Some quick thoughts from the NHL on TSN Panel on Saturday night.
This year's playoff failure for the Washington Capitals is a little bit different from years past, because expectations for the team were tempered after such a bad regular season.
Head coach Dale Hunter did a magnificent job of pulling this group together in short order in the playoffs and the Capitals played terrific.
But they found themselves in an unenviable position in Game 7.
For the first time they found themselves trailing going into the third so the big guns like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin started to play a lot more.
They had a great opportunity midway through the third, but Ovechkin was taken down by Michael Del Zotto after shooting the puck wide. Away went the New York Rangers with Del Zotto following up the play and getting the goal to make it 2-0.
After the Capitals got to within one goal, Washington finally got their only power play of the third period and it was dreadful.
The big stars did a terrible job with the man advantage culminating with Backstrom taking a penalty, nullifying the power play and putting his team into a deeper hole than they already were.
While everyone made a big deal about how much Hunter let Ovechkin and Backstrom play in the series, Hunter turned them both loose in the third period of Game 7. Both players had over 20 minutes of ice time and Ovechkin played more than eight minutes in the third period alone.
Backstrom was a minus-1 on the day and so was Ovechkin. Semin was minus-2 and didn't have a very good game at all.
When the Washington Capitals, this tight-knit group that had done so much in these playoffs, found themselves down in the third period they didn't have the offensive kick that they're supposed to have.
A Different Challenge for New York
The New Jersey Devils, while somewhat similar to the Capitals, will present a slightly different challenge for the Rangers.
The Capitals had game-breaking players, like Ovechkin, Backstrom and Semin, but New York controlled those players in crunch time in Game 7. Now they're about to get a dose of Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk and the rest of the Devils.
New Jersey is a much better offensive team than most people think. Adam Henrique has been a good player for them at both ends of the ice.
There will be no surprises when the series opens on Monday. The Devils know they'll be up against a shot-blocking machine in the Rangers, while the Rangers know that they're facing a rival from across the river that does have the ability to generate more offence than what we're used to from previous Devils' teams.