December 8, 2019

Instant Analysis: Capitals take best of play to the Rangers in Game 1

If Game 1 is any indication, this is going to be a hell of a series.

The Washington Capitals used pressure in all three zones of the ice to neutralize the New York Rangers best players, most notably Rick Nash, to come up with an impressive 3-1 win in the first game of this Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

Some thoughts:

– Given enough opportunities from the Rangers, the power play finally hit for the Caps first goal of the game. The Rangers did a good job on the first couple of Caps power plays, taking away the low post game between Mike Ribeiro, Nick Backstrom and Troy Brouwer in the slot.

How do combat that? Shoot from the point, which is precisely what Mike Green did on the Caps’ fourth extra-man advantage. Green’s bomb was off target, but it got Henrik Lundqvist moving, and Alex Ovechkin was able to corral the rebound and put it past the scrambling Lundqvist.

– The Caps power play was strong all night, but never bigger than during the 5-on-3 in the second period. Already a man down, Eric Fehr lost his stick. He blocked one shot without the twig, but in a goal line scramble he was forced to push Rangers around, and was called for an interference when he shoved Ryan Callahan down with a push in the chest.

First Johansson, then Backstrom, with Alzner and Carlson on the back line, turned away the Rangers for 57 seconds, then killed the rest of the 5-on-4 to the roars of the Verizon Center faithful.

– Using the momentum gained from the huge penalty kill, the Caps scored twice — 46 seconds apart — just a couple of minutes later, seizing control of the scoreboard.

– Things got chippy at the end of the second period, and continued late in the third and after the final horn, when Callahan and Troy Brouwer had words and slapped their sticks at each other as the teams were headed off the ice. Brouwer had words for Michael Del Zotto a couple of times during the game when the Caps forward took exception to an after-the-whistle poke by Del Zotto earlier in the game.

– Braden Holtby was sublime. The only Rangers goal came when an intended pass by Carl Hagelin bounced off John Erskine’s skate. Other than that, the Caps young netminder was stellar, making 35 saves in the win. His biggest save came with 4:03 left. On a two-on-one, John Moore slapped a bouncing puck toward Holtby’s blocker side which looked as if it hit the post and rebounded into Holtby’s equipment.

The play went to video review and the call of “no goal” stood. Regardless, Holtby got to the far post in time to get in front of the puck and keep the score at 3-1 as time wound down.

– The Caps rolled all four lines all night long. That’s good in the short term for Adam Oates, as it lets his entire roster know he has confidence in every single one of them. It’s also good in the long-term, especially if the series goes a long way as everyone expects it to.

Game 2 is Saturday afternoon at 12:30 pm Eastern (9:30 am Pacific).

About Dave Nichols

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Washington Nationals, Capitals, Wizards and Mystics. Dave also covers national college football and basketball and Major League Soccer for Associated Press and is a copy editor for the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, WA. He spent four years in radio covering the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland football and basketball teams. Dave is a life-long D.C. sports fan and attended his first pro game in 1974 — the Caps’ second game in existence. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveNicholsDSP

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