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Trotz 'loves' Ovechkin's bold prediction


Trotz 'loves' Ovechkin's bold prediction

Twenty-one years ago Mark Messier stood in front of cameras and microphones and guaranteed a New York Rangers victory in Game 6 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals.

The next night he recorded a hat trick to lead the Rangers to a 4-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils at the Meadowlands, tying the series and setting up an historic Game 7 victory in Madison Square Garden.

That’s the context that will be drawn after Alex Ovechkin's bold prediction that the Capitals will win Game 7 in New York on Wednesday night after blowing a 3-1 series lead against the Rangers.

Following Sunday night’s 4-3 loss at Verizon Center, which evened the conference semifinals at three wins apiece, Ovechkin told reporters, “We’re gong to come back and win the series.”

As you might expect, Ovechkin’s prediction created a Mother’s Day firestorm, with the New York Daily News calling him “cocky” and Rangers fans calling him things their mothers’ probably wouldn’t approve.  

Capitals coach Barry Trotz? He said he “loved it.”

“I saw that and that’s what leaders do,” Trotz said Monday. “Leaders say this is what we need to do, this is what we’re going to do. I think I have a lot more respect for someone who will be bold enough to say, ‘I’m the leader of the hockey team. We’re going to go there and give our best game and go out and win a hockey game.’ I’d rather have that than a leader going, ‘Well, we’re going there to lose.’ I mean, come on.

“I love that. I love that a player has got the wherewithal to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to go there and we’re going to go after them and we’re going to leave it out there. I have a lot of respect for players that say that. And anybody who doesn’t have respect for that I think is fooling themselves.

“Not one player that I know is going to say we’re going there to lose. I have a lot of respect for all the players who have said, ‘Hey, we’re going to Game 7 to win the hockey game because that’s the mindset you need to have. If you don’t have that you might as well pack your bags.”

But do the Capitals need to hear such bold talk from their 29-year-old captain, who has two goals and three assists in eight career Game 7s?

“I don’t know if we needed to hear it," Trotz said, "but here’s your captain who says, ‘Hey, we’re going there and let’s go there and do it.’ I have a lot of respect for that. I’d rather have that than no one say anything and cower and put their eyes down and not look you in the face, or cower from anything that might be considered bold or controversial. You want players to feel that way. I’m OK with it.”

Trotz said it is nothing new for Ovechkin to attract the spotlight with his comments, even if others perceive it as a negative one.

“Ovi’s OK with that,” Trotz said. “Ovi’s done that his whole career. I’ve just gotten to know him this year, but his whole career he’s said stuff. Every year he says stuff that is bold and he backs it up, usually.

“He’s been one of the best goal scorers in this decade. People say, ‘We can stop him. We can do this or we can do that.’ You can stop him for a bit, but every year I look up and he’s got 50-60 goals every year.”

Trotz was asked if this could be a defining moment in Ovechkin’s career. After all, his teams are 3-5 in Game 7s during his career and he’s never been to a conference final.

“I don’t know if one game can, but it helps the legacy,” Trotz said. “We always make things bigger than they really are. It’s like calling a home run shot. Everybody remembers it, but is that pure luck or is that skill? I don’t know. But we’ll write about it, we’ll talk about it. I’ll tell my kids, you’ll tell your kids and it’ll be bigger and bigger, like the fishing story when the fish was that long.”

Or, perhaps, like the Mark Messier guarantee of 1994, which is credited for the push the Rangers needed to win their first Stanley Cup in 54 years.

“They backed it up,” Trotz said. “They won the game. That’s what leaders do. And they got it done. Mark’s such a great leader. He’s proven that for decades with the Oilers and the Rangers. He called the shot and he backed it up. It’s famous now. So who knows?” 

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How to watch the IIHF World Championship Finals: Date, Time, TV Channel, Lineups

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How to watch the IIHF World Championship Finals: Date, Time, TV Channel, Lineups

The 2019 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship is coming to a close this Memorial Day weekend.

After two weeks, the sixteen team field has been narrowed down to four with the world championship now on the line in Slovakia. 

The two group winners, Canada, the top-ranked team in the world and 26-time IIHF Champions, and Russia, who rolled through the group stage with a 7-0 record and a +29 goal differential, are the favorites. Russia overwhelmingly has played like the best team in Slovakia, outscoring its opponents 40-10 behind Nikita Kucherov's 16 points in eight games.

The Russian/ Soviet Union team is the only team with more titles than the Canadians with 27 (five as Russia, 22 as the Soviet Union). 

Canada will face off against the Czech Republic, whose only loss came against the Russians in group play, with a spot to the Finals on the line. Russia will play Finland for the last spot in the gold medal match.

Three of the four teams remaining (Russia, Canda, and the Czech Republic) are the winningest teams in the IIHF's history. The four semifinalists have combined to win 67 of the 82 IIHF World Championships.

When is the 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals?

The 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals will take place at 8:15 p.m. local time (2:15 p.m. ET) on Sunday, May 26. The bronze medal match will precede the gold medal match at 3:45 p.m. local time (9:15 a.m. ET). 

2019 IIHF World Championship Schedule:

There are only four matches left in the 2019 IIHF World Championship. The two semifinals, the bronze medal match, and the gold medal match.

No. 3 Russia vs. No. 5 Finland, 9:15 a.m. ET, May 25
No. 1 Canada vs. No. 6 Czech Republic, 1:15 p.m. ET, May 25

Loser of Semifinal No. 1 vs. Loser of Semifinal No. 2, 9:45 a.m. ET, May 26

Winner of Semifinal No. 1 vs. Winner of Semifinal No. 2, 2:15 p.m. ET, May 26

How to watch or stream the 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals:

All games at the IIHF World Championships will be broadcast on NHL Network.

Who is playing in the 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals?

The 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals will be played between the winner of Russia (8-0-0)/ Finland (7-0-1) and Canada (7-1-0)/ Czech Republic (7-0-1).

Lineups for the 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals:

Lineups for the 2019 IIHF Championship Finals will be announced on the morning of May 26. 

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The Blues turnaround from last place to the playoffs began with a blowout win over the Caps

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The Blues turnaround from last place to the playoffs began with a blowout win over the Caps

When the St. Louis Blues woke up on Jan. 3, they were in dead last in the NHL. A 15-18-4 record gave them 34 points, less than teams like the Los Angeles Kings and the Ottawa Senators who would go on to finish the season as the two worst teams. Yes, St. Louis had played in only 37 games to that point, the fewest in the league, but finding a way to climb back into the playoff hunt seemed daunting and unlikely.

Now the Blues are the Western Conference champions and stand just four wins away from the Stanley Cup.

The Blues have been one of the best stories of the NHL season climbing from last place to the Stanley Cup Final. When looking back at St. Louis’ season, there are several moments one can point to as key moments in the turnaround. Craig Berube replaced Mike Yeo as head coach on Nov. 20 and goalie Jordan Binnington got his first start with the Blues on Jan. 7 and never gave back the crease.

But the turnaround really started on Jan. 3. On that morning, the Blues were in last place. That would be the last day they would find themselves there.

And it all started with a 5-2 win against the Washington Capitals.

On Jan. 3, St. Louis and Washington looked like two teams headed in opposite directions. While the Blues were in last place, the Caps were rolling with a 24-11-3 record, first in the Metropolitan Division. Washington came into St. Louis on a five-game road winning streak. As if that wasn’t enough, the Blues were also without sniper Vladimir Tarasenko.

And yet, what looked like an easy win for the Caps turned into anything but. Robert Thomas scored a deflection just four minutes into the game. Washington managed to take a 2-1 lead early in the second, but St. Louis rattled off four straight goals for the 5-2 win. With Washington down only 3-2 heading into the third period, the Blues but on a possession clinic outshooting Washington 14-2 in the final frame.

"We stayed aggressive," Alex Pietrangelo told reporters. "When we're playing in the O zone, the best way to play defense is to play in their end. We kept the puck, we moved the puck, we worked. Forwards were great tonight, protecting the center of the ice. It kind of took their playmakers out of the game."

The Caps’ first shot came 13 minutes into the third. By then, the Blues already had 12 shots and two goals.

Over the course of an 82-game season, teams will lose games against teams they shouldn’t. This felt different. Watching this game, you did not come away thinking the Caps played down to an inferior team. The Blues dominated that game and the Caps knew it.

“They were skating, competing harder, won races, more determined than we were,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “If we’re being honest about it, we didn’t have a very good game, and they played a pretty darn good game.”
More importantly, St. Louis realized it as well. They knew following the game that this was a win and a performance they could build on.

“I think we out-chanced them, so we're building here at even strength,” Pietrangelo said. “It's just a matter of keeping it at even strength and scoring goals. Tonight the goals weren't necessarily pretty but we created a lot of chances."
That night proved to be the first night of the turnaround. From Jan. 3 on, no team in the NHL earned more points than St. Louis’ 65, not even the Tampa Bay Lightning who won the Presidents’ Trophy with an incredible 128 points.

St. Louis was not expected to be bad this season. The team made a number of offseason moves to bolster the roster and many thought they could be real contenders, but they sure did not play like it through the first half of the season. It took a big win over the defending Stanley Cup champs to show them and everyone else just how good they really were. From that point on, they never looked back.