1) I am almost without speech because I don’t know what to say. Other than that was a fabulously hard-played hockey game, the kind you’d really hope to get in a Game 7. The Rangers were really good from the start, and to the finish. In the middle, the Capitals were really good for a while, and never went away all night (all series, for that matter). I thought your boys were almost drawing-board perfect protecting the lead with aggressiveness, too. I didn’t expect anything less.
2) Is Brad Richards everything a free-agent signee should be? Yes, I still question whether his contract is going to be a disaster toward the end, or at least perhaps an anchor … but not if he performs like this for a bunch of years first … And especially not if he gets the Cup handoff from Captain Callahan at some point. The guy had a rough year at times, but man has he been all the clutch Captain Drury was supposed to have been, and much more. And he bought the Broadway Hat and ended up with it on his head after Game 7. Stat: Richards is 7-8-15 in his teams’ last 11 elimination games.
3) Here’s the thing with playoffs. A lot of people, off the season this team had, thought, well, they have to win two rounds. But what about that now? My, how things change. Because they are by far the highest seed in the tournament, by far the team that has had the best season, and I imagine that this now becomes an opportunity that changes the expectation. Not sure if that’s fair or just. But this is a chance to really do something special now. Though let’s remember they are only halfway home.
4) How many years has it been since a Rangers team was this tough? How many years since a Rangers team played this hard almost every single night? And now we can also ask this, how long has it been since the Rangers had the kind of speed they can put on the ice? Carl Hagelin’s wheels created the first goal. Marian Gaborik’s wheels helped create the second. Ryan McDonagh’s kept Alex Ovechkin off the board, with plenty of help from Marc Staal (who was exceptional in Game 7 again) and Dan Girardi. And Chris Kreider’s wheels made a big difference on a top line. Speed kills.
5) I swear, Ovechkin’s nostrils were flaring and he could barely contain himself when he came out of the tunnel before the anthem. I thought he was going to jump out of the building. Then, right off the hop, he got away with a couple of potential penalties — a tricky trip/borderline slew-foot on Girardi, and a hit from behind on Ryan Callahan. He was good, but he was clearly frustrated. And I will say this about him — he’s an absolute star in this league, but I think he should be better. I think he goes into glide mode too much.
6) And while we’re knocking Capitals, was there a softer player in the series than Alex Semin? Makes Petr Nedved look like Zdeno Chara.
7) I’m not sure why, but Artem Anisimov reminds me of Bernie Williams. Maybe it’s all those tools but at times something’s lacking. He played a really solid Game 7. He needs to do it more. And do more.
8) Hey, is the Garden available next week or are the Knicks playing? Seriously, though, while I’m sure it’s not great for the blood pressure of a lot of the Garden inhabitants and employees, not to mention players and coaches and staff, I’d guess some of the bean counters have to be doing cartwheels having the maximum eight home games so far.
9) Here’s a question: Why do people leave a game when their team is down by a goal with a minute or two left, but stay when the team is up by a goal with a minute or two left?
10) That two-minute shift the Capitals had in the Rangers end … Henrik Lundqvist made a couple of great saves there, and the defense, though it was dead on its feet and couldn’t get the puck, didn’t really give up much. Crucial point in the game, I thought.
11) Was pretty funny, John Tortorella taking a shot at Michael Del Zotto for finally hitting the net. For 14 games now, Del Zotto’s mixed in a good amount of offense (leading all playoff D-men with 2-6-8) and he has really used his body. … vs. Chris Neil for an entire seven-game series … and last night he plastered Jason Chimera and, just before his goal, slammed Ovechkin off the puck.
12) Probably shouldn’t have waited until No. 12 to get into Lundqvist, who has won a pair of 2-1 Game 7s now. He was so good. And he will have to be the man for the next four to seven games. Plus, you know how I always say he gets it? Listen to his interview a few threads down.
13) I thought Kreider did really well, tossed a few big hits, including one on the Great Eight. Thought that line could have been better. Clearly Callahan is having trouble holding his stick with two hands. And Derek Stepan, who was very good with the puck, was late getting back on the Roman Hamrlik goal. But I still liked the lines much better than the ones they used in Game 6.
14) Too bad Cam Janssen and Officer Joe Boulton haven’t gotten a sweater for any playoff game yet. I was kind of hoping for some synchronized fights to start the series. The Devils haven’t had a single scrap in the postseason. Rangers haven’t had one in eight games.
15) I thought it was pretty cool for Phoenix GM Don Maloney to admit he was rooting for the Rangers … and ripping brother Dave over his playoff beard: “Obviously you have to be somewhat impartial,” Don Maloney said. “I played with (Caps GM) George McPhee. I hope the Rangers win tonight. I got a lot of good friends … Glen Sather was very, very good to me. And not only Glen Sather, but the whole organization was very, very good to me. I’ve got nothing bad to say about them and I’d love to play them in the finals. … My brother Dave, he scares viewers away on occasion. A young Stan Fischler there.”
16) Told ya.
My Three Rangers Stars:
1) Henrik Lundqvist.
2) Brad Richards.
3) Marc Staal.
AP photos, above, below.
One more thing … On short notice, I’m looking for volunteers to do the Three Rangers Stars for the Eastern Conference finals games. E-mail me at email@example.com.