Joe Dyton

Posts Tagged ‘Henrik Lundqvist’

Rangers-Capitals Game 7 recap: “Seventh Heaven”

In NHL on May 14, 2012 at 7:45 pm

By Joe Dyton

Yo, Rangers, where was that effort in Game Six?

Seriously, if they had played the way they did in Game Seven as they did when they mailed in Game 6, they could have saved their fan base a little stress. I guess I just need to accept the fact that the Rangers are going to bring their best when their season is on the line. Think about it, they took care of business in the last two games of the Ottawa Series, and won all the swing games againstWashington (Three, Five and Seven).

Given their track record, I shouldn’t be too surprised the Rangers came out flying in Game Seven, but their effort, or lack thereof, in Game Six gave me reason to doubt them. I was afraid they might be spent and not have anything left to give, while the Caps were feeling good after bouncing back from a devastating Game Five loss. I started mentally preparing for a Rangers’ Game Seven loss the minute Game Six ended.

It wasn’t until sometime Friday afternoon when I saw on Twitter that Rangers coach John Tortorella said the guys would be ready to play on Saturday that I started to regain faith. I don’t know why that statement made me feel good, but it did. I figured as long as the Rangers came out with the same fire they showed in Game Five, they had a shot.

And, come out with fire they did. It is hard to ask for a better start than Brad “Worth Every Penny So Far” Richards scoring for the Rangers less than 90 seconds into the game. When Torts double-shifted the Richards-Marian GaborikCarl Hagelin line, it was obvious how badly they wanted to get the first goal. It made sense, whoever scored first had won every time in the series.

While Richards set the tone, it was Henrik Lundqvist who kept momentum on the Rangers side in the second period. The Capitals looked like they were on a power play midway through the period and the Rangers couldn’t clear the zone to save their lives, but King Henrik made sure his team would still lead after his busiest period (11 shots against) ended. I’m still not sure how the Capitals didn’t find the back of the net on one of those mad scrambles.

I almost fell over when Michael Del Zotto gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead in the third. A TWO-GOAL lead?? The Rangers hadn’t had one of those since Game One of the series. They were obviously shocked too; so much so they didn’t know what to do with it and gave it up just 38 seconds later. The PA announcer wasn’t done reading the details of Del Zotto’s goal when Roman Hamrlik cut the Rangers’ lead in half.

Surprisingly, the Caps only took one more shot on goal after Hamrlik’s score, and that didn’t come until the game’s final minute. In a do-or-die situation, it’s astonishing the Caps only got four shots on goal in the third period, none of which came from star player Alex Ovechkin. I feel that’s more of a testament to how hard the Rangers played than a lack of effort on the Capitals’ part. Although Ovie didn’t exactly break any speed skating records getting back on defense on Del Zotto’s game winner.  In the end, all that mattered was the Rangers brought their best when it mattered the most.

A few other thoughts…

*I’m glad the waved-off goal in the third didn’t come into play. Since the ref’s mic cut off during his explanation, I was not sure why it didn’t count. I understand it was the dreaded “intent to blow the whistle” rule. I won’t complain too much since it’s helped the Rangers more than once. If the Caps had found a way to tie the game and win in OT, my attitude would be a lot different.

*I’m not sure the Caps need to play so conservatively against the Rangers. I know hockey isn’t like football where a coach may come up with a totally different scheme depending on the opponent, but this whole series, I couldn’t help but wonder if the Caps did themselves a disserve by being so defensive-minded against the Blueshirts. I respect what Caps coach Dale Hunter did to turn his team into a defense-first unit, but the Rangers don’t pose much of a threat when it comes to scoring goals. I thought if the Caps played a little closer to their high-flying  style, they could have overwhelmed the Rangers’ defense and went up a goal or two, and then revert back to their tight-checking style. The Rangers aren’t built to make big comebacks; I still think back to Game Four of these two teams’ series last year; the Rangers went up 3-0, but the Caps came all the way back and won in double overtime. If that score was reversed, the Rangers don’t make that comeback. Like I said, I know it’s tough to change up a system on a dime, but I thought the Caps did the Rangers a favor by playing that defensive style.

*Going forward…I don’t know what to think of the Rangers chances against the Devils. I don’t doubt they can win, but I wonder if they’ll have a tough time adjusting to a more offensive-minded outfit like Jersey after playing the Caps. On the other-handed, maybe the Rangers will find more open ice and shooting lanes in this series. I think it will come down to whoever can get their opponent to play their game most of the time. I also think the Rangers’ power play needs to be a lot better this series. Rangers in six.

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 thedytonian@yahoo.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http://twitter.com/dyton99.

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Rangers-Capitals Game Five Recap: “Miracle on 33rd Street”

In Uncategorized on May 9, 2012 at 9:23 am

By Joe Dyton

I was ready.

I was ready to write the obituary for the Rangers’ 2012 season. With about six minutes or so left in Game Five Monday night, the Capitals were up, 2-1 and the Blueshirts couldn’t get anything going. I assumed the game was going to end, 2-1 or possibly, 3-1 on an empty-netter. I also figured Game Six would be nothing more than a formality. I know the Rangers took a 3-2 series deficit on the road in the first round, but the Caps are better than Ottawa and I figured they took care of business at their place. I shared this exchange via text message with my buddy Mike (a Caps fan) around the time I assumed the Rangers were toast:

Mike: “How are you feeling? I’m going crazy.”

Me: “I think the hourglass that is the Rangers’ season is just about out of sand. I am not sure they can pull off another Game Six and Seven back-to-back like they did last series.”

Mike: Caps haven’t won yet.

Could you blame me for thinking so negatively? The Garden was silent. The only line that was generating anything was the Brad Richards-Marian Gaborik-Carl Hagelin unit. All I could keep thinking was, “Who is going score?” The Rangers have some talented players, but no one who can just grab the puck and go score like the Capitals do. Even when the Rangers got that power play off of Joel Ward’s high stick, I didn’t get too excited because before that this as their power play for the night:

0-for-3, 0 shots on goal.

With a stat like that, I couldn’t get my hopes up even with Henrik Lundqvist pulled and the Rangers having a 6-on-4 man advantage.

Then, some way, somehow, the Rangers cashed in on their most important power play of the season. I don’t know what surprised me more; Richards tying the game with 6.6 seconds left, or the fact the Rangers scored on the power play. Either way, the Rangers had life.
Since Ward’s high stick drew blood, the Rangers got a four-minute power play and got to start OT up a man.

I thought it would be so great if the Rangers could just score on the PP and make it an early night. Then I thought it might be asking too much for them to score on both ends of a double minor.

Or was it?

Marc Staal and the Rangers PP proved me wrong again when he blistered that shot past a screened Braden Holtby. They got two power play goals in one game? I couldn’t believe it. Hopefully if they get any power plays in Game Six or (gulp), Game Seven the Rangers will employ the strategy they used for Staal’s goal. Get the puck to the points, forwards in front of Holtby and let it rip. Or at the very least, let the point-men wind up until the Caps’ forwards go down for the block attempt. Either way, I just know that the pass-pass-pass-perfect shot isn’t working and Holtby is stopping just about everything he can see.

A few other thoughts…

*I know the Rangers outshot the Caps, 38-18, but I felt like the Caps controlled the game after the Ranger-dominated first period. The Rangers had a lot of trouble generating quality scoring chances, while the Caps’ shot total wasn’t high, but the shots they did get were mostly high-quality.

*It’s scary to think how close the Caps came to winning this one. In the third period, they developed three great scoring changes on odd-man rushes and Nicklas Backstrom hit the crossbar after deking Lundqvist on a breakaway. It is game over (series over?) if he gets that puck an inch lower. Also, if Hagelin doesn’t bleed after he got hit by Ward’s stick, that’s perhaps a two-minute minor and OT starts at even-strength.

*The Rangers have to stop taking bad/lazy penalties. If the Caps had held on last night, the Rangers would have lost three games in this series on third period power play goals: Richard’s interference in Game Two, Hagelin’s slash in Game Four and Mike Rupp’s hook on Monday night. I’ll cut Rupp a little more slack because he was slowing down a scoring opportunity. Still, this series is too close and goals are too tough to come by to be taking needless penalties.

So, the Rangers have two cracks to win a trip to the Eastern Conference finals instead of one. I have a feeling that they might need both of the cracks. The Caps are going to come out even stronger than they did in Game Four; hopefully the Rangers will be more prepared for it this time.

Don’t be surprised if this goes seven.

Thanks for reading; until next time…

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 thedytonian@yahoo.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http://twitter.com/dyton99.

Rangers-Capitals Game Four recap: “Even Steven”

In Uncategorized on May 6, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Well, here we go again.

After four games in the Eastern Conference best-of-seven semifinal, the Rangers and Capitals are tied at two games each. That’s hardly a shock given how evenly matched these two teams were headed into the series. Now we have a best-of-three, and I wouldn’t be surprised if all three games were needed to decide this one.

What did surprise me was how flat the Rangers came out to start Saturday afternoon’s contest. I think everyone knew the Caps were going to come out guns blazing; they had no desire to go back to New Yorkdown 3-1, and they played like it. The Rangers looked a step slow; I’m not sure if they were still hung over from the triple overtime Game Three win, or if they relaxed mentally because worst case they were headed home tied at two games each. Whatever the reason was, the Caps out shot the Rangers, 14-3 in the first period. The only reason they just 1-0 was because of goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

Rangers coach John Tortorella must have had some strong words for his team between periods because they were much more into it when the second period started. I think it’s even safe to say they dominated the first half of it. It’s worrisome that the Rangers take so long to get warmed up sometimes. It seemed like they didn’t get going until Game Six of theOttawa series when their season was on the line. Then on Saturday when they had a chance to put a stranglehold on the series, they don’t show up until the second period. My hope is that on Monday night, their mentality is, “We can’t go back to D.C. down 3-2,” and not, “Let’s try to get this one, but if we lose, we can still tie it up in Game Six and win Game Seven back here.” The Caps played Game Four like they’d be eliminated if the lost it; let’s see if the Rangers can play with the same sense of urgency on Monday.

A few other thoughts…

*I’ll let others pin this one on Lundqvist, I’m going to give him a pass. I know there’s the thinking that he got his glove on Alex Ovechkin’s goal and that he has to find a way to stop Mike Green’s goal in the third, but he made so many other saves that he shouldn’t have. Namely, the stop he made on Ovechkin at the doorstep on the Caps’ first power play and how about the 2-on-0 save he made on Nicklas Backstrom. Yes, I would have liked to have seen him make one of those saves too, but this game isn’t even close without him.

*The Rangers’ offense still isn’t productive enough. I feel like it’s been the same thing since 2009; this team has so much trouble scoring goals. At times, I forget how they ended up with best record in the East. Just about every goal the Rangers score is grinded out; they needed a lucky break on their second one on Saturday. Braden Holtby’s defense hung him out to dry badly on that one. It would help if the Rangers could take advantage of the power play, but they went 0-for-2 again on Saturday. I think it’s too much to ask of a goaltender to hold a team as dangerous as the Caps to no or one goal every game.

*Not a great day for the officials, in my opinion. I agree that Carl Hagelin should have been penalized for slashing in the third period. My question is, why wasn’t Ovechkin penalized for breaking Brian Boyle’s stick in half just minutes earlier? The inconsistency in officiating during these playoffs is appalling. Speaking of inconsistency…

*I’m not shocked that Ovechkin isn’t even getting a hearing about his hit on Dan Girardi. There is just no rhyme or reason to who the league warns, fines, suspends, etc. This at least the third Ranger who’s taken a hit to the head in the playoffs and there have been no suspensions. Is it because Girardi didn’t get hurt on Ovie’s hit, that he’s not even going to get a warning? When Ovechkin got suspended earlier this year for leaving his feet and delivering a blow to the head, the league said once he left his feet, he’s responsible for contact to the head. Isn’t this the same thing? I kind of like the idea that the NHL just has a big “Price is Right” wheel that they spin when deciding whether or not to take action against a player or how long to suspend him for, because honestly, I don’t how else they come up with the punishments or non-punishments that they do.

My fingers are crossed that officiating doesn’t play into the result of Game Five, or at the very least, the Rangers can stay out of the box if the game is tied late in the third. It would also be nice if they could find a way to give Lundqvist some kind of margin for error. Either way, I have do doubt Game 5 will be just as tight and intense as the previous four.

Until then…

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 thedytonian@yahoo.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http://twitter.com/dyton99.

 

Rangers-Capitals Game Two Recap: “The Garden of Even”

In NHL, Uncategorized on May 1, 2012 at 4:34 pm

By Joe Dyton

Two games may be a small sample size, but it appears the difference in the Rangers-Caps series is going to be which team can avoid making the crucial mistake.

Throw the seedings out the window, these teams are evenly matched. The Caps have more offensive firepower, but some of that is negated by the Rangers’ solid team defense and Vezina and Hart trophy nominated goalie Henrik Lundqvist. Since both teams have decided to play the same low-risk, defensive style, each game is going to come down to power play effectiveness and avoiding costly mistakes.

Take Game One where Mike Green’s ill-advised line change led to Chris Kreider’s game-winning goal. That brief mental lapse swung the momentum in the Rangers’ favor and the Caps never recovered.

On Monday night, the trended continued in Game Two, but it was the Rangers’ miscues that helped the Caps even the series. A turnover led to a 3-on-2 for Washington that resulted in the game’s first goal. Lundqvist inexplicably tried to play the puck behind the net with the Caps rushing in. Let your “D” men get that puck, Hank! Two-zip, Caps.

Despite the Rangers’ comedy of errors, they were still somehow tied at two with the Caps midway through the third period. Their most costly mistake off call came when Brad Richards took a penalty just 36 seconds after the Rangers had just killed one off. I know some people felt the holding call was marginal, but at that stage of the game, a player can’t give the ref any reason to raise his hand. The Caps’ power play had been unimpressive to that point, but with all the skill players they have, it was inevitable they’d cash in eventually. Sure enough, before Richards could get comfortable in the penalty box, Alex Ovechkin rifled one past Lundqvist.

As the series moves on to Washington, I don’t see either team changing their strategies too much, especially the Caps who were able to steal home ice. Prepare for more low shot totals, a lot of blocked shots, a clogged neutral zone and hopefully less mistakes.

A few other thoughts…

*A bad game for Lundqvist? I don’t like to always like to look at the goal total when judging a goalie’s performance. I’m more interested in how each goal was scored. Last night, the Caps’ first goal was a tic-tac-toe assault finished off by Mike Knuble. I’d hardly put that on The King. Same goes for Ovie’s game-winner. The last things you want to give Ovechkin are time and space and he had both when he ripped that shot past Lundqvist. The only goal I’d put on him was the second when he gave the puck away. Bad decision, yes. Bad game, not really.

*Have the power play units broken through?: I was exchanging texts with my Caps-fan buddy Mike and whenever one of our teams had the man-advantage, we hardly got excited. Could you blame us? After all, both teams started the series 0-for-6. Then wouldn’t you know…

Mike (after Knuble’s penalty): “I’m scared.”

Me: “Like the Caps’ PP, the Rangers’ is bad.”

Ryan Callahan scores on a deflection. Two-all.

I almost fell out of my chair when Callahan tied the game. Mike texted me, “God (the Caps’) PP sucks,” just a few minutes before Ovie scored. We tried to figure out if the Rangers and Caps’ penalty kill units were really that great, or if the power play units were underachieving. Ultimately, we decided both teams are very good at killing penalties, but the power plays are so-so. I’ve actually accepted the fact that Rangers power play isn’t effective, but I’m surprised the Caps have been unable to get it going. I think both teams pass way too much to find the perfect shot. By time they get that perfect shot, 45 seconds of the power play has expired. We’ll see if either team tries a new strategy going forward.

*Missing, Marian Gaborik, last seen New York, NY, Game One, Eastern Conference seminfinals: Where has the Great Gabby gone? I know he set up Richards on the goal on Monday, but this guy scored 41 goals this season! The Rangers need him to find the back of the net if they’re going to win this series. They don’t have enough weapons to get by another round without him. I saw on Twitter today some people wondered if he’s nursing an injury, but it not like he’s skating poorly or anything. I just think he’s been kept in check.

That’s it for Game Two. As a Ranger fan, I’d love to see them take both in DC, but I think that’s unlikely. A split is fine, just as long as they win Game Three so I can watch Game Four pressure-free. Ah forget it, take ‘em both boys!

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 thedytonian@yahoo.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http://twitter.com/dyton99.

 

Rangers-Capitals Game One Recap: “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”

In Uncategorized on April 29, 2012 at 2:37 pm

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 thedytonian@yahoo.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http://twitter.com/dyton99.