Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin has played in seven Game Sevens in his nine-year career with the Capitals and has been on the losing side of the handshake line five times.
In those decisive games, the 29-year-old left wing has recorded two goals, two assists, 27 shots and is a minus-2.
Tonight at VerizonCenter against the New York Islanders [6:30 p.m. pregame, CSN] Ovechkin once again finds himself in the spotlight of a Game 7.
“If you lose, you go home,” he said. “If you win, you keep fighting for the Stanley Cup. “It’s not about motivation right now. We’re motivated already.”
In his last three Game Sevens – two against the Rangers and one against the Bruins, Ovechkin has been held without a goal while generating a total of just five shots.
And who can forget the time Ovechkin and the Caps faced Jaro Halak and the Montreal Canadiens in Game 7 five years ago? Ovechkin threw 10 shots at Halak that night but was denied every time in a 2-1 upset loss to the Canadiens.
Is there anything Ovechkin and the Caps can learn from all of those experiences?
“I hope,” Ovechkin said. “I hope everything is going t help. Right now we’re in the same position as the Islanders, so we just have to do our thing.”
Jason Chimera, the oldest member of the Caps at 35, agrees:
“You can lean on moments in the past and use it to your advantage,” Chimera said. “I think it helps us be a little more calm going in, for sure.”
The Capitals and Islanders know each other as well as the know their own families and Capitals coach Barry Trotz said there’s no use pulling out a white board to go over Xs and Os now. But if you ask the Capitals how they can win Game 7, they will tell you it begins with getting in on the Islanders’ inexperienced defensemen and forcing them into turnovers.
“I think we have to be more physical than we were in Game 6,” Ovechkin said.
With three defensemen injured, the Islanders are expected to use rookies Scott Mayfield and Matt Donovan again tonight and even Caps rookie Andre Burakovsky pointed out the need to expose them.
“We just want to go out there and play like we did in Game 5 and just go through them,” Burakovsky said. “If we just forecheck hard and put pucks behind them they can’t handle us down there. I think we’re too skilled of a team.”
While everyone will tell you that the best players need to be the best players in a Game 7, history tells you that’s not always the case.
In the Caps’ seven Game 7s during the Ovechkin era, the game-winning goals have been scored by Arron Asham [Rangers], Joel Ward [Capitals], Michael Del Zotto [Rangers], Dominic Moore [Canadiens], Sergei Fedorov [Capitals], Bill Guerin [Penguins] and Joffrey Lupul [Flyers].
“I think every game unfolds differently,” said Caps defenseman Brooks Orpik, who is 2-2 in four career Game Sevens. “Great players are great players for a reason and you hope they do stuff well. [John] Tavares obviously did that for his team last game.
“But you never know. I think everybody’s got to be ready. Obviously, they’re doing a good job of trying to isolate on certain guys on our team and that’s just an opportunity for other guys to step up. Everybody’s got to be at their best and push the pace.”
Chimera said drumming up the Caps’ unfortunate history in Game Sevens is something for media members to discuss, not players.
“You want to make your own history tonight,” said Chimera, who has one goal and three assists in four career Game Sevens. “Each time you’re in a Game 7 you want to prove yourself.
“I think guys are a lot more mature this year and we’re a lot better off handling it than we ever have been.”
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