May 27, 2015

Key offseason questions for the Washington Capitals

Braden Holtby Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Braden Holtby Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

With the Washington Capitals out of the playoffs, the focus now must turn from the 2015 postseason to the 2015-16 season. There truly is no rest for the weary as the Caps now must face several key offseason questions.

Despite how the season may have ended, Barry Trotz’s first season behind the bench in Washington was a successful one — he led the Caps back into the postseason and came within one win of knocking off the President’s Trophy winners, but that only matters if the team is able to capitalize on the strides they made.

Here are the biggest questions the team now faces as they head into the offseason:

How much will Braden Holtby cost?

Braden Holtby was absolutely phenomenal for the Caps with a .944 save percentage in the playoffs. In fact, Holtby currently owns the all-time highest career playoff percentage. Holtby also proved his worth in the regular season, playing 73 games and earning 41 wins.

This is pretty good timing for the Saskatchewan native as he is now a restricted free agent. Before you start thinking about a blank check with a lot of zeros, however, the fact that Holtby is a restricted free agent does  give the team the option of a “bridge” contract — a short-term deal to take him out of restricted status.

Essentially a bridge deal allows for the player to make more money without the team having to commit to a long-term deal yet. At this point, however, what is there left for Holtby to prove?

Bridge contracts can sometimes seem business savvy, but to give Holtby a “prove it” type deal after the season he just had seems silly considering that he also had a strong postseason showing in 2012.

Other teams could also force the Caps’ hand. Restricted free agents can receive offer sheets from other teams which does not happen a lot, but for a budding star/elite goalie Holtby is sure to generate some interest from around the league. Chances are this won’t happen and even if it does, it seems unfathomable to think the Caps won’t match regardless of what the offer might be.

So what is Holtby ultimately worth?

Henrik Lundqvist currently has the highest cap hit among NHL goalies at $8.5 million, but that seems a tad unreasonable. Holtby falls much closer to the $6-7 million range, probably closer to the lower end of that spectrum given that Holtby has only been a starter for one full season.

Will Mike Green be back?

Mike Green is coming off a contract that paid him about $6 million per year and was a third-pair defenseman this season. Regardless of what anyone thinks he is worth, one thing is guaranteed: another NHL team will offer Green more money than the Caps will. That is a 100 percent, take it to the bank guarantee. How much more money he’s offered will ultimately determine whether he returns.

While Green is on the third-pair with the Caps, there are other teams who will be willing to give him a bigger role on their team and therefore will offer him significantly more money.

Green has made it clear he wants to stay in Washington and would perhaps be willing to take a paycut, but we are probably talking about several million dollars. That makes Green’s return unlikely.

Who will be the top-line RW?

Besides re-signing Holtby, finding a top line right wing will be a top priority this offseason.  Given that Trotz tried just about everyone he could on that top line, this suggests the next right wing is either not on the roster or is still developing.

If you think Marcus Johansson should be on the top line, that’s great. Trotz tried it and moved on. If you think Joel Ward should be on the top line, that’s great. Trotz tried it and moved on. The same goes for Troy Brouwer, Jason Chimera, Jay Beagle and Eric Fehr. Trotz tried all of these players on the top line and moved on from it.

Coaches on every team shuffle their lines during games and over the course of a season, but not nearly as frequently as we saw from Trotz. Clearly, he was not satisfied with what he saw on the top line.

Depending on how Andre Burakovsky and Tom Wilson develop this offseason, perhaps one of them can step into this role. Both players saw time on the top line over the season with some success. What makes them different from the others on the right wing merry-go-round is how young they are.

We know who Chimera is as a player. We know what you get from a player like Ward and Beagle. Burakovsky and Wilson are still developing and are capable of growing into a top-line role if they progress enough over the summer.

If the team decides neither of them are ready yet, they need to find someone to complete that line.

The free agent class is rather thin, but Justin Williams seems like a potential target. He will turn 34 just as the season starts and could bring veteran leadership and Stanley Cup experience to the roster.

If general manager Brian MacLellan doesn’t like what he sees among the free agents, then he will have to put some kind of trade package together to find one. Trading for a top-line player is expensive, however, and MacLellan will try to avoid this option if he can.

Who will backup Holtby?

The fact that Holtby played in 73 games this season says just as much about how Trotz feels about backup Justin Peters as it does about Holtby.

Peters finished the season with a 3-6-1 record and a .881 save percentage. That’s not good. At times, Peters did not play as bad as his numbers and often did not get a lot of help in front of him but when you play so little it becomes impossible to develop a report with the defense thus compounding the problem.

When Holtby was sick for Game 2 in the playoffs against the New York Islanders, Philipp Grubauer was recalled from the AHL and started over Peters. That should tell you all you need to know.

Considering that Trotz did not anticipate leaning on Holtby this much coming into this season, just think of what will happen next season now that he knows what he has in both Holtby and Peters. Clearly, something needs to change. Having Holtby play so much is not a recipe for success, this team needs a backup they can rely on.

Perhaps the answer is Grubauer.

Grubauer was very good in Hershey this year and has not looked out of place in his appearances at the NHL level. He is still young and no doubt would benefit more from getting consistent playing time rather than serving as a backup, but the team needs to evaluate what his role with the team will ultimately be if Holtby is going to be the long-term starter.

With one year left on Peters’ deal,  it seems doubtful that the team will sign another backup. If Grubauer does backup Holtby next year, Peters could go to Hershey where he posted a .948 save percentage and one shutout in three games this season.

If Trotz has no faith in Peters — which seems to be the case — it makes no sense to go into next season with Peters as the backup.

Who will the Caps re-sign?

Let’s go over the easy ones first. On defense, Green, Tim Gleason and John Erskine will almost certainly be gone. Nate Schmidt is a restricted free agent and the team will want him back.

We’ve already gone over Holtby. On offense, both Evgeny Kuznetsov and Johansson are restricted free agents and there is no reason to think either will not be back, especially Kuznetsov.

Aaron Volpatti will be gone. Curtis Glencross was a deadline acquisition and was a healthy scratch for four games in the playoffs including Game 7 against the New York Rangers. Chances are the team will move on.

That leaves Ward, Beagle and Fehr. With nine points in the playoffs, Ward is someone the team would probably like back, but he was already overpaid on his last contract at $3 million per year. He would have to take a significant pay cut to stay, but at 34, this will likely be the last ‘major’ contract Ward gets. This is a deal MacLellan will get done if he can, but the ceiling for how much Ward can ask will be pretty low before he gets out of MacLellan’s price range.

There is mutual interest in Beagle returning, but the problem with someone like Beagle is that he is ultimately a third- or fourth-line player. If he tests free agency there will be a team willing to overpay for him.  It won’t take much to out-bid the Caps. If he’s not locked up before July 1, he’s as good as gone.

Fehr is a great fit at the third line center and if Burakovsky goes to the right, the team will seek to bring Fehr back. Considering Washington is the only place where things have really clicked for him in the NHL, he will want to stay if at all possible.

What can we expect from the younger players next season?

The long search for a second-line center mercifully appears to be over. Kuznetsov had a breakout postseason scoring five goals and two assists. Caps fans should be drooling over what he can turn into when he reaches his potential.

Wilson was a first-round draft pick which means the Caps saw potential in him as a top-six forward. MacLellan told the media as much on Monday. He is the young player who needs to take the biggest step forward this summer to become a top-six wing. Depending on whether Ward returns, Wilson will likely start on the second or third line with a chance to prove himself. If he finishes the season on the fourth line again, then it may be time to consider whether the damage done to his development from Adam Oates’ tenure may be permanent.

Burakovsky started the season with the Caps, finished it in Hershey but was called back up to the NHL for the playoffs. He managed three points in 11 games, but looked impressive at times. It seems likely that his time in Hershey is over.

Burakovsky’s impact next season will be determined by what position Trotz uses him in. At the start of the season, Burakovsky was playing center, but developing two rookies at center in the same season is a difficult task and he was moved to wing. If he develops enough to challenge for the top-line wing, that’s where he will be. If not, don’t be surprised to see him back in the faceoff circle next fall centering the third line.

Given that Schmidt was recalled in the playoffs when Tim Gleason’s health was in question and  that Schmidt was Hershey’s leading scorer in the playoffs despite being a defenseman and playing in only eight of the team’s 10 playoff games. It would be a surprise if he was not with the Caps next season with Dmitry Orlov as the team’s third-pair.

That would give the team six defensemen leaving Connor Carrick as the odd-man out. He should spend the summer trying to pack on as much muscle as possible onto his small frame.

As for some of the other notable prospects — Riley Barber, Madison Bowey, Jakub Vrana — it would be unreasonable to expect anything from them at the NHL level next season. Neither Barber nor Bowey have spent any time in the AHL and Vrana has played only 13 games with Hershey.

All three are expected to start next season with the Bears. If they end up making any impact with the Caps next season, consider that a bonus.

Despite familiar collapse, this season was a success for the Caps

New year, new coach, same result. The Washington Capitals saw their season come to an unceremonious end on Wednesday with a Game 7 overtime loss to the New York Rangers and once again, it felt far too early.

But for all the similarities to the team’s past failures, there were clear signs of progress over the course of the season and the playoffs.

It may not feel that way right now. The Caps lost to the Rangers in the playoffs for the third time in the last four seasons despite having a 3-1 series lead. It is the fifth time the Capitals have lost a series when up by 3-1 and the tenth time the team has lost when leading by two games. The Caps still have not made it past the second round since 1998, well before Alex Ovechkin came to Washington.

Yet, this is also the team that failed to make the playoffs just one season ago. In his first season as coach, Barry Trotz made the Caps into a hard-nosed, balanced team. He took this underachieving roster and made them into playoff contenders in just one year.

Rather than meddle with all aspects of the game and every position as Adam Oates did, Trotz delegated responsibilities to trusted and respected assistants such as Mitch Korn, who transformed Braden Holtby into one of the league’s top netminders, and Todd Reirden, who helped the Caps  improve defensively from 21st in the NHL with 2.79 goals against per game to 7th with 2.43.

Under Trotz’ tutelage, Alex Ovechkin became a more defensively responsible player, improving last season’s comical plus/minus of -35 to +10 in the regular season. Analysts were absolutely effusive in their praise of the Great Eight throughout the season saying he was a more complete player and a better leader. Clearly he was and that’s an important step.

Rookie playmakers also flourished under Trotz. In his first season with the team, Tom Wilson was locked in a closet by Adam Oates and given less than eight minutes of ice time per game. That’s less ice time than notable stars such as Ryan Stoa, Casey Wellman and Chris Brown. It’s even less time than Oates gave Martin Erat despite how clearly he distrusted Erat.

Under Oates, there was seemingly no plan in place for what to do with Wilson or how to develop him and we saw no noticeable improvements in his first season because of it.

That was not the case this year with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky. Both players cycled up and down the lineup. Both saw their time in the press box and Burakovsky was even reassigned to Hershey. Yet, there was a clear focus on developing them. Both rookies played key roles with the Caps in the postseason, especially Kuznetsov, who had a breakout performance with five goals and two assists.

The bottom line is that this is a team that missed the playoffs last year with a coach and general manager making decisions based solely on the present with little regard for the team’s future. This year, not only did the Caps develop some of their top players for the future, they also took the Presidents’ Trophy winners to overtime in Game 7 in the second round.

One favorable bounce of the puck could have the Caps facing Tampa Bay right now. That’s all that separated them from the conference final.

As much as it may sting now, overall this season was a clear success. The reason it doesn’t feel that way is because of how the team lost. Losing yet another 3-1 series lead is hard to swallow, especially since the Caps came 101 seconds away from winning Game 5. Seeing Henrik Lundqvist on his way to the bench lifting his arms in triumph before he could get there will be an image that haunts Caps fans for years to come.

Trotz, however, was not the coach when the Caps were swept by Tampa Bay in 2011. He was not behind the bench when Montreal pulled off the unbelievable upset in 2010. No one with the team now was on the roster for the Caps’ collapse against Pittsburgh in 1992 or the Easter Epic in 1987.

In terms of this team, right now, this team showed progress.

Consider this: if back in October someone had said the Caps would take the Presidents’ Trophy winners to seven games in the second round of the playoffs, wouldn’t that have been considered a success?

Washington Capitals Second Round Game 5 Recap: Overtime dagger sends series back to DC

You knew it wasn’t going to be easy.

New York Rangers’ captain Ryan McDonough scored 9:37 into overtime to beat the Washington Capitals 2-1, staving off elimination and forcing Game 6 back at Verizon Center on Sunday.

McDonough took a pass from Derek Stepan and beat Capitals goalie Braden Holtby with a wrist shot from between the circles. It was McDonough’s second goal in 10 games in the playoffs.

The Rangers are 9-0 when facing elimination at home since Game 4 of the second round in 2008, which is an NHL record.

Overtime was required because Chris Kreider tied the game at one with his third goal of the playoff season, a one-timer from the top of the left wing faceoff circle, on a pass from Stepan.

Curtis Glencross gave the Caps a 1-0 lead midway through the final frame on a breakaway goal. Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist made the initial save, but Glencross stuck with it and banged home the rebound over the sprawled Lundqvist. It was Glencross’ first goal of the second season.

Glencross’ goal came courtesy of a terrific defensive play by Tom Wilson in the Caps zone, and a beautiful clearing pass from defenseman Matt Niskanen.

Both goalies were again remarkable. Holtby made 41 saves; Lundqvist 28. Holtby made several “how’d he do that?” saves, including robbing Martin St. Louis in the first period from point blank with a toe save. St. Louis fanned on the rebound and Niskanen guided the puck to safety.

The Caps were fortunate at times as well. Early in the second, the Rangers’ Tanner Glass had a wide-open net, but Mike Green was able to get just enough of the puck milliseconds after the shot to deflect it to the corner.

The Caps were also victims of bad luck. Late in the second period, it appeared as if the Caps took a 1-0 lead when a Niskanen slap shot from the point bounced off Lundqvist and into the goal. But the refs immediately waived the goal off, ruling that Joel Ward interfered with Lundqvist.

On replay, Ward very clearly was not in the crease and it appeared not only was he pushed, but the Lundqvist himself initiated contact.

Regardless, the Caps now face the daunting challenge of Game 6, still with one-game lead in the series, at Verizon Center Sunday at 7:00 pm EST.

CAPS NOTES:

  • Neither team made good on two power play opportunities.
  • Washington win the faceoff battle, with 52% won.
  • Alex Ovechkin had nine shot attempts, but just two on goal. Ward paced the Caps with five SOG.

Washington Capitals fall in overtime to Rangers, series comes back to DC

Ryan McDonough scored 9:37 into overtime and the New York Rangers staved off elimination, beating the Washington Capitals 2-1 at Madison Square Garden, moving the series back to Washington with the Caps holding a three games to two lead.

The Rangers’ Chris Kreider forced overtime with a goal with just 1:41 remaining in the third period.

Curtis Glencross gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead midway through the third on a breakaway goal, but despite Braden Holtby’s best efforts (41 saves), the Caps couldn’t make it stand up.

We’ll have full coverage of the Caps Game 5 loss later on District Sports Page.

 

Washington Capitals Second Round Game 4 Recap: Burakovsky scores twice, Caps one win from advancing over Rangers

With every clap producing a louder concussive effect than the one prior, and every scream and shout seemingly ricocheting around the arena, the Washington Capitals sapped every ounce of energy from their adoring fans and moved that much closer to doing something very special.

André Burakovsky scored magnificent goals in the second and third periods, and Braden Holtby continued his borderline absurd playoff run as Washington defeated the New York Rangers 2-1 on Wednesday night at Verizon Center. The win gives the Capitals a commanding 3-1 series lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Semifinal series.

[Read more…]

Capitals beat Rangers 2-1, move to brink of Eastern Conference Final

In front of arguably the loudest crowd all season, the Washington Capitals rode two goals from Andre Burakovsky and another rock-solid effort between the pipes from Braden Holtby to a 2-1 win over the New York Rangers on Wednesday night at Verizon Center.

After ceding the game’s first goal, Burakovsky scored in the second and third periods, each time producing a highlight-reel effort that blew the roof off the arena.

A ho-hum 28-save night from Holtby featured a third-period save on a penalty shot from the Rangers’ Carl Hagelin.

The win moves Washington one victory away from advancing to the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since 1998, when they eventually went to the Stanley Cup Final. The series now moves to Madison Square Garden, where a potentially decisive Game 6 takes place on Friday night at 7 p.m.

Washington Capitals Game 3 Recap: Beagle, Holtby lift Washington to 1-0 win, 2-1 series lead over Rangers

Another skittish first period gave way to a high-flying second, and both stellar goaltending and a playoff-type goal by one of head coach Barry Trotz’s favorite players proved to be enough.

Jay Beagle had the game-winning goal in the second period, and a 30-save shutout from Braden Holtby paved the way to a 1-0 win for Washington on Monday night at Verizon Center. The Capitals now hold a 2-1 series lead over the New York Rangers in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Semifinal.

[Read more…]

WASHINGTON CAPITALS TAKE GAME 3 BEHIND HOLTBY SHUTOUT

Another skittish first period gave way to a high-flying second, and a playoff-type goal by one of the less-recognizable Washington Capitals proved to be enough.

Jay Beagle had the game-winning goal in the second period, and a consistently strong backcheck and simply sensational effort from Braden Holtby paved the way to a 1-0 win for Washington on Monday night at Verizon Center. The Capitals now hold a 2-1 series lead over the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Semifinal.

Full story coming later tonight.

Washington Capitals Second Round Game 2 Recap: Rangers earn split at Garden with 3-2 win

Coming off their last second win in Game 1 of their best-of-seven game series, on the road in Madison Square Garden, the Washington Capitals had to know they would face a desperate New York Rangers team in Game 2 on Saturday. The Rangers came out fast and furious, as despite the best efforts from the Caps’ captain, the home team forged a split of their home games, topping the Caps 3-2 before a somewhat subdued matinee crowd.

This one could not have started worse for the Caps. Just 38 seconds in Chris Kreider buried a rebound wide open from the slot after Derek Stepan and Jesper Fast combined to create the original shot on goal.

The Rangers continued to buzz the Caps ends the entire frame and at 15:40, with Joel Ward off for hooking, New York found paydirt again. This time, a clearing attempt by Troy Brouwer struck a linesman, deadening the puck at the blue line.

Dan Boyle collected and flung a shot toward the goal that sneaked past Holtby shortside as Rick Nash and Karl Alzner completely blocked Braden Holtby’s view. It was the first power play goal the Caps have allowed in this playoffs, after killing 17 consecutive penalties.

But the Caps had one more penalty to kill in the period, as Tom Wilson was called for charging with just over two minutes to play in the frame. They got the job done, but went to intermission down 2-0, and outshot 15-4 with total shot chances at 29-6.

The Caps woke up a bit after the intermission, cutting into their shots on goal deficit. Several good chances were spoiled by both goaltenders as the game opened up. With just over six minutes to play in the period, though, the Caps struck.

Evgeny Kuznetsov lost a defensive zone draw, but was able to recover the puck regardless. The young Russian skated through the neutral zone and sent the puck hard to the end boards, where Jason Chimera outraced the defense and sent a shot in against Henrik Lundqvist.

The King made the initial save but the puck came back into the slot. Trailing the play, Kuznetsov found the rebound between Dan Boyle’s legs and redirected the puck past Lundqvist to reduce the Rangers lead to 2-1.

Meanwhile, at the other end, Holtby was standing on his head. Twice he was forced to make point-blank saves on a streaking Kreider, who the Caps defense seemingly had no answer for in this one.

Indicative of the Caps picking up their play in the second period: they outshot the Rangers 16-12 in the stanza.

The third period started with the Caps lone power play of the game — against four for the Rangers — as Derick Brassard was called for interference against Alex Ovechkin. Despite three shots on goal, there was no result. As the penalty expired though, Brassard got behind an out-of-position Matt Niskanen, took a pass from Martin St. Louis and beat Holtby from point-blank, restoring the Rangers two-goal lead.

The Caps didn’t fold, getting the better chances in the third and they finally capitalized through great individual effort by their captain.

Ovechkin took a pass from Joel Ward at center ice and split a pair of Rangers’ defensemen. As Ryan McDonough was hauling Ovechkin down, the Great 8 was able to get an unbelievable wrist shot off as he was falling which eluded Lundqvist over his right shoulder to cut the deficit back to one goal.

See it yourself again. It’s the kind of individual effort that only Alex Ovechkin can bring to the ice, and simply because of familiarity Caps fans should not dismiss this goal simply as “Ovi being Ovi.” Regardless of the Caps playoff history, Ovechkin is the best pure goal scorer of this generation and this type of effort and commitment should not be taken casually.

Unfortunately, though, that was the Caps final hurrah. Lundqvist was tested several times down the stretch as the Caps tried to tie to force overtime, but was up to the task each time, even at 6-on-5 for over a minute at the end of the game.

Ultimately, the Capitals have to be happy stealing a game in the Garden and return to DC tied at a game apiece. The Caps have played much better at home thus far in the playoffs, and with a game already under their belts, they have to feel pretty good about themselves heading into Game 3 Monday night. The Caps looked pretty bad at times in both Games 1 and 2 and came out with a win and a one-goal loss so they know they can play with the Rangers, who were the class of the Eastern Conference this season.

Washington Capitals Second Round Game 1 Recap: Wardo wins Game 1 with 1.3 seconds left

JOEL WARD SCORES GAME-WINNER WITH LESS THAN TWO SECONDS LEFT

Tied at one goal apiece after losing the lead late in Game 1 of the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Washington Capitals were faced with overtime in Madison Square Garden. But flipping a script that has seemed to so often go against them, as time was expiring Nick Backstrom made a dicey, but ultimately clean, hit against Dan Boyle on a forecheck, Alex Ovechkin dug the puck away and found Joel Ward in front, who slipped it underneath a sprawled Henrik Lundqvist with less than two seconds remaining on the clock to win Game 1 over the second round series 2-1.

For years, it’s seemed that type of thing happened TO the Caps, not FOR them.

The Washington Capitals have met the New York Rangers eight previous times and four times in the past seven years in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, including three previous meetings in the quarterfinals, in 2009, 2011 and 2013, splitting the eight series. With that history as a backdrop, the Caps once again find themselves in a best-of-seven in the second round with the Broadway Blueshirts.

In Game 1 Thursday night, the Caps took the early advantage, courtesy of their best players.

Ovechkin, Backstrom and Ward owned play much of the time they were on the ice, despite the Rangers tactics of lining up their best defensive duo against them whenever possible. And Braden Holtby was stellar once again with 31 saves, including 11 in the third period, to preserve the win.

The Caps withstood the Rangers hearty attack early in the first period, with the shots on goal at 7-3 at one point. But with 3:34 left in the frame, Dominic Moore held Jay Beagle along the wall and the Caps were awarded their first power play of the series.

Ovechkin took a cross-ice pass through the neutral zone from John Carlson on the rush and, as he’s done so many times in his career, used Dan Boyle as a screen and whipped a wrist shot past Henrik Lundqvist high short-side for his third goal of this playoffs and 11th goal in 27 career playoff games against the Rangers to put the Caps up 1-0.

With 21 seconds before intermission, Dan Kreider clipped Curtis Glencross up high in the Caps’ defensive zone and the Caps went back on the power play.

The Caps resumed the power play at the start of the second, but it was short-lived when Carlson clocked Rick Nash high along the boards and was whistled for interference. The resulting four-on-four and Rangers brief power play were both uneventful.

Both teams had decent chances throughout the second period, with the Caps having the better of play, reducing their deficit in shots on goal throughout the frame. The Caps did a very solid job keeping the Rangers from entering their zone with speed and when the Rangers did finally establish the zone, the Caps did well to keep shots to the outside against Holtby, who nonetheless made several difficult saves in the frame.

Perhaps the best save of the night, however, came from Lundqvist with about five minutes left in the period. The Caps came in on a three-on-two and when the defense collapsed, Nick Backstrom let loose with a wrister from the slot, which Lundqvist snapped up with his catching glove.

The period ended with the Caps still on top, 1-0.

It stayed that way with the Caps playing more of a defensive stance until 4:39 left, as the Caps got caught pinned in their own end and at the end of a very long shift. Kevin Hayes threw one through a mess of bodies from center point that was tipped along the way by Jesper Fast past Holtby to tie the game.

The Rangers’ goal only served to set up the heroics by Ward, assisted by Backstrom and Ovechkin.

After the final horn, Rangers coach Alain Vingneault verbally assaulted the referees about the Backstrom hit which led to the game-winner, but upon video review the hit was hard, but shoulder-to-shoulder, which only looked worse because Rangers defenseman Dan Boyle had his head down trying to dig out the puck.

Game 2 is Saturday at 12:30 pm Eastern Time.

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