Nicklas Backstrom

Video: Brooks Orpik levels Dan Boyle

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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:

Fehr replaces Glencross in Caps’ Game 7 lineup

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With their season on the line, the Washington Capitals are favoring a familiar face over a trade deadline find. Eric Fehr steps back in the Caps’ lineup in place of Curtis Glencross against the New York Rangers in Game 7.

Fehr, 29, has missed the past 10 games. He hasn’t scored in the three playoff contests he appeared in, but he showed decent scoring punch during the regular season, with 19 goals (including four game-winners) in 75 games.

Fehr also had 14 assists for a total of 33 points.

He’s a big body who’s currently slotted in a lower line combination, yet he’s shown a decent amount of aptitude skating with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom when given the opportunity.

Glencross, 32, has been quiet during the playoffs, managing a single goal in 10 games. He hasn’t really produced many chances, either, with just 14 shots on goal.

On paper, this is a minor swap, but you never know when a bit player might steal the spotlight.

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.

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoff TV schedule for tonight

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The second round concludes tonight with Game 7 from Madison Square Garden…

Capitals at Rangers, 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN

The New York Rangers have won five straight Game 7s including last spring when they rallied from a 3-1 deficit against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Rangers have also won two straight Game 7s against the Caps (2012 and 2013).

In 2013 New York recovered from 2-0 and 3-1 deficits to beat Washington in Game 7.

Henrik Lundqvist is 5-0 with a 0.80 goals-against average and a .973 save percentage in his last five Game 7 appearances.

Washington is 0-4 in previous series which they’ve led 3-1 and needed a Game 7.

Tonight marks the ninth time in 11 playoff series since Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green made their playoff debuts in 2008 that that the Caps have gone to a Game 7. Washington is 3-5 in the previous eight Game 7s.

Liam McHugh, Mike Milbury and Keith Jones get the coverage started with NHL Live at 7:00 p.m. ET. Doc Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire have the call of Game 7 from MSG.

Caps facing arguably the biggest game in franchise history

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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’