Taylor Swift is a little songbird who’s made a big pile of money singing about all the men who done her wrong. Who knew that that was a for-profit industry? Nuts.
Why are we talking about Swift? Because while this is, of course, not her fault, Swift’s May 11 and 12 concerts at Verizon Center are wreaking havoc with the Washington Capitals’ playoff schedule. Ironically, she’s rocking something called the Red Tour. You can’t make this stuff up.
Swift is one reason the Capitals and Rangers have a four-day furlough before Game 1 Thursday night in Washington. Assuming a seven-game series — and let’s go ahead and do that, just for the sake of argument, because it’s the Capitals and the Rangers — the final three games would be played in four days, and Games 6 and 7 would be held on back-to-back nights in New York and Washington, respectively. That’s where the Swift factor hurts the most.
(Of course, it’s not just Swift. The Rangers have to share Madison Square Garden with the Knicks. Apparently the NBA and NHL playoffs overlap, and the leagues have to coordinate the schedules of teams who share the same building. Who knew?)
Most of the Caps said Monday they didn’t mind a few extra days off. After all, this lockout-shortened season meant a very tight 48-game schedule. They haven’t had four days off since, well, since the lockout. Many then added that while the days off weren’t bad, they wouldn’t have minded at all playing Tuesday night, which is when they thought the series would start.
Coach Adam Oates told them after Saturday night’s season-ending win to be ready to go Tuesday. The Caps knew by then they were playing the Rangers, and the Rangers also finished the season that night. So Tuesday made perfect sense. The players took Sunday off while the coaching staff spent hours preparing a game plan. And then late Sunday night came the good/bad news: Take another couple of days, fellas. What’s the rush?
If you believe in momentum, this can’t be good — for either team. Washington was the hottest team in the league in April, but the Rangers were not far behind. It was a far cry from where they started. Everyone knows about the Caps’ 2-8-1 start to the season; the Rangers started 13-12-2. But both woke up in time for the playoffs. The Caps were 15-2-2 in their last 19 games, thanks in large part to Mike Green and Alex Ovechkin, who had 19 goals in those 19 games. I’m not sure of the math, but that seems like a goal a game, and that seems pretty good. He was named the NHL’s “First Star” for the month for April (unless Swift fan Kanye West tries to take it away from him).
The Rangers were 10-3-1 in April, and scraped their way into the postseason out of the gritty neighborhood that is the Atlantic Division; the Southeast, by comparison, is a gated community that sent only one team — the Caps — to the playoffs. Three made it from the Atlantic, four from the brutal Northeast.
Both teams can rest their injured players, and that might give the Rangers a bit of an edge — but only because their injury report is more somber. Defenseman Marc Staal hasn’t played since getting hit in the eye by a deflected puck March 5. Staal is skating again, and his peripheral vision has returned, but the vision in his right eye is still blurry. Forwards Brian Boyle and Ryane Clowe have been sidelined because of right leg, er, lower body injuries. Forward Derek Dorsett is nursing a broken collarbone (upper body!).
For the Caps, Joel Ward skated again Monday and apparently will be available Thursday night. Brooks Laich is recovering from sports hernia surgery (middle body injury?) — a procedure so secret, you’d have thought it was rhinoplasty — but he won’t be ready no matter how much time off he gets. (Maybe in the second round, if the Caps make it that far.) Finally, both teams get an extra couple of days to prepare — although they should be intimately acquainted at this point. They’ve met in four of the past five postseasons. Last year they clashed in the conference semifinals, a series that went seven games. Every game but the first was decided by one goal, including Game 7 at the Garden. Oates wasn’t the Caps’ coach last season, but he was an assistant on the New Jersey Devils team that eliminated the Rangers in the conference finals.
So in the end, the four-day furlough probably gives neither team an advantage. It just delays the renewal of what has become a great postseason rivalry, disappointing players, coaches and fans on both sides of the ice. It’s just not tragic enough to make a good country song.
For previous Tracee Hamilton columns, go to washingtonpost.com/hamilton.