Just before Washington’s second round series against the New York Rangers started, Capitals coach Barry Trotz compared captain Alex Ovechkin to Rangers great Mark Messier. With the series heading to Game 7 on Wednesday, Ovechkin had a Messier-like moment when he declared that “we’re going to come back and win the series.”
Trotz for one loved that.
“I saw that and that’s what leaders do,” Trotz said, per CSN Washington. “Leaders say this is what we need to do, this is what we’re going to do. I think I have a lot more respect for someone who will be bold enough to say, ‘I’m the leader of the hockey team. We’re going to go there and give our best game and go out and win a hockey game.’ I’d rather have that than a leader going, ‘Well, we’re going there to lose.’ I mean, come on.
“I love that. I love that a player has got the wherewithal to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to go there and we’re going to go after them and we’re going to leave it out there. I have a lot of respect for players that say that. And anybody who doesn’t have respect for that I think is fooling themselves.”
Ovechkin’s statement is attracting attention now, but if there’s no follow through then his words will soon be forgotten. Messier’s guarantee is remembered because he and the Rangers delivered on it.
Ovechkin is having a great career as far as individual accomplishments go, but not when it comes to team success. Maybe this is the year that changes and if it does, perhaps we’ll remember what he said on Sunday long after this series is over.
The Lightning need just one more victory to eliminate Montreal and advance to the Eastern Conference Final, but the Canadiens have the momentum after winning two straight games. Before Tampa Bay’s fight to avoid the embarrassment of suffering a reverse sweep continues, the team reportedly got some bad news tonight.
Forward Ryan Callahan is having an emergency appendectomy. It’s not clear how long he’ll be sidelined for as a result, but he won’t play in Game 6 on Tuesday, per the Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith.
Update: Callahan underwent surgery at 9:00 p.m. ET and is in stable condition after the procedure, according to Joe Smith
Callahan, 30, has three assists and a team-high plus-seven rating in 12 playoff games. He’s averaged 18:17 minutes per contest, including an average of 3:00 minutes with the man advantage.
While he isn’t a prolific scorer for the Lightning, he has been one of their most physical forwards with 42 hits and the team has performed better in the playoffs from a Corsi perspective when he’s on the ice compared to when he’s not. He also ranks third among Tampa Bay forwards with nine blocked shots.
Losing Callahan is a significant blow for Tampa Bay and will test its depth. After being a healthy scratch in Game 5, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Jonathan Drouin be reinserted into the lineup.
When it comes to playoff injuries, we usually don’t get the full story until after the fact. The latest example of that is the Minnesota Wild, which opened up about the status of their players now that they have been eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks.
Chris Stewart revealed today that his upper-body injury was actually a separated right shoulder. He was hurt during Game 2 of the second round and while he was able to play through it long enough to finish the contest, he missed the final two games of the series.
“I had nothing. It’s just frustrating,” Stewart told the Star Tribune. “Want to get out there, want to help your team. Toughest job in sport is watching. Wasn’t a story book ending, but I’m still happy with the opportunity I had here.”
Stewart had 14 goals and 36 points in 81 contests in 2014-15 between Buffalo and Minnesota. He was acquired by the Wild on March 2 for a 2017 second round pick and played out the remainder of his two-year, $8.3 million contract. Given Minnesota’s cap situation, Stewart will probably test the free agent market.
Jason Zucker also had a rough postseason run as he broke his thumb in Game 2 of Minnesota’s first round series against St. Louis. He remained in the lineup, but was limited to a single goal in the eight games that followed.
“Pain-wise it wasn’t bad until the numbing wore off, but overall, I think the toughest part is once your thumb is numb, you can’t feel your stick very well, so stickhandling was a little bit tough,” Zucker said.
Dubnyk: Minnesota is ‘where I want to be’
It’s become an all-too common problem: When the playoffs start, Rick Nash stops scoring. He had just one goal in 12 games in the 2013 playoffs, two markers in 25 postseason contests last year, and went into Game 6 against the Washington Capitals with a goal in 10 playoff games.
His third period marker on Sunday isn’t enough to compensate for his lackluster history, but it’s a start and for him, it’s also a big relief.
“It’s a weight off my shoulders,” Nash told NHL.com. “It was frustrating when you feel like you’re letting your guys down and your organization down by not scoring. The more important thing that I focus on is the wins.”
Nash still felt like he was contributing to the Rangers’ victories even when he wasn’t finding the back of the net and head coach Alain Vigneault agrees that he’s been “an effective player.” Still, his scoring touch is a big part of his appeal and that’s been largely absent since the postseason started.
Perhaps this will be the beginning of a hot streak for Nash. It would certainly be coming at an ideal time given that Game 7 of their second round series against Washington is on Wednesday.
In the meantime, here is his Game 6 marker:
When it comes to regular season success, Bruce Boudreau doesn’t have many equals. Between his past tenure as the head coach of the Washington Capitals and his current gig with the Anaheim Ducks, he has a 363-167-69 record and a points percentage (.664) higher than any other coach that’s served in at least 500 games. That includes the legendary Scotty Bowman, who finished his career with a .657 points percentage.
Boudreau doesn’t get a lot of credit for his regular season success though because his teams haven’t excelled beyond that. In contrast to Bowman’s nine championships as a head coach, Boudreau hadn’t reached the Conference Final until this year.
“It’s a relief that I won’t get asked that question anymore,” Boudreau told NHL.com. “I’m sure now it will be, ‘Well, you’ve never been to the Cup Final.’ For tonight I’m really happy that question won’t be asked of me too often anymore.”
Of course, the way to avoid that question too would be to beat the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2015 Western Conference Final. Anaheim largely cruised through the regular season and only needed nine games to eliminate Winnipeg and Calgary in the first two rounds.
Chicago is an entirely different beast though. The Blackhawks have no shortage of veteran players with postseason success. They possess both star talent and depth. They also earned 4-1 victories against the Ducks in their last two meetings.
This series looks like an uphill battle for Anaheim, but at least Boudreau is closer than ever to his ultimate goal.