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High stakes for Caps-Ranger Game 7

By: John Galletley

As well as his team's championship hopes, Alexander Ovechkin's legacy of greatness is on the line in this Game 7 against the New York Rangers.

As well as his team’s championship hopes, Alexander Ovechkin’s legacy of greatness is on the line in this Game 7 against the New York Rangers.

Game 7 — oh there are no better words in sports than Game 7. The New York Rangers and Washington Capitals seem to take their playoffs series this far on a normal basis but now, there could possibly be the highest stakes ever in this recent playoff rivalry.

This is a familiar spot for these two teams. Each of the last three times they have met in the playoffs, they have gone to a Game 7. The Rangers won both of the previous two seven-games series. The Rangers also have experience in this spot as they won in this very round last year after being down 3-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Washington won the first meeting in the Alexander Ovechkin era and looks to even the score not just in recent meetings, but in the all-time record as the Rangers have won four of the seven series in playoff history.

For the Rangers, there is extra pressure to succeed this year. As President Trophy winners, a lot of expectations were put on them to win the Stanley Cup to add to the fact they were in the Finals last year. Time is not on the Rangers side as they have invested in an all-in mentality. They have a couple of older players on their team such as Martin St. Louis and Dan Boyle plus their younger players are going to want raises in the future. This will create a difficult salary cap situation for the Rangers in the future so they may only have a couple of years to win with this group.

The Rangers certainly have the depth to make it far in the playoffs despite missing Mats Zuccarello. Younger players such as Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan have come up big for them when the Rangers needed them most in this series. Kreider actually leads all players in this series with four goals and Stepan had several key assists to keep the Rangers alive in Game 5. They also have their world class goalie showing up so far in Henrik Lundqvist who has done a great job neutralizing the red-hot Braden Holtby.

The issue for the Rangers has been their defensive play. Sometimes, they haven’t played as hard or for the full 60 minutes like the Capitals have. One prime example of this is Game 1 when Dan Boyle let the Capitals get the puck after battling for it on the boards and scoring the game-winning goal to just beat the horn. Ryan McDonagh also hasn’t had his best series like he did against Pittsburgh containing Sidney Crosby.

On the Capitals side, the story for them in the past has been that they have arguably the best player in the world in Ovechkin that has come up short in the playoffs and also hasn’t had a strong team to support him. This team hasn’t had a deep playoff run since 1998 when they made the Stanley Cup Finals where they lost to the Detroit Red Wings. The Capitals may not have as much pressure this particular year to win a Stanley Cup, but with expectations built up for years that have ended in disappointment, Washington is hungry for a serious run at it.

This year, the Capitals as a team have been playing about as well as you could ask them to. A big key is that Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom haven’t had to carry the team this time. They’re getting the support they need especially from Joel Ward who has five points (two goals, three assists) in the series, including the game-winning goal in Game 1 that really allowed the Capitals to have a momentum boost. Braden Holtby as mentioned above has really shined in these playoffs and has done a good job giving the Capitals an anchor to rely on.

The one player to watch in this game will be Ovechkin. He has given himself extra pressure to perform in arguably the most important game of his career. After Game 6, Ovechkin talked a lot of trash about the Rangers claiming that they’re afraid of his guys because he says the Capitals are bigger and stronger as well as guaranteeing that the Capitals are going to win Game 7. If he does back up his talk, he will get a lot of praise and respect like Mark Messier did in 1994 when he guaranteed a victory in Game 6 of the Conference Finals against the New Jersey Devils. However, if the Capitals lose and he doesn’t play well, he will get more backlash than ever before because of his words.

This will be a game where we find out a lot about both sides. For the Rangers, we will see if they can repeat themselves this year coming back from down 3-1 once again and showing us that they’re all-in to win the Stanley Cup. For the Capitals, we will see if this team is different than past years and they can get over the hump of the second round for the first time since 1998 and in the Ovechkin era. One thing is for sure, this is a game you won’t want to miss.

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Want to talk sports? John Galletley is the man to go to. He has been following sports of all kinds since he was a child but had a first love for baseball being in a family of Yankees fans. He also loves to travel and has used sports in order to do this including taking several road trips to MLB stadiums and other sports venues. John has always dreamed of working in the sports world and wants to make his way there as a writer in order to follow the philosophy of never working a day in your life if you love what you do.

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