Rangers Notebook: Solving Holtby, Hart nominees
Semyon Varlamov was in goal for the Capitals in 2009. Michal Neuvirth tended goal in last year’s series.
As the Rangers and Capitals entered their third playoff matchup in four years, the unknown between the pipes for Washington is Braden Holtby.
The Lloydminster, Saskatchewan native went 4-2-1 with a .922 save percentage and 2.49 GAA in seven regular season games after being called up from AHL Hershey due to injuries suffered by Neuvirth and Tomas Vokoun. One of the wins was a 4-1 season-ending decision over the Rangers at the Garden on April 7, in which he turned away 35 shots.
He outdueled Tim Thomas in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, finishing the seven-game series with a 4-3 record, 2.00 goals against average and .940 save percentage.
“Even down the stretch when we were battling for [a] playoff [berth], he had to go into Detroit and won; go into Philadelphia — we lost — but got a point. The kid battles. He doesn’t let stuff bother him,” Capitals coach Dale Hunter said during his pre-game press briefing. “With this kid, you don’t have to [make sure he keeps a level head]. He’s one of the hardest working goalies in practice. He just keeps working.
“Down the stretch he played really well for us. He [played well] against one of the top goalies in the league and now he has to do it again. He knows it.”
Hunter has ties to the Rangers as he coached Dan Girardi, Michael Del Zotto and Brandon Prust when the three played junior hockey for the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights. Hunter co-owns the junior hockey power with his brother Mark.
“He’s very strong. He can move the puck and he can skate,” Hunter said of Girardi, who played for the Knights in 2004-05. The Knights won the Memorial Cup that year.
“It’s going to be a challenge for [Alex Ovechkin] to go against one of the top defensemen,” Hunter added.
Expect Girardi and Ryan McDonagh to be matched up against Ovechkin’s line throughout the series.
Tortorella said “no updates” to three questions about Brandon Dubinsky and Brian Boyle’s statuses before the game.
Both Boyle and Dubinsky were scratched. Steve Eminger was inserted into the lineup, skating with John Mitchell and Mike Rupp on the fourth line. It was Eminger’s first game action since spraining his ankle against the Penguins on Mar. 15.
Lundqvist’s second nomination
The NHL announced Friday that Henrik Lundqvist was a finalist for the Hart Trophy. Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin and Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos are the other finalists.
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.