Game 6 in the Round 2 Eastern Conference for the Stanley Cup Playoffs is do-or-die for New York Rangers, but Capitals aren't looking to go easy on their rival.
The New York Rangers need to win Game 6 in the latest round of Stanley Cup Playoffs if they want to move to the next round, the Eastern Conference finals. The Washington Capitals are dominating the series, holding a 3-2 lead over the opposing team. And for a team that's looking to break the curse of not quite holding the cup, the odds may not be in their favor.
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Set to begin at 7 PM in DC, the Rangers won the important Game 5, keeping the team in the playoffs at least. Not being on home ice may be a disadvantage for the team, according to ESPN's Katie Strang.
But things are not always as bad as they seem. On Friday night, May 8, Chris Kreider brought the team up to a tie with a goal. Later, team captain Ryan McDonagh won in overtime victory.
So a comeback is in the realm of possible. The little team that could is pushing hard against the latest rounds. Needing that win to stay in the playoffs, the team is pushing hard.
But New York coach Alain Vigneault admitted “they can still afford to lose one," while his team can't.
It also helps when the team manages to get close off the ice, staying as a unit for the most part. Trust is everything in a team spot. McDonagh offered praise for the team ability to see the end goal and remain undaunted.
"The guys that were going over the boards and the guys that have been with us this whole year, I think we just understand what we’re trying to accomplish here and what was at stake if it weren’t to happen."
And on the ice are two formidable goalies: Braden Holtby for the Capitals and Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers. Holtby surprised the world in 2012 when then 23-year-old became an unexpected beast on the ice. And 33-year-old King Henrik has been battling between the pipes since 2001.
Swedish Lundqvist uses a butterfly style that allows for quickness, athleticism, and strong play. Meanwhile Holtby plays a little safer, using more lateral movements to pick up slack and cover holes. The NHL gives the goalie a little more credit since at 6-foot-2, he can easily see over the screens, catching deflections. Not perfect, the 25-year-old is growing into a strong, seasoned veteran and playing against some phenomenal players this round.
Ranger stars Rick Nash and Martin St. Louis are sidelined, but expected back. So will happen? Hopefully, a successful run. But first they need to counter the Capitals.
Sporting News's Ray Slover notes that the Caps are favored to win with a 5-1 streak at the Verizon Center. Added to the fact they haven't lost in consecutive games this year, Alex Ovechkin's tendency to blow up Game 6s for victory, and some pretty killer penalty blocking, the Caps are on a streak to win.
Stepan told Canada's National Post the Russian has "been really good for them. His two goals in Games 1 and 2 were something that we have to try to continue to limit, because he's going to get his looks." Seems like there's a bit of possible trouble for the Rangers.
But don't count either team as the victor just yet. Slover also reminds fans that with two minutes left, the Caps almost closed out on their first trip to conference finals in 17 years. Losing teaches lessons, but are they good ones?
When Capitals spoke to NHL.com, Holtby said the best game so far this year was in Game 7 against the New York Islanders. Calling it “the best game,” he added the win “shows that we have the capabilities of stepping up in big games and we're going to have to do that again." Success isn’t guaranteed but it could work.
So how do you succeed, like in Game 7?
“I think all 60 minutes we played our game plan," he said. "We weren't trying to be fancy. We were just grinding away; killing the game, in a sense."
So what will happen? According to Slover, Caps' coach Barry Trotz, ex-coach to the Nashville Predators, simplified the problem down to the fact "you need everyone to contribute." No team can win as a single person—but victory is guaranteed as a unit.
"You're going to have some match ups where your best players are going to have to be your best players — every coach will say that — but you need everybody."
Seems like the Rangers are counting on the same theory, except in their favor. The game will be televised on NBC Sports, TSN (Canada), and local Fox Sports stations. The puck drops at 7 PM. This is a series no one wants to miss.
Sources: ESPN, NHL.com, Sporting News