Ah, the joys of being a Caps’ backer. Last night at the hellhole Garden, we witnessed hockey of the highest and lowest quality from the Capitals. It was a see-saw of a game ended in double OT by Jason Chimera. By virtue of his crashing the net! Alex, Andrew, and Lis, our resident Young Gun bloggers, are back with another in-depth game analysis.
- Four teams played on one sheet of ice last night at MSG, alternately effective and inept. The Capitals were especially inept in last night’s second period — under the circumstances, perhaps their worst 20 minutes of postseason in my young lifetime, and maybe even all of pucksandbooks’ (that’s saying soemthing!) What monumental changes occurred in the second intermission for both the Caps and Rangers we will never fully know. Did it even happen in the intermission, or was it Alex Semin’s dirty goal that brought lift on the bench and perhaps occasioned the team’s secondary scorers to wonder ‘Why aren’t we getting chances in the paint like Semin just had?’ Did I just write, “A dirty Semin goal”? That deserves its own bullet.
- A dirty Semin goal!
- While some local hockey pundits are quick to throw the ball at Boudreau’s dunk tank, I believe he showed true poise and class keeping his team positive. Remember, this team has the best comeback record in the league for a reason
- Particularly impressive was his in-period line management and sticking with Brooks Laich on the first line to put some punch on overall poor first line effectiveness through two periods. And kudos to Marcus Johansson on a dominating performance and to Boudreau for patiently developing him (very managed minutes) dating back to last fall.
- And while Boudreau may take some criticism for allowing this game to get out of hand in the second period, I believe Tortorella was by a long margin the lesser coach. Your team is up 3-love with King Henrik between the pipes and you don’t get it done?!?!? On a nightwhen Ovechkin was not making anything happen with his linemates, Torts overused his top D-pair to naught effect, and it was obvious towards the closing moments of the game that Staal and Girardi struggled, the latter racking up just shy of 40 minutes and veteran Brian McCabe only just 20. We shall see if two days off is ample rest or if that poor personnel management unraveled them for good.
- Perhaps an under-appreciated difference-maker last night: the Rangers going nil for seven with the extra man. You cannot expect to win a series with special teams performing a disappearing act. The Rags’ extra man unit has been MIA the entire series to date. The PK for the Caps, specifically in the overtimes, stuffed the blue line entryways so efficiently and allowed for several counterattacks in the Caps favor. Conversely, if the Caps take seven penalties Saturday I suspect the Rangers have as good a shot as Montreal did last year to make it a series again.
- First and foremost, last night’s game is why the NHL has the best playoff system. There is no sport that has a more intense, drama-rich extra sessions devised than hockey. Ever whistle, every bounce and every faceoff causes you to lean forward in anticipation — or recoil with horror movie averted eye — and it is awesome.
- If there was ever a doubt that Michal Neuvirth could play in the postseason, let’s hope it is gone as of last night. He was great in the first three games, but Game 4 singularly showed how great he can be. He single-handedly kept the Caps in the game at times and gave them opportunities to win it in overtime.
- Mike Green looked off for the first time since coming back from injury. He was out of place on several defensive plays and was an almost non-factor on the power play. But as the game worn on he became more of a force with the puck, I thought.
- Jason Chimera may not have the softest of hands, but giving up only Chris Clark and Milan Jurcina for two Round One game winning goals seems fair, no?
- Ovechkin summed up this series, and any deeper run in the playoffs, precisely with this quote that Corey Masisak shared via Twitter: “If we play the same way I think nobody can stop us — like we play third period and overtime.” That, honestly, is all fans are ever really asking for. Playing with heart from the first puck drop to the final seconds of the game is one of the greatest signs of a mature team. That would be a way for the Capitals to top this experience in Game 5 in front of the home crowd.
- One unit that was always there for the Caps Wednesday was the PK unit. It’s kind of the guts and no glory shift, but they deserve praise, as Alex mentioned above, for keeping the Rangers off the scoreboard on the power play.
- Eric Fehr, playing in his first playoff game this season, tied for the best plus-minus rating on the Capitals bench with Marcus Johansson, who had two goals. Fehr’s was non easy position to assume — coming in cold smack in the middle of a suddenly tight series. Not a flashy game from Fehr, but a subtly effective one, I thought.
- Brian Boyle got called TWICE for goaltender interference. Protecting Neuvy a bit more seems called for there.
- Even in light of the glorious win, the Caps can play a lot better, a lot harder. I know they can hit harder. I know they can score more. I believe they can shut down New York even more than the 2-0 victory in Game 2. Last night was a fantastic, exhilarating win. But it’s only the first round, and it’s definitely several wins short of the ultimate prize. It reminds me of what Herb Brooks told the USA men’s hockey team after they beat the USSR against all odds but still had another game to play to claim the gold medal: “If you lose this game, you’ll take it to your bleeping grave.” So on to Saturday.