by Rodger Wood
Tied 3 games to 3 games, the Washington Capitals came into Game 7 of the 2015 quarterfinal playoff series ready to batter and bruise a physically smaller, 13 players depleted (including veteran defensemen Travis Harmonic, Calvin deHaan, and Lubomir Visnovsky) tired New York Islanders hockey team.
While the Islanders hung in the game for 60 minutes, actually fighting back with lots of heart, 54 hits to the Capitals 46, they just couldn’t stand off a Capitals team whose rookies and veterans, with only Eric Fehr an exception, were on the bench ready to play another tough hockey game.
Caps first year players, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky, Michael Latta and Tom Wilson played critical roles throughout the series – Kuznetsov played 17:45 minutes and scored the 7th game winner at 7:18 point of 3rd Period, while scoring two other tallies in the Caps Game 5 5-1 win.
Tom Wilson’s hit on Lubomir Visnovsky in Game 4 took the Islanders veteran defenseman out of commission for the remainder of the series and with Calvin de Haan injured in Game 6 depleted the Islanders down to four healthy defensemen requiring them to suit up a couple rookies, Scott Mayfield and Matt Donovan in Game 6 at Nassau Coliseum and the final Game 7 at the Verizon Center.
The Caps defense stifled the Islanders limiting them to just ten shots and Orpik and Ovie were awesome hitting any one who dared to come on their turf 7 times each.
The Caps matched the Islanders blocked shot for blocked shot, both teams blocking a total of 20 shots each.
Enough can’t be said about the Caps coaching and team play in this series. Barry Trotz and coaching staff had the team prepared, changed tactics game by game, and kept their cool on the bench stabilizing a team during some tough moments, like the loss 15 seconds into overtime 2-1 Game 4 and the late 3rd Period goal winning Game 6. It was a world of difference having a veteran coaching staff behind the bench this series.
The playoffs are far from over, but this is a new Capitals’ team who can play the game. And at least for now, those fans who were at the old Capital Centre on April 18-19, 1987 can get some satisfaction having seen their team show the obnoxious Islanders’ fans the exit gate at old Nassau Coliseum for the last time, and revenging that terrible, terrible loss on that date in the fourth overtime period of another Game 7.
I’ll never forgive Larry Murphy for making that bad pass out from the corner of Caps defensive zone right onto the stick of the opposing Islanders Pat Lafontaine.who scored the winning goal at the 8:42 mark of the fourth overtime period but what goes around, comes around. At least now I can get my proper sleep at night having seen the Caps overcome that loss.