Leading up to Game 5 tonight at Madison Square Garden, there’s been some discussion on the Rangers’ side about developing a “hatred” for Washington. No one should take that to mean this series isn’t intense in its own right, it’s just without the extra-curricular things that both teams experienced more of in the first round.
While some New York players may be looking for a little more fire, the Capitals say there is an inherent animosity in this playoff series as evidenced by the physical, tight play throughout it. A series doesn’t need an excess of fights, questionable hits and fracases after whistles to have a ferociousness.
“Like I said earlier in this series, hate’s a big word. We dislike each other. We’ve battled through regular season. Last year in the playoffs, last year in the regular season,” Matt Hendricks said. “We both play the same type of hockey. And when games are close and tight like that you find those scrappy games.
“I think for the most part things have been clean because both teams know what’s at stake here,” he continued. “You can’t afford to take a bad penalty, take a suspension, do anything like that that’s going to hurt your team and hurt the outcome of the score.”
A few more notes and quotes ahead of Game 5:
— Braden Holtby will appear in his 12th NHL postseason game tonight, giving him more playoff experience than any other goaltender on the Capitals’ roster (Tomas Vokoun has played in 11, Michal Neuvirth has appeared in nine).
The last Washington netminder to appear in more than a dozen playoff games was Semyon Varlamov, who played in 19 between 2008-09 and 2009-10.
“I don’t think I’ve changed that much. I don’t think this is a shock to myself or our group that we’re in this position,” Holtby said when asked if he was relaxed in the playoffs. “We have a goal in mind, to win a Stanley Cup. There’s little steps along the way that we have to take, and tonight’s going to be one of them.”
— Alex Ovechkin’s charge against Dan Girardi garnered some deserved attention following Game 4 given the left winger’s disciplinary history. The discussion about Ovechkin’s check brought attention to a hit Girardi made on Matt Hendricks in the second period.
The Rangers defenseman knocked over Matt Hendricks after he sent a pass up ice, but Washington’s gritty forward downplayed the incident.
“I made a deflection and I made the mistake of looking at the puck, seeing where it was going instead of keeping my eye on someone coming to hit me,” Hendricks said. “I don’t think it was dirty, I think it was a hard hit.”
— It’s no secret that the Capitals’ coaching staff stresses blocking shots and wants to see the players willing to sacrifice themselves to dive in front of pucks. After the morning skate, Brooks Laich said that those efforts don’t go unacknowledged, but rather that Coach Dale Hunter and the rest of the staff single out players who do for praise.
“Every day, when we do video, he’s rewarding the guys who do block by showing us, ‘This is how you win games. This guy paid the price. This guy paid the price. This guy pays the price,’” Laich said. “He makes it aware to other players, ‘This is what I want,’ and then everybody has to fall in line. It doesn’t matter who you are. Everybody can get in the lane and pay the price for the team.”
— The Capitals have excelled all season when scoring first; they’re 6-1 in the playoffs when doing so (0-4 when they do not).
“When we score goal first we feel comfortable,” Ovechkin said. “It doesn’t matter if you score first, second still 60-minute game. Especially in playoffs, nobody wants to give up it doesn’t matter what the score is — the momentum can change quickly.”
More on the Capitals:
— Caps’ lines look the same as Game 4
— Holtby never plays the blame game
— Backstrom channels his inner Forsberg
— On Hockey: Caps make their own breaks
— Sources: No discipline for Ovechkin
— Caps dominate on blocked shots