Here we go again. For the seventh time in their last nine Stanley Cup playoff series, the Capitals are headed to a Game 7. This is the third series against the Rangers to go the distance during that span.
For Washington, it’s fairly simple: avoid another two-game losing streak. The Caps dropped Games 3 and 4 in New York, marking the first time they had lost consecutive contests since March 9-12 and the first time they had lost consecutive playoff contests since their second-round sweep at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2011.
Here are some notes and observations to help you kill some of the hours remaining between now and puck drop at 8 pm tonight.
In Goal – Caps goalie Braden Holtby has been extremely good at avoiding consecutive setbacks in the playoffs and in the regular season during his young NHL career. Including the playoffs, he has made 73 starts in the NHL. Holtby has lost consecutive starts just five times during that stretch.
Holtby is 10-10 in his career in the Stanley Cup playoffs, with a shutout, a 1.90 GAA and a .936 save pct. He has allowed two or fewer goals in 13 of those 20 contests.
Holtby has had separate shutout streaks of 124:06 and 98:10 in this series. Heading into Game 7, he has allowed just one goal in the last 128:31, a Derick Brassard shot that deflected off the glove of Caps’ defenseman Steve Oleksy.
New York’s Henrik Lundqvist is 28-33 in Stanley Cup play with seven shutouts, a 2.27 GAA and a .919 save pct. Lundqvist extended the series by blanking the Caps 1-0 in Game 6.
In the starts immediately following his six previous playoff shutouts, Lundqvist is 1-5 with a 2.93 GAA and a .911 save pct.
Lundqvist obviously carries a streak of 60 minutes of shutout hockey into tonight’s Game 7.
First Blood – Washington might be able to do itself a big favor by scoring the game’s first goal, something it hasn’t done since Game 3. According to ESPN Stats and Info, the team scoring first in Game 7s of the Stanley Cup playoffs has gone on to win the game in 106 of 144 instances (73.6%). The trend is more pronounced of late, with 75 of the last 94 (79.8%) teams that score first winning in Game 7.
New York has scored first in four of the six games of this series including each of the last three.
Tighten Up – Fourteen of the 18 playoff games played between Washington and New York in the last three springs have been decided by a single goal, and the other four have been decided by two goals.
This spring’s series between the two teams has been tight so far, as have most of the playoff games between these two clubs in recent history. Washington led by two goals for the final 24:53 of Game 1, and the Rangers had a pair of two-goal leads for a total span of 4:24 in Game 4. Other than that, the two teams have been tied or within a single goal of each other for the other 348:07 of hockey played in the series.
Each of the last 13 playoff games between the Capitals and the Rangers has been played without either team ever leading by more than two goals. The last time the Caps led by as many as three was on April 23, 2011 when they briefly led by three on their way to closing the Rangers out in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal. The last time the Rangers led by three was three nights earlier, during Game 4 at Madison Square Garden. New York took a 3-0 lead into the third period, but squandered it and lost the game on Jason Chimera’s goal in double-overtime.
Playing Uphill – The Capitals have spent most of the last five games of the series trying in vain to pull ahead of the Rangers or chasing New York on the scoreboard. Since finishing off Game 1 with a 3-1 victory, the Caps have owned the lead for just 8:04 of the 317:24 of hockey that has been played in the last five games.
Washington has come from behind to tie the score five times in six games while New York has done so once.
Even It Up – Each team has scored nine even-strength goals in the six games in the series. The Caps have scored just three even-strength goals in as many games on home ice.
The Caps scored two even-strength tallies in Game 1, and did not score another until Mike Ribeiro potted the overtime game-winner in Game 5. In between, the Caps played 162:17 of hockey in front of their home crowd without scoring an even-strength goal.
Scoring Spread – The Caps have gotten 12 goals from 11 different players in the series, with only Mike Green finding the back of the net twice.
New York’s Brassard is the only player in the series with more than four points; he has two goals and seven points and carries a four-point scoring streak into Monday’s Game 7.
Seven different Rangers have scored in the series. Four of them have scored twice (Brassard, Carl Hagelin, Dan Boyle and Derek Stepan).
Quiet Giants – Caps captain Alex Ovechkin has had his normal complement of touches and shot attempts during the series, but he has been held off the scoresheet in each of the last four games. Ovechkin scored a power-play goal in Game 1 and added a power-play assist in Game 2, but he has been blanked at even-strength in the series. Ovechkin’s current scoreless streak matches the longest of his NHL career.
New York’s Rick Nash is the only NHL player with 20 or more goals in each of the last nine seasons. Thus far in this series, Nash has been limited to a single assist.
It’s tough to keep a good man down, and no one should be surprised if either or both are factors in tonight’s deciding contest.
Recent History – Each of the previous two Game 7s between Washington and New York has ended with a final score of 2-1. The Caps beat the Rangers in the opening round in 2009 and New York returned the favor in the second round last spring.
In the 2009 Game 7, the Caps had two power-play chances to just one for New York. Last spring, the Rangers had two power-play chances to one for Washington in Game 7.
Big Game Hunters -- Ovechkin and Brooks Laich have each scored two Game 7 goals in their careers. Nicklas Backstrom, Matt Hendricks and Joel Ward each have one.
Stick tap to Carter Myers for the primary assist on some of the statistical data.