By Joe Dyton
So, was that a game between the Capitals and Rangers or a split squad New Jersey Devils scrimmage circa 1995?
There were 32 shots on goal for the game! That wasn’t the Caps or Rangers game total, the two teams combined to shoot (18 shots forWashington, 14 forNew York). I figured this game was going to be tight, but I figured each of teams would at least hit the 20-shot mark. Given that both teams went on power play four times (although one of the Rangers’ was for less than 30 seconds), those shot totals are ridiculously low.
During the game, I exchanged a few texts with Caps-fan friend Mike, and I said that after the first period there was zero room to skate out there. It was almost as if it was eight-on-eight. After the period ended with the shots advantage of 6-4 in favor of the Caps, I figured it was the result of both teams being a little tired from playing Game 7’s and also a bit tentative since it was the first game. Turned out that wasn’t the case as neither team didn’t record double-digit shots in the second or the third periods either.
As a Rangers fan, I’m happy they pulled out the win. I wasn’t sure what to expect since they played a grueling Game 7 against Ottawajust two days beforehand. I just hope that as the series goes on, the Blueshirts find a way to get more pucks towards Braden Holtby. I don’t think less than 20 shots going forward is going to do it. On the Caps’ side, Dale Hunter has gotten this offensive-minded team to buy into a more defensive approach, and it got them in the playoffs and past the defending Cup champs,Boston. If they can’t generate more offense in Game Two, I wonder how patient they will remain when they head back to DC for Games 3 and 4.
A few other thoughts…
* I felt one of the game’s biggest turning points early on came when the Caps didn’t score on their 5-on-3 power play. The Garden crowd had gotten a little quiet, and that kill reignited the fans. The Caps had an excellent opportunity to set the tone after a scoreless first period. Instead, the Rangers fed off the PK and took a 1-0 lead thanks to a crafty wrap-around by Artem Anisimov (pull him down and take the penalty there, Mike Green!) Although…
*Did anyone else see the Caps’ goal at the end of the second coming? I know I did. It was the perfect storm, the Rangers looked like they were headed to intermission with a 1-0 lead to protect, but couldn’t keep the puck in the Caps’ zone to close out the second. When the Caps came flying down the ice with less than 20 seconds to go, I just knew they were going to score there. Brooks Laich’s flip pass was brilliant, as was the concentration by Jason Chimera to knock it past Henrik Lundqvist without even having to really settle it down. As much as I wanted to kill the Rangers for giving up a goal so late, I think more credit has to go to the Caps for their clock awareness and execution.
I also don’t care what the NBC crew says, that wasn’t a “soft” goal given up by Lundqvist. Just because a shot goes through the goalies’ legs doesn’t mean it’s a soft goal allowed. Same goes for Brad Richards’ goal; it wasn’t soft; he put it past Holtby from point-blank range. Stop it, Mike Milbury, just stop it.
*Chris Kreider, the kid is all right. When the Rangers finally signed Kreider after he finished his season atBostonCollege, I thought it was nuts that people said he might join the Rangers in the playoffs. Huh? He just finished playing college hockey; his first NHL game was going to be in the Stanley Cup playoffs? I admit I dismissed the idea. Then Carl Hagelin was suspended during theOttawa series for three games, and the kid got the call. The Hagelin suspension sucked, but who knows if we would have seen Krieder without it? He scored the game-winner in Game 6 in the first round and did it again on Saturday, and had the primary assist on Richards’ insurance goal. I hope he’s wearing a blue shirt for a long, long time.
*I thought the refs were OK, but not great. They kept the game under control, which was good to see, and I had no problem with Mike Rupp’s goaltender interference call. He wasn’t pushed into Holtby. To me, the key missed call was the trip on Marcus’ Johansson’s pseudo-breakaway in the second. I agree that it wasn’t a goal, but he was tripped. I also got a kick out of the missed trip on Alex Ovechkin with about four minutes left in the game, and he yelled audibly, “Are you (effing) kidding me?” It’s too bad the microphones don’t pick up more of that stuff.
Overall, I thought it was a decent Game One. Obviously better for Rangers fans than the Caps’ faithful, but I have a feeling it will be awhile before this one is decided.
Final thoughts from my friend Mike from the Capitals perspective, “Two-minute breakdown, (crappy) PP and Mike Green (-2 on the day) lost that game.”
My final thoughts from the NYR perspective: I’m grateful for the win, but am concerned about the low shot total. The Caps probably deserved a better fate; they held the Rangers to 14 shots and lost, not to mention they hit the post three times. Even though the Rangers hold the edge, I feel winning Game Two is almost essential since the Caps are strong at home (last series not withstanding).
That’s all for now. Hope you enjoyed the game. Until Game Two…
Joe Dyton is a marketing copywriter in Washington, DC and a freelance sports reporter for the Frederick News-Post in Frederick, MD. He is a former assistant editor for The Dealmakers 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. Follow Joe on Twitter at http://twitter.com/dyton99.