And on the seventh day, the Capitals rested.
After defeating the Rangers twice in three days — including Saturday’s 1-0 overtime thriller — to take a 2-0 first-round series lead, coach Adam Oates didn’t hold any meetings and gave the team the choice to participate in an optional skate Sunday.
Out of seven Caps who opted to practice, forward Jay Beagle and defenseman Jack Hillen were the only ones who have played in the series.
“It’s nice whenever you have an optional,” Beagle said. “If guys feel like they need some rest, they can ride the bike, get a stretch in or if you need to get out there and get a little skate in, it’s good. Everyone does what they need to do to be ready for [Monday].”
Throughout the regular season, Oates emphasized the importance of giving the Caps time to wind down, and with two pivotal games at Madison Square Garden tonight and Wednesday, he once again stressed the importance of de-stressing.
“The thought really from the staff is that even though [Saturday was] an afternoon game, it’s a stressful environment,” he said. “You win in overtime, you’re excited, but still it’s very stressful. So let the guys just breathe a little bit. They get to breathe for a day, and tomorrow we’re right back at it.”
Tonight the Caps face a desperate Rangers team hellbent on salvaging the first-round series. Washington has never had a 3-0 lead in a seven-game series in its franchise history, having blown all six chances, including four on the road.
The Rangers are sure to feed off the energy of a raucous hometown crowd, but the Capitals have a plan to combat that.
“It’s obviously one of the best atmospheres in the league,” goalie Braden Holtby said. “They’re passionate fans. They obviously want to help their team win. Our job is to block all of that out. We have a job to do to win the game, and the atmosphere, the fans, the other team, that doesn’t matter. We have our goal in mind, and we’re going to prepare for that.”