NEW YORK — Crunch the numbers, ride the waves of momentum, and then try to guess if the Washington Capitals or New York Rangers will survive another Game 7 and move on to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Hockey analysts will make very compelling arguments – and leave anyone who is listening believing that both teams can’t lose the win-or-go-home matchup on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
Ah yes, Madison Square Garden, the famed arena in which the Rangers are 4-0 in Game 7s. It is also the place where the Rangers pulled out a Game 5 win in this series by scoring a power-play goal with 7.6 seconds left in regulation, and then another less than 2 minutes into overtime, turning what appeared to be a sure loss into one of the most electrifying victories in club history.
You know, the tide-turning win that the Capitals would never be able to bounce back from – even though they were heading home for Game 6. It didn’t quite work out that way, and now it’s the Rangers who will fight to make sure there is no carry-over in the other direction for Game 7.
“We can’t let it,” Rangers captain Ryan Callahan said. “We have to put this one behind us. We have to go in Saturday ready to play.”
Whoever prevails will face the well-rested New Jersey Devils with a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals on the line.
The Rangers, eliminated from the playoffs by Washington in two of the previous three seasons, haven’t been to the conference finals since 1997. That was three years after they won the Cup for the first time in 54 years.
The Capitals have never won it all. They were swept in 1998 by Detroit in their only appearance in the Cup finals and have been to the conference finals twice.
“It takes a lot of character to bounce back all the time,” Capitals coach Dale Hunter said. “You’re going to have your ups and downs, especially in the playoffs. We have a lot of character in that room.”
Alex Ovechkin has been a symbol of that. He has dealt with limited ice time in the playoffs, but hasn’t sulked. He had no shots in Game 5, and it appeared that perhaps he had been neutralized by New York.
Just 1:28 into the Capitals’ last stand at home Wednesday night, Ovechkin zipped a shot over goalie Henrik Lundqvist’s suddenly susceptible glove to give Washington a power-play goal and a lead it would never give up in a 2-1 win that saved the season at least for two more days.
DUCKS: Signed coach Bruce Boudreau to a two-year contract extension through 2014-15.
Anaheim rewarded Boudreau on Thursday for reviving the struggling Ducks after taking charge Nov. 30.
The Ducks went 27-23-8 after Boudreau replaced the fired Randy Carlyle, compiling one of the NHL’s best records after the All-Star break.