Tag: Braden Holtby


Stepan up: Rangers best Caps in overtime of Game 7


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 ties it on power-play beauty

New York Rangers v Philadelphia Flyers

The Washington Capitals kept taking penalties until the New York Rangers finally burned them for their mistakes in the second period of Game 7.

Washington took three straight penalties, including two back-to-back infractions by Mike Green, but Braden Holtby kept them in it despite some strong Rangers chances. Finally, J.T. Miller’s beautiful setup opened the door for arguably the biggest goal of big forward Kevin Hayes’ career:

With that, the score is 1-1 and the plot thickens.

Fun fact:

Video: Holtby denies Nash on shorthanded breakaway

Braden Holtby

Those who like to beat up on perceived “chokers” probably felt really sad to see perennial punching bag Alex Ovechkin score a big Game 7 goal. They probably received some relief later on in the period, though.

Rick Nash is no stranger to being a scapegoat, and his critics won’t be silenced after he failed to beat Braden Holtby with this backhand move on a shorthanded breakaway:

To some, this save was reminiscent of Marc-Andre Fleury stopping Ovechkin in Game 7 of that memorable Pittsburgh Penguins – Capitals series in 2009:

Restricted free agent or not, Holtby could make himself a lot of money in the playoffs.

Caps facing arguably the biggest game in franchise history

New York Rangers v Washington Capitals - Game Six

It may not be fair, but we all know what the narrative will be if the Washington Capitals lose Wednesday in New York.

Same old Caps. Can’t win the big game. We thought it was different this time. But it’s not.

Head coach Barry Trotz is hoping his team’s near comeback in Game 6 is proof that narrative can be avoided.

“I thought we had a lot of resiliency to fight back,” Trotz said, per the Washington Post. “I know this team has got a lot of character they showed during the year. Probably not the path when you’re up 3-1 that you want to take, but at the same time it’s a great opportunity in Game 7 to find out, I know this team very, very well, and it’s got a tremendous amount of character.”

The Caps have already come up big once in these playoffs, suffocating a dangerous Islanders team in Game 7 of the first round.

But that was at home. This one’s on the road, in “the lion’s den,” as Trotz puts it. The same rink, Madison Square Garden, where on Friday the Caps came 101 seconds from clinching their first trip to the conference finals since 1998.

You could make the argument that Wednesday will be the biggest game in Washington’s franchise history. You’d have some competition there, but you could put forth a few good reasons.

At the top of the list would be the opportunity for the Caps, should they beat the Rangers. Neither Montreal nor Tampa Bay, whoever comes out of that series, has looked entirely dominant in the playoffs. Beat the Habs or Lightning and it’s the Ducks or Blackhawks in the final. Two very good teams, yes, but beatable for sure.

There are 30 teams in the NHL. The league’s landscape changes by the year. These opportunities don’t come around all the time.

What’s more, this is not a particularly young Caps roster we’re talking about. Alex Ovechkin is nearly 30. This isn’t like, say, 2008-09 when Washington got bounced in the second round and it wasn’t the end of the world because he was only 23. Back then, Nicklas Backstrom was still just 21.

Since then, the Caps have only come close to escaping the second round once — in 2012, when they lost a Game 7 to the Rangers. At MSG.

“It’s disappointing,” Braden Holtby said then. “We really did believe in here that we had the team to do it all. We gave ourselves a great chance.”

The Caps have another “great chance” Wednesday. Whether they can take advantage remains to be seen.

Related: Messier moment? Ovechkin: ‘We’re going to come back and win the series’

Kuznetsov: Caps will win Game 7 because ‘our goalie is better’

Washington Capitals v Buffalo Sabres

The Washington Capitals already furnished the New York Rangers with bulletin board material thanks to Alex Ovechkin’s soft guarantee for Game 7. Why not double-down, then?

When asked about why the Capitals might take Wednesday’s decisive game against the Rangers, Evgeny Kuznetsov said it came down to Braden Holtby vs. Henrik Lundqvist … and he’ll take Holtby.

“Our goalie’s better,” Kuznetsov said with a laugh. “I don’t know what you want me to say. Our goalie’s better.”

Here’s video of his comments, along with other interesting reactions (some more likely than others to provide bulletin board material):

Those are bold words in just about any context, but considering Lundqvist’s status as one of the few truly elite goalies in the NHL – maybe the elite goalie in the league – things get that much spicier. Quite frankly, Lundqvist clearly got the best of Holtby in Game 6, yet perhaps their will be a reversal of fortune when everything’s on the line for both teams?

If that’s true, it would break an interesting pattern:

Perhaps Kuznetsov and Ovechkin were a little bit more candid following the frustration of seeing Washington’s 3-1 series lead evaporate into a 3-3 tie? Whatever the case may be, they’re adding extra motivation to a Game 7, the most inspirational situation a hockey player can ask for (at least from a team standpoint).

The beauty and silliness of sports wraps up in this thought, then: if Washington wins, this will look brilliant … and the opposite situation would make them look like bragging buffoons.

Barry Trotz probably doesn’t love this, yet it sure makes this situation more fun, doesn’t it? We’ll see if this candor only heightens over the long break until Game 7 on Wednesday, then.