Video: Holtby denies Nash on shorthanded breakaway

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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.

Early delivery: Ovechkin scores 1-0 goal

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All eyes are on Alex Ovechkin in Game 7 … yet even someone under such surveillance can occasionally break free.

Ovechkin sprang free to some open space in a small window of time, receiving a pretty pass from Marcus Johansson and beating Henrik Lundqvist up high to give the Washington Capitals a 1-0 lead against the New York Rangers:

There’s plenty of time for Ovechkin’s bold words to bite him back, but so far, he’s delivering.

WATCH LIVE: Capitals at Rangers – Game 7

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The guarantees have been made. Both the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers are about as well-rested as one can expect, with Game 6 ending on Sunday. Now it’s time to get to the nail-biting, legacy-defining action of a Game 7.

As the 2015 Presidents’ Trophy winners, the Rangers get to host this contest at Madison Square Garden. You can watch this big game in the Big Apple on NBCSN and stream it via NBC Sports Live Extra:

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

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Big test for Alex Ovechkin, Rick Nash

Joel Ward doesn’t believe in “clutch.”

Your Game 7 officials

Sniper Games: Plenty at stake tonight for Nash, Ovechkin

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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 NHL.com.

“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 NHL.com. “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.”

Joel Ward doesn’t believe in ‘clutch’

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Tonight is a DEFINING MOMENT for Alex Ovechkin. He needs to STEP UP and be a GAME-CHANGER. If he’s really the greatest goal-scorer of his generation, he needs to PROVE IT.

Hands up if you’ve heard something along those lines the past couple of days.

Perhaps on PHT!

Over to Ovechkin’s teammate, Joel Ward, with the rebuttal.

“People talk and debate about it. I get it. I’m just trying to tell you: Hockey’s not that game,” Ward said, per the Washington Post. “People don’t understand, the sport of hockey is a different beast compared to other sports. You can’t just throw that deep ball in the corner, and it’s up to you to just go and grab it. Things happen. You make a pass, it banks off the boards differently, it goes off a guy’s skate, bounces over there. There’s a lot of variables that go into it. … Hockey is the ultimate beast, man. It’s a crazy sport.”

Indeed it is. Here’s how author Michael J. Mauboussin ranks the randomness of hockey compared to other sports:

source:

 

This isn’t to make excuses for Ovechkin before the game is even played. He obviously needs to play well.

But even if he plays well and does all the right things, he might not score and the Capitals might not win. That’s just the reality of the game. Especially these days. It’s why you hear stuff like this from the Rangers’ Ryan McDonagh:

And it’s why coaches focus on process over results. The process can be controlled. The results, for the most part, can’t.

“Obviously we’d like to score and produce out there,” Nicklas Backstrom said. “I think we had some good looks last game that we should have put in. But we’ve just got to keep working hard and play the right way and hopefully it will help us.”

Hopefully.

Maybe.