Holtby, Ovie, and Lucky Bounces
Braden Holtby and number one star last night, stood on his head to help the Caps win a 1-0 game to take a 2-1 series lead over the New York Rangers. Holtby, Ovie, and lucky bounces have helped wipe out slow starts that the Caps are notorious for and have not avoided in either of their playoff series against the New York Islanders or Rangers. This includes the 12:30 debacle on Saturday and the first period in game three, after the Rangers came to play and pressured early. This team cannot seem to wake up for games that start before 1:00 p.m. or come out pressing in the first period even when the games are this important. Baffling.
After complaining about their lack of heart, the Caps pulled out a tight series versus the Islanders with a seesaw performance. They pounded the Islanders 5-1 in game 5 only to fan on the opportunity to close out the series in game 6. Instead, they lost and had to go to a game 7, which they eventually won 2-1 with goals from playoff hero, Joel Ward, and the young wizard with the puck, Evgeny Kuznetsov. The heart comes easier when the Caps are desperate, which is not how teams win the Stanley Cup.
The Caps took that victory and stunned the Rangers with a 2-1 win, to open their second round series, led by a possessed Alex Ovechkin and steady in the net Braden Holtby. The captain flew around the ice with purpose, scoring the first goal of the series on the power play from his usual spot. That the Rangers practiced defending that play and could not prevent the laser shot that went in the top of the net and back out in a flash before goalie Henrik Lundqvist even knew what happened is testimony to Ovie’s power as a sniper. In game 2 of the series, Ovie’s highlight reel goal in the 3-2 loss made fools of Ranger defenders, Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh, by splitting them and knocking a puck in top left corner as he fell to his knees, a vintage Ovie goal. Ovie is playing on another level and the Caps need that to continue.
Holtby’s been strong and getting stronger since the playoffs started, even if he occasionally lets in softie goals. He’s calm and focused as he bails out his team more often than he lets in softies. His game last night was probably his best of the season. His .949 save percentage shows leads the league among the remaining goaltenders. The Caps need that to continue, too.
The lucky bounces were two game winning goals, noteworthy, because lucky bounces do not find the Caps. Joel Ward’s game winning goal off of Alex Ovechkin’s impossible pass across the body and in front of the net to the waiting Ward with 1.3 seconds left was lucky. Jay Beagle’s hard working second attempt to get the puck in the net deflected off Keith Yandle or Lundqvist and became the game winner. Beagle demonstrated how hard work creates luck and nobody deserves it more because he always toils on the ice. Keep working hard Caps and keep making luck.Let’s go Caps!