So I'm a pretty active reader of Bill Simmons. It's strange, too, because I don't like basketball and Boston obviously isn't my favorite sports city. But I think Simmons is a fantastic writer, he makes me laugh and his stuff is generally really fantastic. I also think Grantland as a whole has some great stuff on occasion, but that's besides the point.
Simmons does something called a "retro diary" where he live-blogs a sporting event. I've wanted to do this for the longest time, but I haven't found the right place or time to do that. If the New York Rangers needed to win in the final game of the regular season (against the New Jersey Devils) to make the playoffs I was going to do it. They ended up not needing the game.
So what better than to do it right now? This is a huge game, the Rangers season rides on the outcome and the time just seems right.
I'm going to put this right at the top: This writing is legitimately live-action writing. The only thing I'm going to do after the fact is add a photo from the game and set it to run at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow (or today, I guess). So if this seems oddly optimistic or pessimistic it's because at the time of this writing I legitimately don't know what's going to happen in the game.
All times are the actual time of the period as I'm writing it. That's pretty much all you need to know. So here we go:
Pre-Game: I'm pretty nervous to be honest with you. Neither side has won a road game in this series. The Rangers are 0-5 in their history when playing Game 7's on the road (5-0 at home). The Rangers have lost 10 of the last 11 playoff games in Washington. In those 11 games the Rangers have scored one or fewer goals in nine of them. Henrik Lundqvist's last (and only) Game 7 playoff loss was in 2009, against Washington ... In Washington. So, needless to say, the odds aren't exactly in the Rangers' favor on paper.
Pre-Game: Sam and Joe are talking about how big Derick Brassard has been in this series. I agree. We've talked about this before, but he's been the biggest player on the ice for the Rangers in the series. Seven points coming into Game 7. That's without scoring a point in the first two games. Rangers need a big game from him.
20:00 - *Starts doing breathing exercises*
17:45 - A Chris Kreider sighting! And he almost got a shot on goal! Nice use of speed there ...
16:50 - 3-on-1 for the Rangers. Holtby makes a big save on Nash from a great pass by Brassard. That was close.
15:41 - Anton Stralman rushes down the ice to earn an icing. Those are huge plays. He's been really good this post-season, too. Nice to see.
15:21 - A great chance (again, from a Brassard pass) looks like it deflected off Mats Zuccarello's leg. Holtby makes the stop. Zuccarello gets pushed into Holtby and we have some rough stuff. I never understand that. If you push a guy into the goalie how do you get mad that the guy you pushed hit the goalie?
14:14 - Rangers do that
cute terrifying thing where they can't clear the zone and the Capitals get a bunch of chances. It also strands Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi on the ice for a long shift without Alex Ovechkin on the ice. And now Ovechkin comes on but McDonagh blocks the shot into the netting and the Rangers can rest.
13:02 - A deflected shot from the point almost goes in. Lundqvist is forced to make a big save. The Rangers need to start pressuring the point like, six games again. They're giving up too many chances. It has to stop.
12:20 - A really nice, tricky shot by Stralman almost goes in. Holtby makes the save. I swear I only wanted to update when something interesting happened, but this game is really opening up and I've already written nearly 750 words. And we have two and a half more periods to go ...
11:30 - Ovechkin throws a big hit on John Moore in the defensive zone. In real time I thought it was late but the replay just showed and it was clean. Nice hit. Ovechkin throwing his weight around, the Rangers have to do something about it now.
11:13 - Ovechkin hits McDonagh from behind and drives his head into the boards. That's dirty. That could have killed McDonagh.
11:13 - Looking at the replays it's not as bad as it looked live, but I still don't like it. And I still think it should have been a penalty.
10:17 - McDonagh's face looks bad. He's gone to the dressing room for stitches I'm sure. Moore has replaced him. Says a lot about Moore. Hopefully McDonagh can come back but boy did he look shaken up.
9:50 - McDonagh back on the ice and going toe-to-toe with Ovechkin because he's an animal/machine.
6:42 - RANGERS GOAL! Lundqvist makes a fantastic save and Kreider drops the puck to Arron Asham who beats Holtby glove side for a 1-0 lead. Kreider actually looked off Holtby and dropped it to Asham who ripped a brilliant shot. What a goal. Remind me again why Kreider isn't playing more?
5:16 - McDonagh's sliding block stops a scoring chance. Again, he's a machine.
5:16 - Nice little head-butt by Mike Ribeiro after the whistle. Stay classy, Mike.
3:15 - Replay shows that Kreider let Mike Green into the zone and blew his defensive assignment before the Asham goal. So, uh, that might be why he's not playing as much.
2:10 - Puck bounced wrong on Holtby behind the net and Taylor Pyatt nearly gets the puck with a chance to wrap it into an open net. He didn't.
1:18 - Asham takes a penalty in the defensive zone. He keeps his stick high and catches Matt Hendricks high. Nearly draws blood but doesn't. Which is good, Rangers don't need the Capitals on the power play for four minutes.
0:30 - Girardi tries to pass the puck to Carl Hagelin rather than clear it. It results in a big chance. Can't do that with this power play, boys, just get it out of the zone.
End Of 1st: Rangers up 1-0 but still have 42 seconds of the Capitals power play to kill. Rangers played well but the game was very wide open. I'm not comfortable with a 1-0 lead, but having that first goal is huge. This game could also be tied. Lundqvist was spectacular, truly spectacular. The Rangers sure could use an insurance goal (or 12).
Right Before Puck Drop To Start The 2nd: I feel like I'm going to throw up.
20:00 - Rangers win the faceoff and clear quickly. That was nice.
19:12 - Rangers kill the penalty but Lundqvist still needs to make a save. Brian Boyle had a huge block that looks like it shook him up.
18:17 - Rangers finally clear the zone and Zuccarello gets off a nice shot in the slot. Great save by Holtby.
17:51 - Nash makes a few nice plays and the Capitals ice the puck. Joe thinks Nash is skating much better in this game. I agree.
16:42 - RANGERS GOAL! Derek Dorsett hits the post on a 2-on-1. Then Pyatt converts on a rebound and gives the Rangers a 2-0 lead. Moore moves the puck to Eminger who takes a nice shot and Pyatt convers the rebound. That's why you shoot the puck, boys.
14:25 - RANGERS GOAL! Michael Del Zotto takes a perfect pass from Brassard and puts the puck through Holtby's five-hole. It gets deflected by a Capitals' defenseman and finds its way into the back on the net. Rangers have a 3-0 lead and once again it's Brassard making things happen.
12:46 - An ill timed pinch by Del Zotto nearly leads to a 2-on-1 by the Capitals but Stralman gets back in time to ice the puck.
8:56 - Lundqvist is forced to make a big save and tried to pin the puck in the corner. He can't but the Rangers clear the zone.
7:13 - Rangers keeping the puck a little bit more in this period. They've had a few shifts where they've keps the Capitals in their own zone for an extended period of time. The best defense right now is keeping the Capitals off the puck.
6:41 - A Dorsett shot gets stopped by Holtby but it bounced RIGHT BY the post. Very close for the Rangers. That came right after a 4-on-2 for the Capitals where Boyle blocked another shot. He's been huge so far, too.
6:15 - Brassard makes a really good defensive play to keep the Capitals from getting a glorious scoring chance. Little plays like that go a long, long way. The Rangers were on their heels for a minute there. Gotta make the right decisions. Keep clearing the zone and moving things forward.
5:26 - Derek Stepan hits the crossbar on a brilliant shot off the rush That was really, really close.
2:16 - Teams swap a few chances and Lundqvist makes a save and holds on. This game is still pretty open for both sides.
1:43 - Lundqvist needs to make a nice save thanks to Eminger making another pinch. I'm not sure I like Eminger jumping the puck there (especially because he didn't get it), but I'm glad they're not sitting back.
1:30 - The Rangers have split McDonagh and Girardi to make sure one of them is on Ovechkin at all times. Remember the Rangers don't have last change in Washington so this isn't a bad move in my eyes.
End Of 2nd: Rangers take a 3-0 lead into the third period. The Capitals had a few chances in the second period so it's huge that the Rangers have a three-goal lead in the third. There should be some open ice for the Rangers in the third, so they might be able to grab another goal. But the Capitals are going to be pressing, so the Rangers still need to make good decisions with the puck in their own zone. Lundqvist has been immense.
20:00 - Still nervous. I don't think you're ever confident or content in the playoffs. Especially not in a Game 7.
19:47 - RANGERS GOAL! Ryan Callahan steals the puck for a breakaway and goes to his backhand and flips the puck past Holtby on the backhand. WHAT. A. GOAL. Rangers up 4-0. That's a huge goal and gives the Rangers some breathing room.
18:12 - Stepan and Stralman suddenly have a 2-on-1 and Stepan throws the puck right onto his stick but Stralman can't control it. Moments later Holtby shuts down Dorsett (who's had an incredible game) from point-blank range in the slot. That was a big stop by Holtby.
17:08 - Rangers ice the puck and John Tortorella uses his timeout. Makes sense. You don't want to give the Capitals any life here, may as well be safe.
17:00 - Boyle loses the faceoff but the Capitals deflect the puck out of the zone and the Rangers can chance.
16:32 - Washington takes a slashing penalty. Just in time, too, the Rangers can use the time in the Capitals zone. The Rangers could really use a goal here.
15:03 - Ovechkin killing the penalty. The Capitals need offense, not surprised to see him out there.
14:22 - Best chances from that power play came from Washington. Ovechkin laid another big hit, this time on Brad Richards. The Rangers end up icing the puck.
14:12 - The Rangers are now 2-for-27 in this series with the man advantage. That's not a typo. 2-for-27. That's horrible on a level you can't even describe.
13:21 - RANGERS GOAL! Zuccarello makes some pretty moves and finishes a brilliant (read: a brilliant) pass from Brassard. What more can you say about Brassard? How incredible has he been? Nine points in this series. Nine. Richards led all Rangers with 15 points in 20 games last year. Brassard has nine points in seven games. Two assists so far tonight. And what a move by Zuccarello for the goal. Seriously, what hands. And good for him, too, he's been due for a goal. Rangers up 5-0 now.
11:56 - Capitals have a nice chance but the puck bounces past a Capital on the other side (who would have had an open net).
8:52 - Kreider takes a nice shot that required a big save from Holtby. Kreider getting more ice time now that the Rangers have a big lead. He's looked good since his assist.
8:30 - Chants of "HEN-RIK" erupt at the Verizon Center after a huge save from Lundqvist. . Awesome.
7:20 - Eminger throws the puck out of play in his own zone and that's a penalty. Capitals get their second power play of the game.
6:50 - Nice glove save from Lundqvist on Green's shot from the point.
6:27 - Stralman blocks a shot and clears the zone on the penalty kill. That was a huge play. He looks good on the penalty kill, actually.
5:45 - Nash is killing penalties, too.
5:18 - Rangers kill off the penalty. Nice kill from them. Still 5-0 Rangers.
4:46 - Sam and Joe brought this up before, but Brassard is tied for second in Rangers history with nine points in a playoff series. Mark Messier is first with 11.
4:30 - Sam and Joe talking about Ryane Clowe and Marc Staal having a chance to get healthy if the Rangers can move on to the second round. I agree that's going to play a big role. The Boston Bruins just won an insane 5-4 Game 7 in overtime (they were down 4-2 with 1:30 left in the game) so the winner of this game gets them.
3:32 - Brassard draws another power play. Both power plays in this game have been off slashes to Brassard. I don't care that the Rangers are up 5-0, this power play is important to get some momentum for the next round. It simply has to be better.
2:35 - Nash gets a good chance but can't put one home. He can use a goal, but he's had himself a great game. The goals will come if he keeps playing like this.
1:38 - Nash gets another chance but the shot is blocked.
1:00 - One minute left. Never thought it would be like this at this point. Much calmer now than I was 20 minutes ago.
0:35 - Rangers fans in the building standing and screaming. Awesome.
0:00 - Rangers win! Rangers Win! The Rangers shut out the Capitals for two straight games. I want EVERYONE who told me this team could NEVER win this series to apologize in the comments. Believe.
Post-Game: Lundqvist and Brassard get huge stars for this game. They helped the Rangers win what was a tremendous Game 7. The first time in Rangers history the Rangers won a Game 7 on the road. They never gave up. So proud of these guys.
Post-Game: I love the handshake at the end of the series. Not just because the Rangers won but because it's the classiest thing in sports. It really is. You see two teams kill each other for seven games and then they support each other after. I love it.
Post-Game: Didn't really think about whether or not you guys would have read this if they lost. Hmm, that was an oversight. Thankfully we didn't have to deal with that.
Hope you guys enjoyed this. Let me know if it's something you would like to see again.