In the first round of the playoffs, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said that Ryan McDonagh needed to find “another level.”
In the second round, Vigneault was even more blunt, saying of his top defenseman: “Obviously, he hasn’t played very well.”
But last night? Last night was different. McDonagh had just registered another two points, making it six in the first two games of the Eastern Conference Final against Montreal.
What did his coach have to say about that?
“When Ryan’s gap is good — and obviously he’s got tough match-ups because he’s always playing against the other team’s best line — when his gap is good and he’s battling hard in his one-on-ones, usually the offensive part of his game is there, and it’s been very good the last two games.”
McDonagh, meanwhile, owed his improved play to simplifying his game.
“If I have a second or two to make a direct pass, make it,” he said, per TSN. “But I was just looking for stick blades too much at times and it’s tight checking in the playoffs so you want to make sure that you’re not giving forwards an opportunity to grind you in your own zone. So the simple plays will work a lot in the playoffs and I’ve been able to make good reads and that’s helped me.”
It’s a good sign for the Rangers that McDonagh is playing like an elite defenseman again. Most Stanley Cup champions have a dominant blue-liner, and with two more wins over the Canadiens, the 24-year-old will be vying for a title against either Duncan Keith’s Blackhawks or Drew Doughty’s Kings.
It wasn’t pretty, and they might have lost key defenseman Matt Niskanen to injury, but at least the Washington Capitals managed a win against the Boston Bruins.
For a while, it was looking pretty ugly.
After going up 3-0, the Capitals went more than a period’s worth of time without even managing a shot on goal. Whether you lean more toward giving the Bruins credit for fighting back or beating up the Capitals for “sitting on a lead,” it’s staggering that such a dangerous offense could be held in check for so long.
Luckily for Washington, Nicklas Backstrom salvaged the night with an overtime goal to give the Capitals a 4-3 overtime win.
Both teams have had a knack for extending games beyond regulation lately, by the way:
Capitals over the last three games:
Shootout loss to the Lightning
Overtime win against the Sabres
Overtime win tonight against the Bruins
Bruins over the last five games:
Shootout loss against Flyers
Shootout win against Hurricanes
Regulation win against Sabres
Overtime win against Panthers
Overtime loss to the Capitals
Maybe that’s what gets it done in 2016-17: finding ways to carve out wins and shake out rough patches, like the Caps did tonight.
Patrice Bergeron doesn’t have a reputation for dirty hits, but he drew the Washington Capitals’ ire for a hit on Matt Niskanen.
The Capitals consider Niskanen “probable” to return to Wednesday’s game against the Boston Bruins with what they’re calling an upper-body injury. Bergeron received a two-minute boarding penalty for the infraction.
(Check out video of the hit above.)
The Capitals’ Twitter acknowledged the brewing bad feelings.
Does Bergeron deserve supplemental discipline for that boarding hit?
Washington currently leads the game 3-2.
There are plenty of hazards on an NHL rink even if you’re not a player.
Barry Trotz ranks among the coaches who’ve been hit by pucks, though he’s one of the tiny sliver of humans who would shake off a puck to the forehead. It can be dangerous for officials, too, whether it means a wayward puck or wayward player.
The latest example comes in the form of linesman Steve Miller needing help off the ice after a puck hit him in the knee area. As you can see from the video, it looked like he was in serious pain.
It’s refreshing that hockey fans have, for the most part, moved on from debating Tyler Bozak‘s merits.
The general feeling is that the Toronto Maple Leafs use him in appropriate ways these days, so we can simply enjoy his work as a pretty spiffy hockey player.
Speaking of spiffy, check out the sweet moves he made against the Minnesota Wild for the goal above. Feels like you could dub over a Chris Berman “whoop” or two in there, right?
(If you’re into that kind of thing.)
Here’s that gaudy move in isolation and in GIF form: