Well, the high the Rangers had me on after winning both games in DC was fun while it lasted.
I can’t say I was surprised by what transpired last night. The Capitals are obviously the more superior and talented team in this series, and they finally realized it yesterday. There was no way they wanted to go down three games to none, and they played like it last night.
What did surprise me was how badly the Rangers played. I think Lundqvist was the only Ranger who came back from D.C. Everyone else seemed to be in slow motion. Combine a lackluster effort from one team with a desperate, pedal-to-the-metal effort from the other, and you end up with a lopsided, 4-0 game like we got yesterday. If it wasn’t for King Henrik, the score probably (make that definitely) would have been a lot worse.
It really blew my mind how poorly the Rangers played yesterday. They played with such purpose, during the first two games, which were on the road by the way. It seemed like they’d be able to keep it up with their home crowd behind them. Then again, I guess the same thing could be said for the Caps when they were at home. Maybe this will be one of those bizarre series where the road team wins every time. That would be fine by me of course since the Rangers would be on the road for Game Seven.
But, as badly as the Rangers played, the Caps played just as well. They played with a purpose last night, much like the Blueshirts did in D.C. Rookie goalie Simeon Varlamov has made coach Bruce Boudreau’s decision to make a switch between the pipes look like a good one. The kid’s only allowed one goal during the last two games. And unlike Saturday’s game, he was tested last night. Going into the series, the one advantage the Rangers had over the Caps was goaltending, and now the playing field may have been evened up a bit in that category. Given the Caps outshine the Rangers in every other aspect of the game, this series could be turning Washington’s way in a hurry.
Here are a few other random thoughts about last night’s game…
*Rangers forward Ryan Callahan hitting the post and Caps going down and scoring was obviously the game’s turning point. If Callahan puts that shot another inch over, the game is tied at one, and who knows what happens after that. Instead, the Caps take the missed shot down to the other end and Alexander Semin gets his second goal of the game. Two-zip, Caps and I write, “Game Over” in my notebook.
Yes, I know it’s sad that I thought the Rangers were cooked despite the fact that they were only down 2-0 with 8:24 left in the first period, but I’ve been watching this team all year. I know these things. The Rangers have no offense. I still don’t know what Rangers GM Glen Sather was thinking when the let the likes of Jaromir Jagr, Martin Straka and Brenden Shanahan go. When I looked at this roster at the beginning of the season, I couldn’t help but think, “Where’s the scoring come from.” It’s no surprise to me that they finished at the bottom of the league and scoring, and it was no surprise that they couldn’t come back despite having almost two and a half periods to erase a two-goal deficit. The Rangers’ only hope to win this series is to play like they did in the first two games, pick their spots, get a lead and suck the life out of the Caps’ offense. The Blueshirts are not built to mount huge comebacks.
*I despise all of the silly TV blackout rules. Honestly, I pay for the NHL Center Ice package all season, and when it comes to the playoffs, I can’t watch my team’s local broadcast because they’re playing the area team? It’s unfortunate the Rangers drew the Caps in the first round because I can’t watch the game on the MSG network. Since I live in the metro D.C. area, I’m forced to watch the Capitals broadcast and listen to Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin all night. It’s not that they do a bad job, it’s just that I want to listen to game from the Rangers perspective, plus at times I feel those guys openly are rooting for the Caps. It doesn’t make for a fun viewing experience, especially when the Rangers can’t get out of their own way. What was even worse was I thought I was catching a break with the game being on Versus last night. I figured, I may not get to watch the Rangers local broadcast, but at least I can watch a neutral, broadcast. Nope, when I turned the TV to Channel 603, the screen was black. I was actually forced to watch the game on Comcast SportsNet. Maybe I’ll make a complaint call to DirecTV tonight…
*I love what Sean Avery brings to the table, but he killed the Rangers last night. Not that it matters a whole lot, because the Rangers weren’t going to get a goal last night anyway, but Avery’s non-stop march to the penalty box last night, put them in an even bigger bind. Three penalties in the second period and one more in the third? Seriously? I will say that the officials seemed to have it out for him later on in the game though. That goaltender interference call was a joke. If anyone else had gotten pushed into Varlamov, a penalty wouldn’t have been called. I can’t just kill Avery though, the Rangers took too many penalties as a team yesterday; eight in all. They can’t score with five men on the ice, the last thing they need it to be continuously playing with four.
*Quick question, do the Rangers work on the power play in practice? Because during the games, it looks like they’ve never seen a power play before. Give credit to the Caps penalty killers too, but man, the Rangers have struggled with the power play all season. I don’t know if they just don’t have the right players to have a successful power play or what. But I do know when a Cap gets sent to the sin bin, I don’t get all that excited because I have no confidence the Rangers are going to take advantage of having the extra man. They were 0-for-6 on the PP last night. If they can capitalize on two of those opportunities, the game has a totally different feel. Unfortunately, with the lack of offensive the Rangers have, they need that man advantage to generate scoring chances, and it’s not working. During one of the Rangers power plays last night, I blurted out Jack Warden’s classic line from “The Replacements,” “I’ve seen monkey (crap) fights that are more organized than this.”
*Despite having a 2-1 series lead, tomorrow night is a must-win game for the Rangers. I know it sounds crazy, but it they head back to D.C. tied, 2-2, I think the Rangers are cooked. The Capitals will be flying high on the momentum, and will have their raucous crowd behind them in the pivotal Game Five. With the Rangers offense becoming more anemic by the second, do you really think they can win that game? I didn’t think so. So now they’d be down, 3-2 and would have to sweep the next two to advance. The sad thing is even, if they win tomorrow, I still wouldn’t write off the Caps. They forced a Game Seven last year after falling behind the Flyers, 3-1 and Philly is a much better team last year than the Rangers are this season. I think the only way the Rangers advance is if Lundqvist pitches a shutout the next two games. Stay tuned.
Joe Dyton is a marketing copywriter in Washington, DC. He’s a former assistant editor for The Dealmakers retail real estate magazine in Hamilton, NJ and a former sports writer and copy editor for The Trentonian in Trenton, NJ. He can be reached at email@example.com.