Sunday, May 03, 2015

N.Y. Rangers: Blueshirts Should Expect Big Cap Hit In Washington


(circa 2009 playoffs)

Alex Ovechkin is clearly the series' most tenacious player.  
He has elevated his performance to stupid levels, 
and perhaps is just getting started, or, as he puts it,
All Night Long!

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Eastern Conference Semi Finals

Series tied 1-1
I - WAS 2; NYR 1
II - NYR 3; WAS 2

Washington Capitals
Some Conglomo Named Arena

Tex's Rangers March on Washington for Game Three.  We Should Know Very Early On What Kind of Night it Will Be.

A perturbed Alain Vigneault said the team would make adjustments after Game One, and they did.  In Game Two, Tex's Rangers more resembled the President trophy winners they are.

When you give up a goal at 19:58 of the final period, as they did in Game One, that doesn't leave much time to respond.

The next best way to answer back I guess would be to score at 0:38 in the opening period of the very next game, like Chris Kreider did in Game Two.

With the way things have been going, two Rangers goals in the 1st period, and the game winner in the 3rd, could be considered an offensive explosion.

There must be something about Game Two's.  The Rangers hadn't scored more than 2 goals in a game since they lost Game Two by a 4-3 margin to the Penguins in round one.

Maybe Washington's continuing play after a big Game 7 win over the Islanders, and the Rangers rust for lack of action prior to Game One against the Caps explained Thursday's outcome.  And maybe going seven games, plus one, finally caught up with Washington (if just for a game), as they only managed 4 shots on goal in the 1st period.  Meanwhile, the Rangers played a far crisper game, seemingly got their timing and legs back, and maintained possession of the puck.

In any event, the series is now even.  The Caps did what they needed to do - steal a game on the road. 

Next mission critical for Tex's Rangers - wrestle back home ice advantage by taking a game in Washington.

JUST WING IT: In Hockey, Being Mr. October is a Bad Thing.

Derick Brassard continues having best season of his career, and is presently the Rangers top performer in the post-season.  He has 4 goals and 5 points in 7 playoffs games, leads the team with a plus-4, has 2-points on the PP, and leads the team with a 22.2 shooting percentage.

If you look around the tournament, Tampa's Tyler Johnson is just having a stupid post-season with 7 goals, the Ducks Corey Perry has 5 goals, Zach Parise, Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Derick Brassard all have 4 goals each.

To that effect, Killjoy phoned in, and said he will not be sold on Mats Zuccarello's absence as any kind of excuse for Rick Nash's poor production.  He knows, MatsZucs is a spark plug.  The fact remains that Nash needs to be better - old battle cry at this point.

In Rick Nash's defense, Steven Stamkos has yet to score a goal in the post-season, and only has 3 assists in 8 games.  In 7 games, at least Nash has one goal and 5 points.

  • Update: Don't look now, but Stamkos finally scored his 1st goal of the playoffs Sunday against Montreal.

At the moment however, Tampa means nothing to the Rangers (yet), and Stamkos plays center, like Brassard does.  Nash is the Rangers problem, and Stamkos is theirs.  Nash plays wing, like his present opponent Alex Ovechkin, who scored an absolutely ridiculous goal in the 3rd period of Game Two, and made an equally astonishing pass that led to Joel Ward's game winner in Game One.  His Game One slap shot/goal was virtually unstoppable.  Ovechkin now has 4 goals in the post-season, one in each game against the Rangers, and 8 points overall.

...because that's what the elite players of this league are supposed to do.

  • Baseball: Being dubbed Mr. October means you're an elite playoff producer - a la Reggie Jackson.  When The Boss signed Dave Winfield, the newcomer started the regular season on fire.  He then went 1 for 25 in the 1981 playoffs to earn the moniker Mr. May from Mr. Steinbrenner.

  • Hockey: The opposite applies.  Players on the ice strive to be Mr. May, or better yet, Mr. June.  To be labelled Mr. October in Hockey, is, for all intents and purposes, a disparaging term.

Rick Nash isn't even in the top ten in post-season points - a list that still features two St. Louis Blues on it, but no Blueshirt.  The other top 8 scorers are still alive and playing with Minnesota, Tampa, Chicago, Anaheim, and Washington.

Talk of Nash fading away is warranted.  Let's face it, he finished the regular season poorly.  In the final 19 games of the regular season between March 2nd and April 7, Nash only registered 5 goals.   His last goal came during a losing effort in Game Two against Pittsburgh.  

Mats Zuccarello was still on the ice throughout that time.

Hey Killjoy!!  
The Rangers advanced to the NHL Finals last season despite Nash's lack of productivity, 
and seem to be moving along just fine this season.....

If the Capitals defensemen start factoring into their offense more, like they're so adept at doing, how long then can the Rangers rely on Brassard, Carl Hegelin, Derek Stepan, and Chris Kreider for consistent scoring?

When Nash chooses to utilize his size and skill, and bullies his way towards net, he is the only Ranger whom is able to go on an offensive tear seemingly at will.  Chris Kreider could, if he tried, but he has yet to learn to play a full game, and keep his head involved.

No, Martin St. Louis does not get a free pass.  He has 2 assists in 7 games, and was recently moved up to the 1st line with Nash, but to no avail.  He posted 8 goals in last year's playoffs.  This year, he turns 40-years old in June.  He has not scored a goal since April 6th.

Without Nash and St. Louis contributing, the Rangers quest to the Cup remains a bumpy ride.

And, just in case no one has noticed, Braden Holtby has played a little better than anticipated, which makes Rick Nash's contribution that much more pressing as the series shifts to Washington.

After making an initial save, Braden Holtby served up a fat rebound Chris Krieder took full advantage of.  On Dan Boyle's pp goal, Rick Nash established great position to block Holtby's view.

Rich Nash also assisted on Derick Brassard's 3rd period goal.

Nice, but not enough.

Enter the Dragon:

Henrik Lundqvist tapped into his inner Kung-Fu Panda to kick back the Washington Capitals Saturday.  He made 30 mostly brilliant saves, but perhaps none better than his martial arts kick save against Kuznetsov.

Chris Kreider's strong game was offset by Alex Ovechkin's exploits, which in effect makes Henrik Lundqvist the true savior of Game Two.

The Rangers also did themselves a huge favor by committing just one penalty.  On the other side, Washington was busy killing off four penalties.

I Will Break You:

If I understood Ovechkin correctly after Game Two, the Capitals intend to increase the physicality of the series.

Speed, puck possession, passing, a supreme effort on defense, and a superior goalie are the formula here.  Outside of Tanner Glass, no other allotments have been made for toughness.  Of course, that's been a major issue of mine.

That style didn't get the Penguins very far though, and by Game 5, they were playing it straight.  The Capitals, however, stayed aggressive, and were quite physical against the Islanders in Game 7 of their series - even committing a questionable hit or two with impunity.  The Islanders might have suffered stage fright in their series finale, but are nonetheless a tough team as well.

To a certain degree then, you have to believe the hype.  These Capitals are better defensively, and certainly more disciplined than Washington teams of the past.  And yes, they are tough as ever.

We remember what happened at the end of Game One, don't we?  Just ask Dan Boyle what happened.  The stripes do not seem to be blowing the whistle for such infractions, so, we should know very early in Game Three what kind of night it will be.

Lastly, I said it before, and it's worth saying again: Chris Kreider must play smarter, more consistent, and more physical hockey while staying out of the box.


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