Rangers crown the Caps behind the King
Goaltending, graybeards and grit lift Rangers past flashy, flailing Caps in Game 7 laugher
It was a Game 7 moment straight out of a cliche-laden Hollywood Script. A young, scrappy, defense-minded road team trying to find their legs early in a contest which finds them pitted against a flashy, star-studded group installed as the favorite by those in Vegas who handicap sporting events of this nature on a daily basis.
A mere 8:30 into the game, a red-sweatered human heat seeking missile named Alexander Ovechkin zeroes in on Ryan McDonagh, the very man who has played a pivotal role in rendering The Great 8 average, keeping him off the score sheet for 5 consecutive games. With frustration mounting, Ovechkin attempted to knock the young McDonagh out of the game with a hit that should have drawn more than the welts and blood scattered across McDonagh's babyface, as in a 2 minute stay in the penalty box. But as play carried on and McDonagh received immediate care from the trainer, a hush fell over Blueshirt Nation as it would appear that McDonagh would be unable to return.
But return he did. One shift later.
Galvanized by McDonagh's heart and toughness, it was a borderline formality from that point forward as the New Yorkers rode the robe of King Henrik Lundqvist coupled with a pair of timely goals by unlikely veteran scorers Arron Asham and Taylor Pyatt on their way to the franchise's first ever Game 7 Road victory in the Nation's Capital last night in front of over 18,500 fans.
Michael Del Zotto, who netted last year's Game 7 Series winner at Madison Square Garden against these same Capitals, tacked on a deflection goal at the 5:34 mark of the 2nd period, and when Ryan Callahan picked John Erskine's pocket 13 seconds into the 3rd period and rifled a backhander past shell-shocked Caps' Goalie Braden Holtby, the final 19:47 was a mere formality, although Mats Zuccarello teed one up for the highlight reel at the 6:39 mark of the 3rd when his breakaway goal beat Holtby and gave the Blueshirts their 5th score of the night. It was the Norwegian Hobbit's 5th point of the Series (1G/4A) and his unexpected impact in the Series was on par with the likes of Derick Brassard and Derek Dorsett, the two surprising youngsters who swapped their Blue Jackets for Blueshirts at the Trade deadline.
The Rangers blocked a bruise-inducing 27 shots to the Capitals 9, and with Henrik Lundqvist playing at his customary Vezina Level, it was easy to see why the Caps tallied a paltry 2 goals over their last 3 games, with blanks across the board over the last two.
So it's on to Beantown for an Original 6 Match-up against the Boston Bruins in a Series as old school as typewriters and Schaefer Beer. You can expect more nip-tuck, defense-first hockey with goal-tending to spare as both teams look to employ their brand of hard-nosed, work the corners hockey.
With the games being spread out more generously in this the Eastern Semifinal Round, it could signify the return of a few key injured skaters, Marc Staal perhaps qualifying as the biggest difference maker amongst that group.
Prediction? Rangers in 7 of course.
But then again, could it possibly go any other way?