On a night where The New York Rangers were able to put a lot of shots on net the Washington Capitals were able to crash their way to a game one victory. Despite dispatching Pittsburgh in five games in round one the Rangers were unable to come away with a victory in game one against the Capitals. The Rangers seemed to play into Washington’s hand more then once throughout the game.
The Capitals style of game was especially apparent during the game winning play instigated by Nick Backstrom who laid a fierce and dirty hit to the head of Ranger Dan Boyle. The hesitation produced by that hit allowed for playmakers Alexander Ovechkin and Joel Ward to bury a goal with 1.3 seconds left in regulation. Horrendous play calling aside this game had a lot of components to it that the Rangers can and (indicated by Alain Vigneault’s body language after the game) will address to ensure a better outcome on Saturday.
The Rangers initial approach to Thursday nights game was troubling as Washington pushed the pace, and seemed to be a step ahead for the majority of each period. The stat sheet indicates the Rangers probably should have come out with a win producing more shots, and more hits. The issue with the recent offensive performance had to do with the quality of shots.
The Capitals were able to keep the Rangers to the outside despite the sustained pressure the Rangers were able to accumulate. The Rangers have played a north south game, utilizing stretch passes, and speed all year. Washington as demonstrated against the New York Islanders in round one, was able to stifle the majority of chances produced from that style. The power play was stagnant once again, a theme of the Rangers playoff performances for what seems like half a decade.
It’s easy to break down the inconsistencies or inadequacies after a loss, but it shouldn’t be dismissed that this team can turn on a dime. The Rangers’ coach conveyed such sentiment when he stated, “our top players have to play like top players.” The fact that their game can yet improve makes this tough pill somewhat easier to swallow.
The big time players need to be felt in game 2 if the Rangers are going to move on in their quest for the cup. Rick Nash, Chris Krider, Derek Stepan, Martin St. Louis, and so on will need to adjust their game to thwart the Capitals defensive grind ‘em out style. The Rangers will have to play a smarter game, and become more responsible with the puck in their own end.
The team needs to come back with some bite, and some resolve in order to bounce back from this tough loss. This team with this loss will learn a valuable lesson that they will carry with them throughout the rest of their run. Playing until the final whistle and even beyond will be key going forward. The list of adjustments can go on.
One positive on the night was Henrik Lundqvist was again very sharp throughout the game keeping them in it with key saves and playing big. Jesper Fast scored his first playoff goal tying the game late to put them in position to go into overtime. In the end it was not to be, but the silver lining is apparent. Expect the Rangers to have a chip on their shoulder going into game 2 knowing they let one get away from them, and knowing they were probably due a better result.
The only way to make up for what was taken from you is to work twice as hard and earn it back. They will need to play their game, and throw around a bit of muscle as well in order to even the score, and prove they shouldn’t be taken lightly. The Rangers have yet to break out this post season, expect the proper response on Saturday.
The game changes in the post season, and the Rangers need to adjust accordingly. That being said it is up to the officials to make the right calls, and protect players, which was absolutely lacking in game one. Checks, and elbows to the head cannot continue in any series, and if the NHL wants any respect, or trust what so ever they’ll crack down going forward.