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.
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.