The Washington Capitals are in familiar territory. For the second straight season, the Capitals have forced a game seven after trailing in the series three games to one. They are relying on their past experience when they lost their last series in overtime. This time they are hoping that history will not repeat.
Two teams will go into tonight's action and only one team will move on. The beauty and anguish of a game seven. However for this game seven, the story has not been about Alex Ovechkin scoring in 3 straight games to get to this point or Simeon Varlamov's stingy goaltending or even the Rangers blowing a 3 to 1 series lead. Instead it has been about a hit, security concerns and an alleged bite.
Donald Brashear got a pretty hefty suspension for his pre-game shove of Colton Orr and his late hit on Blair Betts during the game. Brash will have to sit out 6 games starting with game seven tonight. If that was not enough drama for you, then there is the letter about the Verizon Center security.
In game five things got a little out of hand behind the Ranger bench. John Tortorella pitched a water bottle at a Caps fan after they were yelling profanities at the Ranger bench. He was suspended for game six, and the Rangers General Manager Glen Sather shot back with his letter about the inept security staff at Verizon Center.
Then there is Bite-Gate 2009. Brandon Dubinsky claimed he was bitten by Shaone Morrisonn who was coming to Mike Green's defense after Dubinsky hit him from behind. But after looking at a replay from the NBC broadcast, Morrisonn's mouth was never near Dubinsky's arm. Also a shot after the incident showed Dubinsky with no scratches or bite marks on either of his arms when he was escorted off the ice. A mystery for sure. The league did not investigate the allegation.
The Ranger strategy could be the world against us mentality. They are using the off ice distractions to try to break this sudden loss in momentum. But the fact of the series is this, the Rangers had a three games to one lead and they blew it. That is leading to some frustrated Rangers.
Their scoring struggles have starting to haunt them, while the Capitals' scoring touch has returned. The Caps have outscored the Rangers 17 to 10. When the Rangers have won, it has been Henrik Lundqvist to show the way. When he plays well, the Rangers do well. When King Henry struggles, the Rangers follow suit.
Tortorella insists the pressure is on the Capitals to win in their building, but the Rangers need to some sort of urgency they haven't showed in games five and six. The Caps have been here before, the Rangers haven't. That is the core of the situation, and Torts may be trying to keep his boys spirits up as they try to solve their scoring problems.
The Caps will have to rely on Varlamov's strong goaltending and secondary scoring to put the Rangers away. The secret to games five and six has been someone else other than the Caps big snipers in Ovi and Alex Semin had scored. Matt Bradley's two goals in game five and three defensemen scoring in game six left the Rangers scrambling to answer the goals while still trying to play their stingy defense style.
Getting over all this off ice distraction may be the deciding factor in game seven. Two teams go in, one team moves on. You gotta love the post season.