Alex Ovechkin plays the game of hockey like an untamed bull, so it should come as no surprise that on Tuesday he did not back down from his prediction that the Capitals would come back to win their playoff series against the New York Rangers with a victory in Game 7 Wednesday night in New York.
“Like I said, we’re going to New York and finish out the series,” Ovechkin said. “That’s what I mean. I don’t care what everybody thinks, to be honest with you. I care about what we think here in the group and as a team. You guys can think whatever you want.”
Ovechkin’s bold statement after the Caps’ 4-3 loss in Game 6 Sunday night surely will be used as motivation for the Rangers, who have won five consecutive Game 7s and are 6-0 all-time in Game 7s at Madison Square Garden. The Capitals are 3-5 in Game 7s during the Ovechkin era and he has just two goals in those eight games.
On Monday Capitals coach Barry Trotz said he “loved” Ovechkin’s show of confidence and on Tuesday his teammates agreed.
“Everyone in here believes that,” said center Nicklas Backstrom. “He just said it from the heart. It’s perfect.”
In his eight career Games 7s Ovechkin has just two goals, none since scoring against the Penguins in 2009. In this series, the Rangers have held Ovechkin in check since he scored a highlight reel goal in Game 2, keeping him off the scoreboard for four straight games. Ovechkin hasn’t gone five games without a goal since October.
This will also be the eighth Game 7 for Backstrom and defenseman Mike Green. Backstrom has one goal and one assist in Game 7s, while Green has one assist.
“Everybody in this room wants to win tomorrow,” said Backstrom, who has not recorded a point in this series since assisting on Joel Ward’s last-second game-winner in Game 1. “I feel like that’s been the scenario all season. We’re looking forward to this for the whole season and we don’t want it to end tomorrow. We’re ready for Game 7 and we’re going to show why we’re a good team.”
Green, who is in the final year of his contract with the Capitals and could be playing in his last game in a Washington jersey, said there is something different about the makeup of this Capitals team and he expects it to show on Wednesday night.
“There’s an opportunity here,” he said. “We want to create something special. It’s been a lot of fun and it’s not over yet.”
Each team has won a game in the other’s building in the series and each of the Rangers’ 11 playoff games have been decided by one goal.
“Home or away, it seems like it doesn’t really matter in this series,” Backstrom said. “I mean, it’s two good teams battling and every game has been decided by one goal. It’s a battle out there and it’s going to be that way tomorrow.”
As for the pressures that come with making a bold prediction after blowing a 3-1 series lead, Ovechkin said anything and anyone can make a difference in a Game 7.
“Right now, it’s not about one person,” Ovechkin said. “It’s all about the group of guys that are going to be out there. Of course, everybody can make a difference. I don’t think me, Backy, Greenie, [Troy] Brouwer played the last two games the way we can play. It’s good for us because this is the time. Everybody can pull the line and be better.
“Mistakes, good plays, luck, unluck,” Ovechkin said. “We’ll just go in there and concentrate for three periods, maybe four, maybe five. Whatever it takes.”