10.16.13: Caps week in review
It was crushing; humiliating; shocking; embarrassing.
Choose your own adjective to describe the 5-0 drubbing the New York Rangers put on the Capitals in Game 7 of last year’s Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at VerizonCenter, the first Game 7 road victory in the Rangers’ 87-year history.
Tonight, the Rangers return to D.C. for their first game against the Caps since that dreadful night, a night that haunted both fans and players for much of the summer.
“Yeah, it did,” Caps defenseman Mike Green said. “It did. I think any player can attest it takes a month or two to let that settle down and put it behind us.
“It was frustrating last year. We’ve had their number in the past and they’ve had ours. [Tonight] should be a good game.”
Alex Ovechkin had one goal in that seven-game series despite 30 shots on goal against Henrik Lundqvist. What does he remember about the final game?
“Nothing,” Ovechkin said. “It’s done.”
Was it easy for Ovechkin to forget about that lopsided loss, the Caps’ second Game 7 defeat to the Rangers in two years?
“It all depends how you spend your summer,” Ovechkin said. “If you’re gonna think about it, of course you’re not going to forget it. But when the hockey season is over you just have to concentrate on different things and be ready mentally for next year. That’s what I think I did and that’s what I think all players have to do.”
Ovechkin said he'll be ready to play tonight after leaving Tuesday's practice early. "Everything all right," he said. "Like normal."
Capitals coach Adam Oates said he doesn’t need to stoke the emotions from his team’s last meeting with the Rangers, saying it has no bearing on tonight’s outcome.
“They beat us in a Game 7,” he said. “You use it as a tool, but it’s not real.”
What’s real is that with John Tortorella now coaching in Vancouver and Alain Vigneault replacing him behind the bench in New York, the Rangers find themselves in much the same predicament as the Caps did last season under Oates.
They are 1-4-0 and have allowed an average of five goals a game, most in the NHL. The Caps are only slightly better with two wins in their first six games.
“Look at what’s happened so far,” Oates said. “The two teams that played last year have both struggled so far. They’ve given up way more goals than you ever would have expected, so they’re not the same team right now.”
As for the rivalry between the two teams, which will be accentuated tonight on NBCSN, Caps right wing Troy Brouwer says that is for real. Brouwer was introduced to the rivalry in the 2012 playoffs and has seen it build since then.
“Seeing relatively the same guys every year you’re always going to have those grudges,” Brouwer said. “For me, [Ryan] Callahan’s a tough guy to play against and you saw how well Derick Brassard played in the playoffs.
“For most forwards you usually find a D-man you battle with. Me and [Michael] Del Zotto have gone at it a little bit. It’s not that I hate the guy or anything. I respect him as a player and he’s a tough guy to play against.”
Del Zotto sat out of Tuesday’s practice with the flu and is expected to miss tonight’s game. Power forward Rick Nash is also sidelined with a concussion.
Despite both teams’ poor starts, Caps defenseman Mike Green said he expects the Caps and Rangers to be battling for playoff positioning five months from now.
“It’s a new season and we challenge ourselves to play good hockey against them,” Green said. “Because you never know, we could see them again.”
Could Ovechkin bear facing the Rangers in the post-season for the fifth time in six years?
“First of all,” he said, “we have to be in the playoffs.”