August 12, 2022

Caps Quick Takes: Game 7 vs. Rangers

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The Washington Capitals were satisfied to loft shots from the perimeter against Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers. The Rangers outworked the Caps and got a couple of greasy goals en route to a 2-0 win over the Caps in D.C. Yes, it’s the same story we’ve been writing about for the last couple of seasons. When the Caps face a grind-it-out team they usually end up looking out of sorts, lacking hustle and effort, and more often than not end up on the losing side of the ice. The Caps (2-5-0) wasted an opportunity to kick the injured and struggling Rangers while they were down.

1) The Rangers entered this game as one of the worst defensive teams in hockey. People were questioning Henrik Lundqvist’s near future openly in the press. The Rags defense was having much difficulty switching from a zone-based system to more man-to-man with the change in coaching from John Tortorella to Alain Vingeault. So what happens? The Rangers come in here an intimidate the Caps just like they did last spring, forcing the Caps to take poor shots and mostly knock them down before they ever reach The King. Caps were outshot 36-22 and had another 22 shots blocked. That’s being satisfied with taking crappy shots from the perimeter, and no one will beat the Rangers doing that.

2) The Caps won the overall faceoff battle, 37-31, but you certainly wouldn’t have known it by the possession stats. The Rangers dominated the Caps in offensive zone possession, especially in the second period, where it looked like New York could do anything they wanted in the Caps end. Especially brutal was the sequence that led to the Rangers second goal. Adam Oates had John Carlson paired with Alexander Urbom and sent out the 90-19-8 line to accompany them. Trapped in their own end for 1:35, the defensemen finally ran out of gas and both Carlson and Urbom were beaten by their assignments for the second goal. Where were the forwards helping out on defense? LOL.

3) Martin Erat: 6:20 TOI, including 1:16 short-handed, with an average shift of 0:38. That is called wasting an asset, and expensive one at that, both in salary and in cost to trade for.

4) Troy Brouwer made a lot of noise the other night calling out his teammates for lousy passes. We can only assume he lumped himself in there, and should by all rights admonish himself again following this contest. On the play that led to Ovechkin having to take a penalty on a short-handed breakaway, Brouwer tried a blind back-pass from the low slot that led to the Rangers odd-man rush the other way. Later in the game, unpressured in the middle of the ice, his pass in the neutral zone was behind Eric Fehr by a good three feet, leading to another offensive-zone possession by New York. On another topic, I totally think his collision with Derek Stepan was unintentional. Looking at the replay, he didn’t appear to have any idea Stepan was in his path he was so intently concentrating on getting to the bench.

5) Silver lining time? Braden Holtby was very good, except whiffing with the glove hand on the Rangers first goal. He got a very good look at John Moore’s soft wrister and was square to the puck. He tried to make a snap-catch instead of letting the puck get to him and he simply whiffed on it. Other than that, he was rock-solid. Perhaps playing in front of Kevin Lowe (part of Canada’s Olympic management team and Edmonton’s President of Hockey Operations) had something to do with his concentration level. Oh, did you hear the Oilers have interest in Michal Neuvirth?

The Caps are off until Saturday, when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets (2-3-0, tied with Caps at 4 points in Metro Division). I’m sure the coaching staff will have plenty so say this week in practice, but the biggest changes need to come from within. Oh. and maybe moving Erat up a line or two (or three).

In Second Round, Washington Capitals Take On An Evenly-Matched Foe

With the New York Rangers’ 2-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators in last night’s Game 7, the Washington Capitals’ second round opponents were determined. Washington, the #7 seed, is the lowest remaining seed, while the Rangers are the top seed in the East. As far as the regular season match-up goes, though, that differentiation in seeds – New York earn 109 points in the regular season while Washington only earned 92 – is moot. The Caps and the Rangers met four times in the regular season, with each team alternating wins in regulation across the length of the 2011-12 campaign.

Although this season’s results would suggest these teams are evenly matched, the Capitals are hoping that recent playoff history repeats itself. Before this year’s first round series against the Bruins, Washington had won two playoff series in the Alexander Ovechkin era, both over the Rangers. In 2009 the Caps recovered from a 3-1 series deficit to dispatch New York in the first round a thrilling Game 7 on the strength of a Sergei Fedorov slapper, while in 2011 the boys from D.C. took the series in five closely-matched affairs.

In both of those previous series, however, the Caps were heavy favorites despite the presence of perennial all-world goalie Henrik Lundqvist in New York’s net. This time around the tables have turned, and Washington will have to put together an even stronger effort than in the first round to continue their season. [Read more…]

GAME 21 RE-CAP: Caps Falter in Stinging 6-3 Loss to Rangers

The New York Rangers paid a post-Thanksgiving visit to the Verizon Center in hopes of breaking out of their scoring slump, while the hometown Washington Capitals hoped to extend their recent win streak to three in a row. Alas, the Caps came out sluggish and sloppy in a stinging 6-3 loss to the rival Rangers.

At around the 15:00 mark of the first period, Dmitry Orlov had a clean pass to Joel Ward (who was clearly wide awake after oversleeping and missing a team meeting earlier in the week, earning him a seat in the press box on Wednesday under the new accountability code). The red lights on the goal post went on, drawing cheers from the crowd. Upon closer review, King Henrik Lundqvist made a rather nifty pad save on what would have been a sweet marker.

At 11:04, Alex Semin took his signature hooking call and to the amusement of the media folk in the press box, just skated right to the sin bin with no objection to the call (it does seem to be his home away from home sometimes, eh). New York’s Brian Boyle evened it up seconds later as he wood-chucked John Carlson in the corner. On the 4-on-4, Jason Chimera blasted a rocket towards Lundqvist that was promptly stonewalled by the veteran net minder.

Much of the first period was a sleeper, with the Capitals taking too many sloppy passes in their zone and not clearing the puck. In their defense, the Rangers didn’t seem to be  very speedy either – my guess is too many turkey hangovers on the ice. The Rangers, unfortunately, would find their scoring prowess at the expense of too many defensive gaffes on the part of Washington in the last two periods.

At 15:31 of the first, Roman Hamrlik tried to slow down sniper Marian Gaborik and took as seat for hooking. The penalty woes continued when Alex Ovechkin got into a scuffle at the whistle and was charged with roughing at 17:56. Boy how those Rangers like to get under their skin! At the end of a slow first period, shots were even for both teams (eight apiece) and both teams held scoreless.

The second period started at even strength but it wasn’t long until the Rangers found their offense in the form of a goal by Gaborik, assisted by Derek Stepan and Artem Anisimov. A sprawling Jeff Schultz could not block the puck which blasted by Michal Neuvirth. The boys from Broadway weren’t done there, however. Less than four minutes later, at 6:52, Anisimov tallied the Rangers’ second marker on the power play, quieting the holiday matinee home crowd.

The Capitals’ uninspired performance lagged on and the Rangers struck again at 7:55 with goal number three courtesy of Ruslan Fedotenko. Apparently that shook the boys up and Ovechkin proceeded to crush Gaborik in the corners once play resumed. Seizing the momentum (and crashing the net – always helpful), Troy Brouewer finally got the Caps on the board at 8:53 with help from Nicklas Backstrom and Carlson.

The Caps got their third power play of the day as Michael Sauer hooked Ovi in the corner. Captain America John Carlson made them pay with a wicked blast from the point that blew past Lundqvist (with help from pals Marcus Johannson and wunderkind Orlov).

The momentum swung back in New York’s direction as Neuvy let in a plain ugly goal from Bryan Boyle, boosting the Blue Shirts to a two-goal lead at 16:49. At the end of the second period, the Rangers led the Caps in shots with 23-17.

The third period didn’t get any better for the boys in red as free agent of the summer Brad Richards scored the Rangers’ fifth goal. Not to be outdone, Ovechkin took a feed all the way up the left wall and went top-shelf on King Henrik, a brilliant goal reminiscent of the Ovi we haven’t seen in awhile.

The fun didn’t last so long though as Neuvy‘s shaky afternoon in goal dragged on and he was unable to kick out a puck from Fedotenko, who lit the lamp at 11:40. Note to self: the Capitals’ defense left Fedotenko as wide open as Target on Black Friday – right in front of the net!

The Rangers return to the Big Apple with a big win while Washington’s Bruce Boudreau is left with the question of how to fix what is ailing this inconsistent Capitals team. The absence of Mike Green from the lineup notwithstanding, the defense has been struggling to say the least. Dennis Wideman and Roman Hamrlik were both -3 on the night and were benched for much of the third period. Post game, the disappointment was evident in the locker room as Troy Brouwer, Carlson and Ward all blamed the defensive lapses on the loss, with Ward admitting that they “left Neuvy out to dry at times” this evening.

Meanwhile, a somber Boudreau was pressed with questions about how to regain confidence after allowing consecutive goals. Boudreau quipped, “We start to feel sorry for ourselves, then we score a goal, and say: ‘Oh, we’re back into it. Once it started with those four goals, it seemed to snowball. This is a league where you can’t feel sorry for yourselves.” He also noted that this whole week they’ve emphasized one-on-one battles, but obviously concept that was not put to task consistently in tonight’s lackluster loss.

The boys have one morning skate to regroup before they take on the Buffalo Sabres tomorrow – another team looking to rebound from a tough loss (at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets).

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