ARLINGTON, Va. - Capitals coach Dale Hunter played in his share of Game 7s during his extended National Hockey League career.
He said his message to his players regarding Wednesday night’s deciding game in the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Bruins at TD Garden will be pretty simple.
“It’s a lot of fun,’’ said Hunter Monday. “It’s Game 7, both teams are equal going in and you’ve got to have fun with it, you’ve got to enjoy it. It’s a one-game series right now. I know they’re going to battle and play hard, both teams, and it’s going to be a great game to watch, for the fans, for everybody.’’
Hunter said his team doesn’t look at Sunday’s Game 6, which was won by the visiting Bruins in overtime, as a missed opportunity to close out the Stanley Cup champions.
“The guys are character guys, both teams,’’ he said. “They’re going to go out and play Game 7 like what Game 7 should be all about, excitement and you can’t wait for the game to get started. You want to play it. There’s nothing better than being in a Game 7.’’
Praise for Alzner
One of the steadiest Washington blue liners has been Karl Alzner. His defense partner, John Carlson, said no one should be surprised at what a stabilizing influence Alzner is.
“I think that Karl is an unbelievable player,’’ said Carlson. “He’s not the flashiest player and maybe some people to the naked eye might not give him that much appreciation.
“But certainly being his partner and him doing what he has done for me in the past two years, I can’t say enough about him.’’
Having said that, though, Carlson said Alzner isn’t a mystery to the Bruins either.
“Especially going into the playoffs, you know who you’re playing against,’’ said Carlson. “The Bruins have played against Karl Alzner, I don’t know 20 times? Fifteen times? There are no secrets here.’’
Steady as he goes
Braden Holtby, the Capitals’ 22-year-old netminder, has been a revelation during the playoffs. To those outside the team, he’s a surprise. To those on the inside, he’s performing in ways they had hoped. He will enter Game 7 with a .935 save percentage and 2.18 goals-against average.
“He’s obviously young but he really wants it,’’ said Carlson. “Ever since I’ve known him, at least here, he’s always been a worker. He has always worked hard in practice and I think you see that in his game, battling for his position, battling for the crease. He wants it, he wants to win, and he’s shown that and he’s had some great success.’’
Forward Jay Beagle said Holtby has been impressive.
“He’s a great goaltender,’’ said Beagle. “I always knew he was mentally tough, but with each game and just seeing how tight these games are, with a lot of them going into overtime, seeing him continue to excel under the pressure is something I didn’t really expect. He’s really a lot mentally stronger than I thought. The pressure does not seem to affect him at all.
“That’s great for a young goaltender to come in and to have these games be so tight and go into overtime and just to have him so positive and not let anything rattle him, it’s great to see and it’s what you need from a goaltender. He just continues to stand on his head for us and play great.’’
The Capitals have 121 blocked shots in the first six games to 80 for Boston, an average of 20 per outing. In Game 6, blocked shots were harder to come by, with Washington having just 12 to nine by the Bruins. The Capitals had 27 in Game 2 and 26 in Game 4. Hunter said the Bruins have made adjustments to cut down on the number of shots Washington is able to get in front of. “They’re missing from the point, they’re shooting it wide and missing the net more just because they don’t want to get it blocked,’’ said Hunter. “We do the same thing. You tell your [defense], ‘Don’t get it blocked.’ ’’Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at email@example.com.