I attended the Rangers-Capitals Game Two match-up on Saturday and wanted to share a few thoughts about the game before tonight’s big game three.
I am a Rangers fan living in the DC area, so when the playoff match-ups were set, I decided I wanted to attend one of the first two games at the Verizon Center. I opted for Game Two, and after watching the Rangers take the first one, I kicked myself because I figured there was no way that they’d take both game in DC, as the Caps are nearly invincible at home this season. But, I decided to suck it up and get a ticket anyway. It’s not often I get to see my team in the playoffs in person.
Well, I’m glad I went. The game was fantastic, especially since the Rangers won. I have admit, I was a little concerned for my safety (not really, but you never know); I was cheering on the bad guys after all. I have rooted for my Blueshirts at Verizon Center before, but not during such an important game to the home team. But, I was more than OK. I got a few Rangers (stink) barbs thrown my way, but that comes with the territory. I have to tip my cap to the Washington fans for gracious in defeat. I wasn’t sure how things were going to go when a near altercation broke out between a Caps and Rangers fan a few seats down from me during the national anthem. Fortunately, security got everyone calmed down, and the rest of the contest went on with out any further incidents.
As for the game itself, here are a few thoughts…
King Henrik is the man. What else can I say. Henrik Lundqvist was Superman on Saturday. He made 35 saves, several from point blank range. I will admit, I was dying for the Rangers to score another goal because I thought there was no way they could win that game, 1-0. The Caps’ offense is too good. But Lundqvist made sure Ryan Callahan’s goal stood up. Before the series started, I felt the only way the Rangers had a shot is if Lundquist stood on his head for them a couple of times, and he did it yesterday. The Caps could have easily won that game, 5-1.
It looks like Bruce Boudreau made the right call with the goalie switch. Statistically speaking that is. I know Jose Theodore let in some soft goals in Game One, but the Caps played much better defense in front of rookie Simeon Varlamov than they did for Theodore on Wednesday night. While all four goals Theodore gave up probably should have been saved, they were all uncontested shots. The toughest shot Varlamov faced was the one he let in. I can’t wait to see how the rookie holds up in Madison Square Garden tonight and on Wednesday, if Brodreu decides to stick with him.
The officiating was horrific for the Caps. And that’s coming from a Rangers fan. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to see the Rangers get power plays, even if they can’t capitalize on them (that’s a story for another day). But, some of those calls were pretty ticky-tack; none was worse than the call against Caps’ defenseman Mike Green for hooking Nikolai Zherdev. I felt like they bumped into each other, Zherdev took one, two steps and then fell down. I was just as shocked as the Caps’ faithful when the officials hand went up to call the “infraction.” After that, there was a steady, “Ref you (stink)” chant going, and I couldn’t disagree with the home crowd. It would be on thing if the bad officiating went both ways, but the Rangers weren’t called for a penalty until there was 3:43 left on the clock in the second period. And believe me, they could have been called for a few things before then.
As much as I hate to admit it, the Rangers really reminded me of the Devils on Saturday. Washington Post sports columnist Mike Wise wrote after Game One that the Rangers were a “dump-the-puck-and-pray” team. In his column today, he referred to the Blueshirts as the New York “Dump-the-Puckers.” Honestly, I can’t disagree with him. I know my team does a lot of dump and chase, but on Saturday, I felt like that’s all they did. After the Rangers took advantage of the Caps’ defensive breakdown to go ahead, 1-0, they looked like they had no interest in scoring another goal. It’s a borderline miracle they survived that game.
But, it did remind me of watching the championship Devils teams that would get a lead and then just suck the life out of the game. I for one am in the minority that doesn’t think the Devils and their trap ruined hockey back in 1995. I am fine with watching a well –played, 2-1 game. Anyway, it just felt weird to hear someone complain about the Rangers doing the same things that Devils did to make me roll my eyes at times when the two teams faced off.
I will be honest, I’d much rather the Rangers attack and get a couple goal lead before they go into dump and chase mode, but I’m fine with whatever it takes to advance.
And before I wrap this up, I have to give kudos to the Rangers’ defense. I know Lundqvist was phenomenal, but the Rangers blocked another 29 shots to go along with the King’s 35 saves. It blew me away how committed everyone was to playing shut-down defense. I’m hoping to see more of the same this evening.
Tonight, the action shifts to the Garden. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I have a feeling this series is far from over. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.