Sunday, May 12, 2013

Rangers Force Game Seven

Capitals 0, Rangers 1
Scoresheet - Event Summary

Series tied 3-3

Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images
It would be a deflected shot off of a Washington Capitals' defender that beat Braden Holtby that would decide game six's fate. It would be enough for the New York Rangers and Henrik Lundqvist to hold off elimination and force a game seven back in DC as they down the Capitals 1-0.

Special teams were key, in so much as the power play meant nothing to either team. The Capitals were able to kill off all five infractions they took. While the Rangers didn't give their opponents a single power play through 60 minutes of play. The only penalties called against New York happened at the 20:00 mark of the third period after a post game scrum erupted.

While the Rangers were "perfect" by not taking a penalty, the game was frothed with cheap hits and missed calls. Two of the five penalties against the Caps were retaliatory strikes after the Rangers initiated the fact with a cheap shot or a bad hit. Jack Hillen was called for roughing after Ranger captain Ryan Callahan gave the defender an elbow to the head and Hillen went back after him. Mike Green claimed he was slew footed before he turned and cross checked Derek Dorsett.

Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images
But the Capitals undisciplined play would cost them in the end as the team remained out of sync for much of the game. Alex Ovechkin had his moments. He had a few heavy hits through out the game, unfortunate for Dan Girardi who was on the receiving end for at least two of them.

The Ranger goal came after some sustained pressure by the home team. The Capitals trying to keep most of the shots in their own zone to the outside, but a point shot by Derek Brassard bounced off a couple of Capitals in front of the net to beat Braden Holtby. It would tarnish an absolute gem of a game by the young goaltender who faced down 28 shots and kept his team with in arms reach.

The Capitals and Rangers will face off in an epic game seven tomorrow night at Verizon Center. Capitals will look to make it to the next round with a win at home.

Caps Notes:
  • Speaking of penalties, the Rangers seem to be raking in the opportunities. The disparity is whopping at Madison Square Garden where the Caps have been whistled for 15 fouls, while the home team only 5 in this series.
  • Ovechkin finished with 5 shots, 3 hits in 19:03 in ice time.
  • At the end of the game it looked as if Brian Boyle body slammed Mike Green to the ice after popping the Caps' defenders helmet off. Green appeared to be fine.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Caps Take Rangers To Brink

Capitals 2, Rangers 1 OT
Scoresheet - Event Summary

Washington leads series 3-2

Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images
Mike Ribeiro has had a pretty quiet series thus far. A few assists, some solid play on the power play. But tonight, Ribeiro goes from a dull quietness to amp up the volume in Chinatown as he slipped a deflected shot past Henrik Lundqvist in overtime as the Capitals take Rangers to the brink of elimination with a 2-1 win. The Caps now go up 3 games to 2.

The Rangers did get off to a quick start, scoring the first goal of the game just :58 seconds into the first period. Derek Brassard shuffled the puck from behind the net past Steve Oleksy to an open Brian Boyle in front of the net. Just like that, the Rangers had a one goal lead. After that, the Rangers really clogged up the neutral zone and Ranger net minder Lundqvist did the rest.

It would take a bone head play by Boyle in the second period who took a retaliatory slash to Ribeiro's legs in front of the Ranger net. Literally eleven seconds later Joel Ward buried a Marcus Johansson pass to tie the game at one.

The Capitals' special teams continues to impress in the post season. They tied the game on the power play and was 1 for 2 on the night as the Rangers tried to stay out of the penalty box. Their penalty kill was a perfect 4 for 4 including when the Capitals took two straight penalties when Jack Hillen was tapped for body slamming a Ranger, then John Carlson batted the puck over the glass for a delay of game "puck over glass" penalty.

Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images
The Caps killed both to survive the second, and then dominated the third period. Out shooting the Rangers 13-4 in the final period, Washington was unable to solve Lundqvist. The game would be decided in overtime.

Unlike the previous three periods, the overtime frame would be froth with chances for both teams. The play opened up as both teams tried to take each other to the brink of elimination. The firehouse hockey would give Mathieu Perreault a golden opportunity but Lundqvist came up with the outstretched leg pad save.

A few minutes after that the Capitals finally found some offensive pressure as the puck made it way around to Karl Alzner who sent a snapper on net. The puck hit Troy Brouwer in front of the net and trickled to Ribeiro who got position on his defender John Moore. And just like that, the Caps win game five in dramatic fashion and regains the series lead as it heads back to New York for an afternoon game at MSG.

This would be Ribeiro's first game winning play off goal, overtime or otherwise. It capped off a great effort by the Caps to keep the Rangers from scoring again after their early tally in the first. The Rangers pressured but Braden Holtby held it out even with long stretches of not seeing much rubber come his way in the third period. He would make some solid saves in the over time period included a chance by Rick Nash in close on a wrap around shot.

Capitals have a chance to end the Rangers' season on Mother's Day.

Caps Notes:
  • Per Caps PR: Tom Wilson made his NHL debut tonight, becoming just the fourth Capitals player to make his NHL debut in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The first three were Chris Felix (4/10/1988), Grant Jennings (4/26/1988) and Trent Whitfield (4/17/2000). Wilson became the first Caps teenager to make his NHL debut in the playoffs, becoming the fifth teenager to suit up for the Capitals in a playoff game (Bob Carpenter, Scott Stevens, Kevin Hatcher, Yvon Corriveau – according to ELIAS). He skated 6:24 and registered one shot and four hits.
  • Ribeiro was solid in the faceoff circle, winning 70% of his draws and nearly perfect on defensive zone draws. 
  • Joel Ward and Mike Ribeiro both scored their first goals of the series. Ward his 11th career playoff tally, Ribeiro his sixth career playoff goal.
  • Matt Hendricks led Caps in blocked shots with seven.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Parade Of Penalties Punishes Caps

Capitals 3, Rangers 4
Score Sheet - Event Summary

Washington leads series 2-1

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
The New York Rangers finally figured out how to score on the power play, and their two extra man tallies would keep the Washington Capitals in a perpetual state of playing from behind as they drop game three at Madison Square Garden 4-3. The Rangers avoid the deadly 0 and 3 series drop and crawl back into the series trailing the Capitals 2 games to one.

The once mighty Capitals' penalty kill was humbled when they were whistled for six infractions. The Rangers were credited for only one power play goal as Brian Boyle's snapper was deemed after Joel Ward had left the penalty box, but the Capitals could not get their momentum going in any real tangible direction after constantly coming back from being a man down.

Nick Backstrom, Mike Green and Jack Hillen scored goals for the Capitals. Backstrom got the scoring off and gave the Capitals an early 1-0 lead just 4:06 into the first period. He deflected down a high shot from John Carlson that beat Henrik Lundqvist beneath his pads. The Capitals' penalty woes started to take effect when Ward took a high sticking call and Boyle scored his first of the post season just as the penalty had expired.

The Rangers took the lead when Braden Holtby tripped up Rick Nash and Derick Brassard made the goaltender pay for his transgression. The Capitals did manage to tie the game up. Green's goal was off of sort of broken play. Mathieu Perreault corralled the puck and threw it back to Green open on the point. With the bodies in front of the net, Lundqvist was screened on the shot and the Caps' defenseman picked the top corner for his second goal of the series.

Even with that huge goal, the Caps just seemed out of sync. The Rangers took advantage of some pretty shoddy coverage by their visiting foes when Brassard dug the puck out of the corner and threw it in front of the net. Arron Asham crashing the slot, buried home his first goal of the playoffs.

Still, the Capitals found a way to march back into the game. Off of an offensive zone face off, the puck skittered back to Hillen who shot a laser toward the net. Whether it had been deflected or not, the puck fooled Lundqvist who was in a rare awkward butterfly. Again, the Capitals tie up the game, and again the Ranger's forecheck exploited poor coverage when Derek Stepan tipped a shot/pass by Rick Nash as the Blue Shirts go up for good.

Alex Ovechkin drew a late third period penalty, but even 6 on 4, the Rangers clogged the middle of the ice and the game ended with out a single shot on net by the Capitals in the waning minutes. With Rangers falling into the shooting lanes, the Caps power play personnel tried to pass around it. It took too much time and game three falls into the hands of the New York Rangers.

Holtby played great at times, other times he was a victim of sloppy defensive zone coverage. He allowed 4 goals on 30 shots. He didn't help his cause much when he was whistled for the tripping call on Nash. The Rangers made an effort to be more in Holtby's face, just like Boston tried to do last spring. Holtby again will have to fight through it as his Capitals look to get back on track for game 4.

Caps Notes:
  • Coach Adam Oates and his staff sat down and watched the last Capitals' power play before they addressed the media. Whether it was something they saw, or something they will work on for game 4.
  • Ovechkin was held with out a point for the first time in seven games. A non-factor on the score sheet, but he did draw the late penalty in the third period.
  • Of the seven goal scorers, only Mike Green has scored his second goal of the this series. All of the other players, Derek Brassard, Nick Backstrom, Jack Hillen, Brian Boyle, Derek Stepan and Arron Asham scored their first goals of the series.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Mike "Game Over" Green

Capitals 1, Rangers 0 OT
Scoresheet - Event Summary

Washington leads series 2-0

Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images
The New York Rangers seemed content to sit back and take their chances against the more skilled Washington Capitals team, which worked for the first three periods. But in overtime, Ranger defenseman Ryan McDonagh was penalized for shooting the puck over the glass. It only took the Caps :51 seconds for Mike Green to shoot the overtime winning goal, the only goal of the game, and to put the Capitals up 2-0 in the series against the Rangers by a score of 1-0.

"I think both teams played very good hockey tonight," Caps' bench boss Adam Oates said. "Not a lot shots, 0-0, both goalies played good. Really good hockey."

Green's goal was the only power play tally for the Capitals who played a much more disciplined Ranger team in game two. They were only sent to the sin bin twice, once in the first minute when Derek Dorsett was whistled for a high stick with 4:02 left to play in the first period. With only two power play chances, the Capitals made good on the one in overtime.

Mike Ribeiro started the play on the near half boards with a great fake slapper that forced the Ranger defender to the ice early, he slipped it to the open Green who one timed it just 5 feet from the blue line.

"[Ribeiro] does such a great job drawing guys to him," Green recalled of the play. "Obviously they are on [Alex Ovechkin], so I just happened to be open and my goal was to get it by the first guy and try to hit the net.”

The shot nicked off of Derek Stepen, slipped passed a sprawling Henrik Lundqvist and hit the post and in. The Verizon Center faithful erupted, Mike Green's legend status grows.

It didn't even seem like the Caps were ever going back to the power play the way the Rangers were playing. Trying not to get caught with odd man rushes, the Broadway Blue Shirts sat back with three of them standing a post on their blue line for a lot of the game. They played the odds that the Capitals would turn over the puck with some timely forechecks and their transition game would do the rest.

"[The Rangers] had moments too during the game but I think we did a great job weathering that," Caps' defenseman Steve Oleksy said,  "I felt we controlled a lot of the game and we knew it was going to come down to one bounce either way and fortunately we got it."

It only ended up being a practice in close calls and near breaks for the Capitals, and low scoring chances for them on the otherside. It also propelled the game into overtime with out a single goal being scored.

Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images
The Caps out shot the Rangers 38-24, and visiting goaltender produced one heck of a game against the Capitals. When the Rangers defenders did make a mistake, Lundqvist was there with the save. His rebound control, side to side movement and sniffing out the puck in traffic in front of him were on point. He has shown in game two why he is the best goaltender in the NHL.

"It’s a tough one," Ranger Rick Nash said of the loss after Lundqvist's performance. "[Lundqvist] was unbelievable, we have to get goals for him;  there are no excuses. We go home now and the next game is a huge game."

Braden Holtby was no slouch either this afternoon. Holtby may have had a rougher time handling the puck and faced less shots, but when the Caps needed a save, he was there. He got more comfortable as the game went on, and the most important aspect to his game was he never loss focus, even when his team would keep the Rangers pinned in their zone for long periods of time.

The Capitals' power play has been a key factor in this series. Now 2 for 7 in the series (1 for 2 this afternoon), they have changed the way the Rangers play them. In game one, there was far more physical play and aggressive fore checking by the visiting team. In game two that changed to a more conservative look, with the Rangers backing up and clogging the neutral zone and hoping to keep the score close and their transitional game could get a bounce or two.

While the PP is cooking away, the Cap's PK has also been up to the task. However, the Ranger's power play is not really worth writing home about. When the Caps have needed to kill a penalty, they have.  Rangers are now 0-7 on the power play.

There was some late game controversy when a puck was deflected out of play by Karl Alzner. The Rangers begged for a delay of game penalty. The ruling on the ice was that the puck was deflected off of a dump in shot by the Rangers. A penalty can not be assessed if the puck is deflected out of play. The Capitals would however, be called for the delay of game penalty just 1:51 in the overtime period when Oleksy dumped it over the glass.

Ovechkin did not score, but he was a factor in this game. In the second period, the winger had two beauty feeds. One to Nick Backstrom and the other to Marcus Johansson but neither could convert. Ovi's game seems to be heating up, and his play with out the puck has helped his game become that much better.

If the Rangers play the same style of defensive style hockey in game three, the Caps could adjust to that for better opportunities. At the moment, all it proves is John Tortorella does not trust his team to play an open ice game with the Capitals. See you in New York.

Caps Notes:
  • Eric Fehr had another very good game, especially in the overtime period on the penalty kill. He had a scoring chance on the shorthanded forecheck, nearly got the puck to the front of the net for a shot. Then he came back to full body block the point shot, landed on the puck and got a much needed whistle. Big.
  • Jason Chimera nearly had a chance to score in the third period when a charging Oleksy threw the puck on net from the corner. Lundqvist was there for the save.
  • John Carlson tied Alex Ovechkin in shots on net with seven. 
  • Oleksy lead the team in hits with 8.
  • Holtby gets his first career playoff shutout. 
  • Ranger's head coach John Tortorella's press conference lasted 1:36, 53 words.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

PK And Holtby Shine In Game One

Capitals 3, Rangers 1 
Scoresheet - Event Summary

Washington leads series 1-0

AP Photo/Alex Brandon
The Washington Capitals exploded for a three goal second period and Braden Holtby made a magical save in the third to help the home team take game one over the New York Rangers. It had looked like the Broadway Blueshirts were going to rope-a-dope the Caps as they practiced bending but not breaking through the first 16:00 minutes of the game at Verizon Center. The Caps would open up the scoring spurred on by their league leading power play in the second period to take game one 3-1.

Alex Ovechkin scored his first of the playoffs on a power play in the second period. Marcus Johansson scored his first off of a beauty of a pass by Steve Oleksy to break out the speedy forward. And Jason Chimera netted the insurance goal under a minute later for his 34th birthday.

The Capitals had an ideal start, getting an early power play in the first minute of the game when the Rangers were whistled for too many men on the ice. While the Caps did not convert, their aggressive forecheck kept New York on their heels as the Caps rolled out a 10-0 shot advantage through the first ten minutes of play.

But a late goal in the first by the Rangers' Carl Hagelin settled the onslaught and put the Capitals down by one goal. It had looked as if the away team weathered the storm and took advantage of a miscue by the Capitals to take the early advantage.

That is when the league's best power play reared it's head six minutes into the second period. Arron Asham was called for an "Illegal check to the head" and on the ensuing power play, the Caps worked the puck around to Mike Green. Green shot it wide, whether on purpose to avoid the sliding blocker or just missed the net, the puck bounced back to the front where a charging Ovechkin back handed it past Henrick Lunqvist.

The Capitals would run into some penalty trouble after that. Martin Erat took a boarding call when he slammed Mats Zuccarello into the dashers from behind. A short time later, Eric Fehr took an interference call on the PK when the Rangers stormed the net. The Rangers, however, where not able to convert on the 5 on 3 power play. 

Nearly seven and a half minutes after Ovi's power play goal, Oleksy would make a phenomenal pass to a streaking Johansson behind the Ranger defense. MoJo scored just under Lundqvist's glove and above the leg pad to give the Capitals their first lead of the night, and ended up being the game winner.

Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images
Chimera's goal came just :46 seconds later, when the birthday boy turned and shot it past Lundqvist who was being screened by Matthieu Perreault.

Holtby was spectacular. Making a plethora of glove saves look routine, the Caps goaltender saved his best save for late in the third period. It was a sharp angle shot that looked as if it went off his shoulder and in. But looking at the replay, the puck is never seen crossing the line. Holtby claimed the puck went into his blocker and that he had the puck in his hand the whole time. It was a magic trick best seen on the stage from David Copperfield, literally the puck disappears after hitting the post. Video was inconclusive, no goal.

The Capitals' penalty kill was sparkling tonight, killing off all four man advantages. That included a 1:26 Ranger 5 on 3. While New York went 0-4, the Capitals were 1-5 with seven shots on net.

Caps take game one and retain the home ice advantage until the two teams are under way Saturday afternoon on the NBC network.

Caps Notes:
  • Oleksy took a shot off a shot deflected off his own stick that hit him in the chin/jaw. The big defenseman shook it off, played the rest of the game, with out stitches. It will be a big bruise though.
  • Eric Fehr had a spectacular game, even though he didn't score. Drew a few penalties and played tough defense on his own end. 
  • John Tortorella's press conference was less than a minute long.

Four Things to Watch For

With five days between the end of the regular season and the Capitals first playoff game tonight, the plethora of previews probably has your head swimming. Instead of just breaking it down, the shot blocking of the Rangers and the Caps' hot power play, instead let us take a gander at maybe the less talked about preview of this matchup. The game inside the game.

In the three games the Capitals and the Rangers have faced off against this abbreviated season, the Rangers holds the edge with a 2-0-1. All the games have been close and the pair of losses came at a time when the Caps were struggling with their game.

First game was "Hockey Day in America" and all American John Carlson scored and the Rangers' power play solidified the win in the third period. Second game was a exercise in what would happen if you took too many penalties. Ends up being a 4-1 loss. Third game all of the scoring came in the first period and the Caps lost a two goal lead but won it in the shootout.

But in that small sampling of games, already a small rivalry brews. What happens with out the puck maybe be more exciting than the game itself (not really, but come along for the ride anyway). Here are my four things to watch for in the series between the Rangers and Capitals.

1. Mike Ribeiro vs. Michael Del Zotto - In game two the pair got tangled up in front of the net where Del Zotto got a little stick happy on Ribz. The Cap winger popped him one in the face and the pair went off for roughing. While Del Zotto may not have any responsibility against Ribeiro's line, the two seem to have a dis like for one another. Del Zotto may try to goad number 9 into taking a bad penalty which could lead to some fireworks between the pair.

2. Captain O' Captain - Team Captains Alex Ovechkin and Ryan Callahan had there little game of who can get under the others skin. The pair exchanged stick jabs in the third game. While it didn't lead to blows, what the pair will do next should be interesting. Callahan does give up some 100 lbs. to Ovechkin, so what ever happens, I presume Ovi will be fine.

3. Holtby's chip - Life rarely has any do overs, but for goaltender Braden Holtby this is a chance for some retribution to last season's 7 game series loss. Holtby should be beyond the point of total focus. Watching his counter part in Henrick Lundqvist should make for some outstanding goaltending in this series.

4. Erskine and Clowe - Two big men will be facing off mostly in front of one Holtby. Johne Erskine, 6'4" 220, and Ryane Clowe, 6'2" 225, will be two big bodies on the ice fighting for space in front of the net. being aware of the pair for some big hits and some great battles in the slot.

I picked the Caps to win in seven games. It will come down to special teams and if the Caps' power play can stay hot. They also have to help themselves by not taking penalties and being physical but not overly physical that could draw penalties. The Rangers' have a good power play too and the Capitals penalty kill is in the "okay" zone.