Sudden thoughts and second thoughts as the Capitals spend today pondering how they frittered away a 3-1 series lead against the New York Rangers, setting the stage for Wednesday night’s Game 7 showdown at Madison Square Garden:
Gleason questionable? Caps defenseman Tim Gleason took two trips to the trainer’s room after getting tied up with Rangers forward Dominic Moore in Game 6 Sunday night, finishing with just 8:10 of ice time. With the Capitals recalling Nate Schmidt from the Hershey Bears on Monday, Gleason’s status for Game 7 in New York looks to be in doubt.
Schmidt, 23, has three goals and five assists in seven Calder Cup playoff games with the Bears. In 39 games with the Caps this season, mostly on a third defense pairing with Mike Green, Schmidt recorded one goal and three assists.
Meanwhile, Trotz said center Eric Fehr, sidelined since April 19 with an upper body injury, is “probably unlikely” for Game 7, which leaves center Michael Latta the only possibility to enter the series in Game 7. Latta has not played since Game 6 of the Islanders series.
What else did Ovi say?Buried under all of the attention Ovechkin received for his Game 7 “guarantee” was a juicy little quote about how the Rangers’ defensemen don’t like getting hit by the Caps, who have delivered 206 hits in the first six games of the series, compared to 188 for the Rangers.
But did Ovechkin say the Rangers’ defensemen are “afraid” of being hit or “fade” because they are getting hit? It’s tough to say, since Ovechkin speaks in broken English. But the meaning is the same.
“You can see they don’t want to play that game,” Ovechkin said. “We knew that. As soon as we put the puck deep and hit their D they fade [or afraid] because we’re big and strong. You see how we score goals. We put bodies in front of Lundqvist and it goes in.”
New line combinations: After falling behind 1-0 just 40 seconds into Sunday night’s 4-3 loss, Caps coach Barry Trotz rearranged his top three forward lines before finally finding one that worked. Left wing Jason Chimera, center Evgeny Kuznetsov and right wing Joel Ward combined for three goals and four assists in the loss and is likely to stay together for Game 7.
“I went to Plan B real quick and we kept moving people around and we found something that worked that game,” Trotz said. “If someone’s not going next game I’ll have a Plan B and C. Sometimes you don’t use them and other times you have to go to the whip quick.”
The line scrambling resulted in a top unit of Alex Ovechkin [6 shots, minus-1], Nicklas Backstrom [1 shot, minus-1] and Marcus Johansson [3 shots, minus-1], but that unit struggled at both ends of the ice.
It will be interesting to see if Trotz starts Game 7 with Johansson [0 goals. minus-1 for the series] on that top line, with a second line of Andre Burakovsky, Jay Beagle and Troy Brouwer, or if he bumps Tom Wilson onto the top line to give it a little more bite and free up space for Ovechkin and Backstrom.
Complete day off: Having played 13 playoff games in 27 nights, Trotz said he gave his players Monday off. He and his coaching staff met at Kettler Capitals Iceplex to review game tape.
“I think it’s a good day to cleanse the minds a little bit and come up with a plan for what we want to do for practice tomorrow,” Trotz said, “and go into New York and throw our best game out there.”
Late surge: The Caps outshot the Rangers 28-8 in the final two periods of Game 6 and finished with a total of 96 attempts at the net. Forty-five of those attempts got to Henrik Lundqvist, 34 were blocked and 17 missed the net. After Dan Boyle gave the Rangers a 4-1 lead with 4:24 gone in the third period, the Caps had 34 shot attempts to the Rangers’ one.
“Since I’ve been here I can’t remember a total like that,” Trotz said. “We had some good looks. If we get that thing tied up, who knows? But we showed lots of character coming back, lots of will, and we’re going to have to bring all of that for Game 7.”
While John Carlson , Ovechkin  and Ward  paced the Caps in shot attempts, Rangers defensemen Dan Girardi  and Ryan McDonagh  paced the New York in blocks.
Slow starts: The Rangers have been the NHL’s best first-period team in the playoffs, outscoring their opponents 9-2 in the opening period. However, they’ve been outscored 16-10 in the second and third periods.
Conversely, the Capitals have been outscored 9-5 in first periods in the playoffs, while outscoring their opponents 20-15 in the second and third periods.
“They’re a quick start team,” Trotz said. “It’s something they’ve been really good at all year. They come out of the box hard. Over the course of the year we’ve been OK in the first, but I wouldn’t say we’ve been fantastic in the first. But you look at our game this year, we’ve been really good in the second and third and I think you’ve seen that in this series.
“I would like to say I’d like to flip the script but it’s easier said than done. We just have to go out and do it. Don’t tell me what you’re going to do, just go out and do it.”
Bad draw: Caps center Nicklas Backstrom won 13 of his 18 faceoffs in Game 6, but his loss to Derek Stepan in the closing seconds of the first period allowed Chris Kreider to score his second of two goals with three-tenths of a second remaining.
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