruised my spinal cord. A spinal contusion is something that you have to let heal and obviously, it’s a pretty serious occurrence. Doctors feel I need to look out for my well-being as a person, not just as a hockey player.”

Cole is now a team ambassador for the Hurricanes.

Eriksson looks to bounce back after ‘tough start’ with Canucks

Getty
7 Comments

The Canucks signed Loui Eriksson last summer, with the hopes he’d help give them a boost in scoring.

It didn’t quite turn out that way — at least not during Eriksson’s first year of a lucrative six-year, $36 million contract with the Canucks.

He scored only 11 times with 24 points in 65 games. The previous season in Boston, he scored 30 goals and 63 points in 82 games, so, yeah, it was a drastic drop in production in one year for the veteran winger, who started the year with a 13-game scoring drought.

“It was a tough start,” said Eriksson, per The Canadian Press. “I had to work uphill through the whole season.”

Read more: Under pressure: Loui Eriksson

That’s a difficult start for any player, but especially for one at the beginning of an expensive new deal in a new market.

“I’m anxious to see Loui. I’m confident that he’ll have a good season. We’ve talked about that … about the transition from Boston to Vancouver,” coach Travis Green said at the start of training camp. “He knows he has to have a better year than he had last year. I think he’s more than capable of it.”

The Canucks were active this summer, too, signing a number of free agents. Again, the hope is the additions they made heading into the new season — Sam GagnerThomas Vanek and Michael Del Zotto among them — could help give them a spark offensively, particularly on the power play.

Eriksson’s season ended in early March because of a lower-body injury. Now he’ll look to rebound from a disappointing season at the age of 32.

Panarin trying to ‘find chemistry’ with new teammates in Columbus

Getty
2 Comments

Artemi Panarin faced his old team, the Chicago Blackhawks, on Tuesday.

It was only preseason and Panarin didn’t register a point in just over 22 minutes of ice time, and 8:17 on the power play.

But there was an interesting nugget to come from his media availability following the game — Panarin’s first against his old team following this summer’s blockbuster trade between the Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets.

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

Panarin was loose and comfortable, occasionally chatting in English and frequently devolving into giggle fits with teammates Vitaly Abramov and Matiss Kivlenieks, who tried in vain to interpret for him. In fact, Panarin said he was ‘‘glad’’ to be with the Blue Jackets, where he’ll have more creative control on the ice. As dynamic as he and Patrick Kane were as linemates, Kane is basically a center playing wing, dominating the puck.

With the Blue Jackets, Panarin can be that guy.

‘‘I can play a little bit more with the puck,’’ Panarin said through the interpreters. ‘‘Just kind of express myself on the ice a little bit more.’’

In two NHL seasons, both with Chicago, Panarin has been a scoring threat, reaching the 30-goal mark twice. Now with Columbus, Panarin is on a two-year contract worth a total of $12 million and will be eligible for unrestricted free agency when this deal concludes, per CapFriendly.

With the Blackhawks, Panarin spent plenty of time alongside Kane and it appears there has been suggestions that his offensive production was inflated as the result of playing on a line with Kane.

That suggestion has annoyed Panarin. Still, he joins a Blue Jackets team already equipped with a strong nucleus of young players that made considerable progress with a franchise-setting regular season in 2016-17.

“We’ll see how the season will go,” Panarin told the Chicago Tribune. “Beginning of the season maybe I’ll need to make some adjustments, but I just try to find chemistry with my new partners. It’s still in progress.”