May 9, 2012
Lundqvist battles butterflies before big games
By TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency
WASHINGTON - Even someone who is considered among the best goaltenders in hockey acknowledged he battles the butterflies in the hours leading up to a big game.
"You have more emotions during the playoffs and the key is just to control them and keep your focus on the right things," New York Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist, a candidate for the Hart and Vezina Trophies for his play during the 2011-12 regular season, said on Wednesday morning.
"But it's tougher in the playoffs because you want it more. You're more intense, you're more nervous."
The Rangers, leading the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal against the Washington Capitals 3-2, would eliminate the Caps from the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs with a victory in Game 6 at the Verizon Center on Wednesday night.
If the Caps win Game 6, the seventh and deciding game will be on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in New York. The winner of the series will meet the New Jersey Devils in the conference final, but no one was talking about that on Wednesday.
"We definitely think that we are good enough to continue and good enough to beat a team like New York even though they're playing as hard as they are," Capitals defenceman Karl Alzner said. "It's tough when we're staying right there with them and at times we're better, at times they're better. It's the way playoff hockey should be. You're going to get teams that are very evenly matched, and right now it's one of those things."
The collective mood of the Capitals players wasn't hard to read.
"It's more serious today," Alzner said. "We realize how important this is and we're making sure everybody's on. It's a do-or-die game for us, so we're all pretty intense. Obviously, we want to do and not die, so we're ready for it."
Caps forward Jay Beagle did not participate in the morning skate, but coach Dale Hunter said Beagle would be in the lineup. Beagle limped to the bench after blocking a shot in Game 5.
Alex Ovechkin didn't have a shot on goal in Game 5, a 3-2 overtime win by the Rangers, just the second time that has happened in his career in the playoffs. That's not how the Caps star wants his season to be remembered.
"Everybody understands we just can't go home right now," Ovechkin said.
And that might not happen right away. Since 2008, the Caps are 3-0 in Game 6 when facing elimination.
The Rangers, meanwhile, have not advanced to the conference final since 1997.