James O'Brien

Barry Trotz

Caps’ Trotz: ‘Defeat is not your undertaker’

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For some, tonight’s overtime Game 7 loss to the New York Rangers was just another crushing defeat for the Alex Ovechkin-led Washington Capitals. Those around the team seem more optimistic … at least those who can digest it already, that is.

Head coach Barry Trotz praised the Caps’ big-time players even as the sting of that 2-1 OT defeat lingers, as the Washington Post’s Alex Prewitt reports.

“We’re learning from our history and we’re looking it right in the eye,” Trotz said. “We went after this game…and almost pulled it off.”

“I think my top guys delivered. All my top guys…They grew up. They grew today.”

Braden Holtby echoed Trotz’s thoughts, right down to talking about growth, according to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston.

“If we keep growing the way we grew this year we’re going to do some special things,” Holtby said.

Trotz also backed up Ovechkin’s now-ill-fated guarantee one more time:

It’s easy to see why the Capitals aren’t throwing each other under the bus. This series was about as tight as it gets with all seven games being decided by a single goal. Washington may have been in round three if a few extra bounces went its way.

Of course, there is one naysayer side to growth talk: in a salary cap era, you may lose key contributors to free agency like Mike Green and Joel Ward. It’s also difficult to ignore the fact that Alex Ovechkin will turn 30 around training camp time (the age where most snipers begin to decline in production).

Still, the Caps saw promising work in year one under Trotz, and one can assume that young players including Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky will only get better and gain more trust from their head coach.

Don’t get things twisted, though; not every member of the organization is taking the loss in stride just yet.

Here’s your 2015 Conference Finals schedule

Chicago Blackhawks v Anaheim Ducks
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The smoke has barely cleared from the New York Rangers’ thrilling Game 7 overtime win against the Washington Capitals, yet we already have a schedule for what could be a fantastic conference finals.

Fans of the other 26 teams may disagree, but it’s tough to imagine a better duo of series than Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks vs. Anaheim Ducks.

Via the NHL:

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL MATCHUP
SERIES M – M1 vs. A2
TIME (ET)  vs.  NETWORKS
Saturday, May 16 1 p.m. Tampa Bay at NY Rangers NBC, CBC, TVA Sports
Monday, May 18 8 p.m. Tampa Bay at NY Rangers NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
Wednesday, May 20 8 p.m. NY Rangers at Tampa Bay NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
Friday, May 22 8 p.m. NY Rangers at Tampa Bay NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
*Sunday, May 24 8 p.m. Tampa Bay at NY Rangers NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
*Tuesday, May 26 8 p.m. NY Rangers at Tampa Bay NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
*Friday, May 29 8 p.m. Tampa Bay at NY Rangers NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL MATCHUP
SERIES N – P1 vs. C3
TIME (ET)   vs. 
NETWORKS
Sunday, May 17 3 p.m. Chicago at Anaheim NBC, CBC, TVA Sports
Tuesday, May 19 9 p.m. Chicago at Anaheim NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
Thursday, May 21 8 p.m. Anaheim at Chicago NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
Saturday, May 23 8 p.m. Anaheim at Chicago NBC, CBC, TVA Sports
*Monday, May 25 9 p.m. Chicago at Anaheim NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
*Wednesday, May 27 8 p.m. Anaheim at Chicago NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
*Saturday, May 30 8 p.m. Chicago at Anaheim NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports

* – If necessary.

Stepan up: Rangers best Caps in overtime of Game 7

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Alex Ovechkin scored and made his presence felt in Game 7, but the New York Rangers got what matters: the win. Derek Stepan put home the 2-1 overtime game-winner, ending the Washington Capitals’ season and punching New York’s ticket to the 2015 Eastern Conference finals.

In the process, the Rangers became the first team in NHL history to rally back from 3-1 series deficits in consecutive postseasons.

With that, the two teams seem to fall into a narrative of success and failure:

The start seemed to point toward a minor Messier moment for Ovechkin. He scored a nice goal to put Washington up 1-0 and enjoyed plenty of chances throughout the game. Braden Holtby also made an impression by spurning Rick Nash on a shorthanded breakaway chance.

Things really swung in the second period, however, as they took advantage of a string of power-play opportunities to tie things up. Kevin Hayes punched in a beautiful J.T. Miller pass to make it 1-1, setting the stage for a nerve-wracking finish.

(The third period didn’t provide much action … but there was plenty of violence and personal dentistry.)

The overtime was fast and furious with both teams getting some golden chances. There was one scary stretch for the Rangers early on:

As strong as Holtby was in this series, Henrik Lundqvist & Co. move on. The legend of Lundqvist only continues:

The Rangers move on to what should be a fascinating conference final matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Capitals, meanwhile, face an offseason full of questions as they’re forced to digest yet another punch to the gut in the playoffs.

Even after a strong game, many will question Ovechkin, especially considering the guarantee and the disappointing outcome. The one thing we can’t debate: Ovechkin (and Barry Trotz) have never made it beyond the round two of a postseason.

Video: Kevin Hayes removes his tooth, no big deal

New York Rangers v New York Islanders
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The New York Rangers and Washington Capitals are going into overtime in Game 7. Here’s another chance to stream the action, which is also airing on NBCSN:

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

OK, with that out of the way, things were starting to get pretty nasty in the third period. Brooks Orpik’s huge hit on Dan Boyle had a lot to do with it. These are hockey players, though, so they’re more accustomed to pulling out their own teeth than they likely are with Game 7 pressure.

Kevin Hayes has had quite a game, scoring the 1-1 goal and practicing some self dentistry:

Are we sure that big kid’s a rookie?

Video: Brooks Orpik levels Dan Boyle

orpikboyle
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Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik has a reputation for landing bone-rattling hits. He did so against New York Rangers blueliner Dan Boyle during the third period of Game 7.

More than a few people believe Orpik should have received an elbowing or roughing penalty for the huge check, but there was no whistle:

Here’s the hit in GIF form:

It’s been a tough series for Boyle, who was shaken up by a Nicklas Backstrom hit just moments before the Capitals beat the buzzer to win Game 1:

Apparently Rick Nash isn’t happy about that hit: