Ovechkin, Schoenfeld and Clutch
Notes before an optional morning
A lot of folks were asking "Is Ovie Clutch?" questions after Game 4. The Tracy McGrady comparisons, and all that. And sure, those questions will return, maybe louder than ever, if the Caps don't win on Tuesday, regardless of what No. 8 does.
Still, for the record....The Caps have faced elimination in each of his last five playoff games. Over that span, his team has gone 4-1, and Ovechkin has five goals, an assist and is a +4. Doesn't necessarily scream out "choker."
(More elimination numbers? Over those five games, Sasha Semin has three goals, three assists and is a +3. Nicklas Backstrom has three goals, two assists and is a +4. John Erskine is also a +4.)
Rangers interim stand-in one-game fill-in coach Jim Schoenfeld seemed to explicitly call out his team for NOT being clutch, at least on this night.
"Everyone responds to, if you want to call it, the pressure of the situation in a different manner," Schoenfeld said. "And those that go on to have great, rewarding careers, to play on perhaps championship teams, they love the feeling of being uncomfortable. You know, that's what a good athlete wants, he wants to be in a situation where his gut's knotted up and the sweat's coming down. He wants that. That's what he needs to play his best. Other players get that feeling and they shrink from it. And it isn't always the same player that rises to the occasion, isn't always the same player who falls, but we had some guys tonight who fell off."
If you give him credit for Game 6, Schoenfeld has (I believe) now lost at least seven consecutive playoff games in which his team could have clinched, including three with the Caps in '95 and Game 7 with the Coyotes in '99, before which he said this: "We're going to win Game 7....I would tell you that I'll stake my job on it, but that's already been done. So I'll just say we're going to win Game 7."
The Coyotes lost.
As for the biting allegation, which is a different sort of clutch, I can't wait to hear what the Caps say. The photo above is the only one I found of the scrum, though obviously the action continued after this. Lots of arms near mouths, anyhow.
But, incredibly, Newsday's Mark Herrmann produced this quote from John Tortorella on Friday morning:
"Dubie," the coach said at the time, "is one I'm really looking forward to sinking my teeth into."
Poti Gets More Love
Tom Poti gave the MSG faithful the old hand-to-the-ear as he was leaving the ice. "A bunch of guys were yelling stuff, so I was like , eh? What are you saying?" he told me as he packed his bags. There were plenty of questions about his impressive showing in a building where he's regularly booed, but Poti dismissed them all, saying he didn't get extra satisfaction from the venue.
"None whatsoever; I'm just glad we got the win and glad we're still playing hockey this year," he said. "I could care less about any of that, I'm just glad we got a win tonight and we've got more work to do."
If you're curious whether Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom again did their post-win leap, which had irritated some Rangers fans, the photographic evidence is here. I didn't notice whether they were booed this time.
Reader Mike e-mailed me with some tales of Caps fans in the 400 level. He said fans of both teams were guilty of bad behavior. My favorite moments of his e-mail: one fan wearing an Ovechkin Rangers jersey, a young female Rangers fan who was crying and yelling "Shut the [bleep] up" whenever the Caps fans cheered, and security guards who insisted on escorting the Caps fans to the bathroom.
"I've been in 16 of the NHL arenas for countless games," Mike wrote, "but this was the most intense in terms of I'm going to get my [bleep] kicked or my clothes saturated with beer for sure."
Mike Green, asked if he has any doubt the Caps will win if they stay disciplined: "I don't think so. I think five on five we definitely feel like we're more powerful than them."
Alex Ovechkin, asked about chasing Lundqvist twice: "How I said, he can't play every time like a god, you know, he can't save the game all the time. We make some traffic in front of the net and when we score goals we feel pretty good. And when we play our game, we play simple, we play hard, nobody can stop us. So we believe [in] each other, and we believe in our group, and everybody believes we can fight back....When they score first goal they just go back and try to play defensively, so when we get opportunity to score first goal they just open the space and when they open we get more chance to score. So they play well, but we play better, so that's most important thing."
The Pressure Is On....
The Caps, apparently.
"The pressure is on them," Chris Drury said. "They smoked us twice. Now they're going home. They're going to be saying it's over, it's their building. Clearly, we just have to be ready to play."
"The pressure is on them," Wade Redden said. "We just have to go play and grind one out."
New York and the Rangers
Not sure how invested the NYC media is in this one. The first Caps-Rangers headline was listed 10th on the Daily News Web site this morning. And there's tons of confidence in the boys in blue.
Vic Ziegel in the NYDN: "So now the Rangers have one more chance to kid themselves and think they can win a Game 7 tomorrow."
Jay Greenberg in the NYP: "With Henrik Lundqvist, the only reason there will be a Game 7, now regularly surrendering short side goals, it is hard to believe that enough pucks could possibly bounce enough ways tomorrow night for this series not to reach the inexorable conclusion."
Jeez. Buck up, guys. It's still 0-0 in Game 7.
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