Author: Mike Halford

New York Rangers v Washington Capitals

Sniper Games: Plenty at stake tonight for Nash, Ovechkin


For two of the NHL’s top three goalscorers, this could be a spring to remember.

Or, one to forget.

Sure, it might be unfair and a bit elementary to draw such a thin line between success and failure — win, you’re good! Lose, you’re bad — but that’s what this Game 7 has ostensibly done for Washington captain Alex Ovechkin (who led the league in goals this year, with 53) and New York’s Rick Nash (who finished third, with 42.)

Nash’s postseason struggles are well documented. Since joining the Rangers, he’s suited up for 52 playoff games and scored just seven times — a per-game rate of 0.13, well off his regular season average as a Blueshirt (0.47).

“It was frustrating when you feel like you’re letting your guys down and your organization down by not scoring,” Nash said after scoring his first of the series — on 21 shots — against the Caps in Game 6, per

“Obviously, [goals] have been hard to come by.”

Nash is 31 in June. He’s now officially past the halfway point of his monster eight-year, $62.4 million deal and while he did enjoy a renaissance regular season — how many post a career-high in goals in their 12th year? — there are those that believe his legacy is now tied to what he does, or more specifically what he doesn’t do, in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Which brings us to Ovechkin.

After starting this series with aplomb — highlight-reel markers in both Games 1 and 2 — the Washington captain has gone silent in a similar fashion to Nash; plenty of shots on goal (17 in the last four games) but no production to show for it (pointless over that same stretch.)

The similarities to Nash don’t end there. Ovechkin was brilliant in his 10th year in the league; he posted his highest goal total in six years and a career-best 25 PPG.

But in the playoffs — yes, like Nash — scoring in the clutch has proved problematic. Ovechkin went goalless over the final three games of the Islanders series and heads into tonight’s tilt goalless in four. If the mounting pressure of those streaks wasn’t enough, Ovechkin put some more on his shoulders by guaranteeing a Caps win at MSG.

Ovechkin also knows it’s on him to follow through with that guarantee.

“We have chances but we have to make one or two steps,” he said, per “It starts for myself. I have to create more opportunities in front of the net, use the body and try to get the shot through.”

Reputation and legacy are fickle, nebulous things. Nash and Ovechkin head into tonight’s action as two of their generation’s premier goalscorers and while it’s crazy to think their reputations and legacies will be forged by a victory in Round 2, it’s not crazy to think either guy will take a sizable hit by losing — especially if they’re held off the scoresheet.

“I’m supposed to score goals,” Nash said, per the Record. “Hopefully they go in.”

Your Capitals-Rangers Game 7 officials are…

Alain Vigneault

Per Scouting the Refs, they’ll be referees Kevin Pollock (No. 33) and Wes McCauley (No. 4), with Pierre Racicot (No. 65) and Derek Amell (No. 75) working the lines.

Standbys are referee Francis Charron and linesman David Brisebois.

Some notes on tonight’s zebras…

• Pollock and McCauley have become something of a “go-to” tandem after not working together much in the early part of the playoffs. They called Game 7 of the Tampa Bay-Detroit series — a game that featured 18 PIM — and also worked Game 5 of this series (which featured the Joel Ward disallowed goal, which Pollock waved off.)

• “The goaltender wasn’t allowed to play his position in the crease,” series officiating manager Rob Shick said of Pollock’s call, per the New York Daily News. “Incidental contact (by Ward). I support the call. Results in no goal, no penalty.”

• In Round 1, Pollock worked the close-out Game 6 of the Minnesota-St. Louis series (in which only five total penalties were called.) McCauley worked the close-out Game 5 of the New York Rangers-Pittsburgh series (in which only six total penalties were called.)

As for the history Washington and New York have in Game 7s…

• The clubs will face off in a Game 7 for the third time in four years and for the fourth time overall, each coming in the past seven seasons. Washington won the first such meeting in 2009, while the Rangers have eliminated the Capitals twice in the past three seasons (2012 and 2013).

• Since their elimination by the Capitals in 2009, the Rangers have posted five consecutive Game 7 wins. Their streak is one shy of the NHL record set by the Detroit Red Wings, who won six consecutive Game 7s between 1949 and 1964, and the Boston Bruins, who captured six straight between 1983 and 1994. The Rangers also have won six consecutive Game 7s on Madison Square Garden ice, a streak dating to 1992.

Canucks ‘know what it’s going to take’ to keep Lack, whose future might be elsewhere

Ducks Canucks Hockey

You can add Eddie Lack to the list of goalies that might come available this summer.

Lack, who took over the No. 1 gig in Vancouver after Ryan Miller’s injury and backstopped the team to the playoffs, has one year left on his deal but could be moved if the Canucks decide he’s not in their long-term plans.

From the Vancouver Sun:

Canucks general manager Jim Benning said Tuesday the team will make a decision on its goaltending before the entry draft in June and if Lack isn’t part of the long-term plan, the club will try to trade him rather than risk losing him as an unrestricted free agent after next season.

“We’ve had preliminary talks with Eddie’s agent and we know what it’s going to take to get him signed,” Benning said. “We’re bringing in all our pro scouts and we’ll meet here in the next couple of weeks … and as a group make that decision.”

Asked if Lack, having played 41 NHL games each of the last two seasons, is too good to risk losing to free agency if the Canucks don’t re-sign him, Benning said: “I think you’re right with that.”

Lack, 27, emerged as a legit No. 1 and fan favorite this season, going 18-13-4 with a .921 save percentage and 2.45 GAA while winning over the Rogers Arena faithful with his easygoing personality and affinity for tacos.

The Swedish ‘tender has said he likes playing in Vancouver and wants to stay. But with Ryan Miller under contract for two more years — at $6M per — and Jacob Markstrom posting All-Star calibre numbers at the AHL level, Lack could be the guy on the move.

Of course, he’s not ready to just accept his departure — just ask his mom, who received some media attention herself this year for her exploits on Twitter:

All that said, Lack — who carries an affordable $1.15 million cap hit — may eventually welcome a move if it affords a better opportunity to start.

“I kind of feel like I’m almost coming up to that age where I’m really ready to compete, you know?” he explained. “To be honest, I don’t really care if it would have been me and [Markstrom] like it was before or me and Ryan; I come to the rink every day to do my best. I’m always going to hope and expect to play.

“I have one year left on my contract and I love the city and love the fans. Obviously, there’s a business side and if they want to get rid of me, I can’t really say anything. But I want to spend more time here.”

Giordano extension ‘No. 1’ priority for Flames; decision pending on Ramo

Mark Giordano, Karri Ramo

With their season over, the Calgary Flames now face questions about a number of veteran presences — specifically, captain Mark Giordano and goalie Karri Ramo.

On Tuesday, GM Brad Treliving shed some light onto where both fall on the priority chart.

Giordano tops it, per Treliving, who said getting the captain signed to a contract extension is his No. 1 job — once Giordano is eligible to sign a new deal on July 1. The 31-year-old, heading into the last of a five-year, $20.1 million deal, missed the final quarter of 2014-15 (and all of the playoffs) with a torn biceps tendon but is universally regarded as the Flames’ leader and best player. Giordano was also widely considered to be a Norris Trophy frontrunner at the time of his injury; he still managed to finish 13th among d-men in scoring this year, with 48 points, despite missing 21 games.

“Everybody in this room knows what Mark means,” Treliving said. “On the ice, we all know. He’s a culture-setter for me. We plan to get to work at it [contract extension] and have done some preliminary work at it, but it’s one we want to get wrapped up real quick this summer.”

As for Ramo, his future is murkier.

The Finnish netminder had a pretty good season, essentially splitting starting duties with Jonas Hiller (Ramo had 32 starts to Hiller’s 44.) That trend carried over to the playoffs, where Hiller was the No. 1 against Vancouver, only to cede the gig in Round 2 versus Anaheim, when Ramo took the job and played well; in Calgary’s Game 5 elimination, the 28-year-old stopped 44 of 47 shots, many of the highlight-reel variety.

Ramo, though, is a pending UFA and the Flames have both Hiller and highly-touted AHLer Joni Ortio under contract for next season. What’s more, Ortio now requires waivers to be sent down to the American League, and Treliving hinted that a three-goalie rotation wasn’t something the club wanted to mess around with.

“We’ve got a young guy Ortio who’s pushing, knocking on the door,” Treliving explained. “[Ramo] is a decision we’ve got to make over the course of the next few weeks, we’re just not there yet.

“A wise man told me there’s only one net. Carrying three goalies, you can only do it for a short period of time.”

As for the club’s other key free agents — RFAs Lance Bouma and Mikael Backlund — Treliving said “we expected to get both of them signed.”

With Svedberg gone, McIntyre could sign in Boston

Zane McIntyre

North Dakota junior Zane McIntyre, this year’s Mike Richter Award winner as the top NCAA goalie, is reportedly contemplating skipping his senior season to turn pro and join the Bruins, per Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

Taken by Boston in the sixth round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, McIntyre’s decision might’ve been swayed by Niklas Svedberg’s recent signing in the KHL. The departure of Svedberg, Tuukka Rask’s backup last season, could create a domino effect throughout the organization’s goalie depth chart.

As it stands, Malcolm Subban — the club’s first-round pick at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft — will presumably continue his progression next season with AHL Providence, the same place McIntyre would (likely) land if he turned pro.

CSNNE’s Joe Haggerty reports that Boston is likely to go “the affordable veteran free agent route” with regards to Rask’s backup next season, but a spot at the NHL level could open up the season following — with either McIntyre or Subban vying for it.