The New York Rangers were 100 seconds away from elimination from the Stanley Cup playoffs Friday but managed to pull off a 2-1 overtime victory against the Washington Capitals. Had Caps’ goalie Braden Holtby had a bad night, the Rangers’ goal count would have been much higher. Holtby is vital to the Caps reaching the conference final – but so is the offense – especially Alex Ovechkin and his first line teammates Nicklas Backstrom and Joel Ward.
Holtby made 41 saves inside Madison Square Garden Friday including many that King Henrik Lundqvist himself would have been proud of. Holtby is on fire for sure, but he needs more help from the men in front of him.
The Rangers’ frustration with Holtby was palpable Friday and in earlier games, and when Curtis Glencross scored at 10:54 into the third period to put the Capitals up 1-0, the air was sucked out of the arena. However, let’s credit New York for never giving up on their cause. Home ice is a huge advantage in any playoff series but even more so in the perennial Rangers/Capitals matchup. It’s extremely hard for the road team to win in the home team’s barn, and the Rangers made sure that the trend continued.
WATCH: Game 5 highlights
The Rangers have now clocked up 10 straight playoff games this postseason in which the game was decided by a single goal. That shows that they are riding their luck – big time. Can the Capitals open the floodgates Sunday in Game 6 at the Verizon Center and tally up a big lead and hold on to win? Yes. I think that’s on the cards – but only if Holtby stays steady in goal and only if the Caps’ first line starts producing goals the same way they did in the regular season.
— Tami Holtby (@Meemaw_Tami) May 5, 2015
Happy Mother’s Day? The Caps are hoping that their goalie’s mom’s tweet comes true for Game 6. Her post-Game 3 tweet (a 1-0 Caps win) is above.
Rookies are Great, but …
Rookies Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky are the surprise main story of the Capitals’ postseason – and nobody predicted that. But these guys are inexperienced and although his goals against the Rangers in Game 4 were well-deserved, Burakovsky looked as surprised as the rest of the Verizon Center after he’d scored them. The surprise factor is going to run out on the Capitals if they’re not careful.
Ovechkin was quiet in the last three playoff games after his spectacular goal in a 3-2 loss in Game 2. All eyes will be on him Sunday at the Verizon Center, and the “Great 8” has what it takes to perform in the big games. No game is bigger than Sunday’s because the Capitals do not want a Game 7 in New York.
“Being in their shoes, we’ve been there,” stated Lundqvist after his team’s win Friday night in New York. “Going home now, there’s a lot of pressure for them. I know for sure they don’t want to come back here for another game.”A truer word was never spoken by a New York Ranger.
Ovechkin’s Sweet Spot
The game plan Sunday must involve a way to draw penalties. The Capitals had the number one power play during the regular season, but they haven’t had much chance to claim the same distinction for the postseason. The Capitals must utilize their man-advantage situations; it’s time to rekindle the spark that brought them major success this term, and if Ovechkin and Backstrom combine to get the puck to Ovi in his sweet spot on the wing, they go in 99 times out of 100.
The rookies have been awesome for the Capitals in both rounds of the playoffs so far and Holtby has shown that he has the game to become an NHL great in the future. However, something’s got to give in this series, and it’s time for Ovechkin and his linemates to take control and push the Capitals over the finish line. The Capitals are 3-9 when trying to clinch a series since 2010, and it’s high time they improved that statistic.
A typically strong game from Holtby and the first line reinventing itself for Game 6 will get the Capitals to their first Stanley Cup conference final since 1998 and make Sunday a very happy Mother’s Day for all Washington moms.