Rangers-Capitals Game 1 Recap

Last night’s game sure was one hell of a way to start off this series. You could say that it almost picked up where game 7 of the 2009 series left off. Strong goaltending from Lundqvist, Alex Ovechkin and Marc Staal up against each other and a very close game that ended in thrilling fashion in overtime. These two teams appeared to be evenly matched with each other for the first two periods with the score knotted at 0-0 but the Capitals were outchancing the Rangers big time. Henrik Lundqvist, a few bad bounces and strong defensive play from New York kept it a tie game. It was then the Caps defense made a critical mistake about two minutes into the third period where Mike Green and John Erskine double-teamed Brandon Prust, leaving Ranger defenseman Matt Gilroy wide open as he fired a shot over Neuvirth’s shoulder to give the Rags a 1-0 lead.

That’s when Washington fans began to panic because the Rangers were playing just about as good of a defensive game as you could and Lundqvist has had our number in the past. What did the Caps do to get around this? First off, it took a good effort from Alex Ovechkin to drive to the front of the net and shoulder down Dan Girardi in the process as he and Alex Semin chipped away at a rebound to tie the game. After that, things began to even out again with Neuvirth and Lundqvist having a good ol’ fashioned goaltender’s duel as each net minder made one big save after another to keep the score even. Things finally came to an end with Jason Arnott forcing a turnover in New York’s zone and sending a pass to a waiting Alex Semin who scored his first playoff goal in what seems like forever and put Washington on top 1-0 in the series.

You have to give both team’s a lot of credit for putting on a great show tonight and having what might have been the most exciting game of the playoffs so far (only 4 games to work with but still!). I know it was probably frustrating to watch the Caps fail on numerous scoring chances and falling behind again, but the Rangers played a great game and really did all they could to keep up with the Caps. Be glad that Washington won and hope they can keep things going.

Notes/Observations:

As I pointed out earlier, the Rangers played about as good of a defensive games as any team could today. Marc Staal and Dan Girardi logged over 30 minutes of ice time a piece with a lot of their starts coming in their own zone. John Tortorella seemed to have these two on the ice every time Ovechkin was and that’s usually his plan whenever we play the Rangers. Both did very well for the most part but they got fatigued late in the game from playing so many minutes. Girardi was clocked by Ovechkin on the Caps first goal and Staal made a bad turnover on the game-winner. Still, these two are going to give us a lot of trouble over the next couple of weeks.

– One of the biggest criticisms of this team is their star players not showing up in the playoffs. Ovechkin had a goal tonight, fired 15 shots at the net (6 got on goal) and made a key play on the first goal by driving to the net to create pressure. Definitely what I want to see out of him. Nicklas Backstrom missed on a few golden chances but I’m hoping that changes soon. Meanwhile, Semin had what is now known as the “Sasha hat-trick.” One goal, one assist and a hooking penalty.

– Let’s go through the play on the game-winning goal. It’s hard to say what the best part of it was. Brooks Laich managing to keep the puck in the New York zone, Jason Arnott’s big frame knocking down Staal’s clearing attempt or his pass that set up Semin’s rocket of a slapshot which scored the game winner. Something that you want to watch over and over again if you’re a Caps fan.

– Going with Neuvirth tonight made sense seeing how he hasn’t done anything to lose his job even though I think Varlamov is the better goalie. That said, Neuvirth was great tonight. 24/25 saves and a few key ones late in the game. His best being a point-blank stop on Marian Gaborik. Thinking that we’ll see Varlamov eventually but if we don’t have a goalie controversy for the playoffs because Neuvirth’s playing better then that’s fine by me.

– Going through one of the bad parts of the game. What in the hell was Mike Green thinking trying to double team Brandon Prust like that? I am pretty sure John Erskine is capable enough of doing that by himself. Either we didn’t scout Gilroy enough or Green thought someone else had him because leaving him wide open like that was an awful decision on his part.

– Aside from that gaffe, good performance by the defense corps. Scott Hannan led the pack in ice time with around 28 minutes and blocked four shots. Alzner had eight blocked shots, Green had four and Schultz had six. Very nice performance all around.

– Brooks Laich didn’t get on the score-sheet but he was 13/18 on face-offs and played great on the penalty kill.

– Speaking of which, the PK played very well on both attempts and so did the powerplay even though they did score. Lots of good scoring chances with a couple that went off the post or into Lundqvist’s glove.

– Only four penalties between two teams and a Fenwick of 48-29. Fun game to watch, that’s for sure.

I’m very excited to watch the rest of this series and I still think things can go either way, especially if the Rangers played like they did today. They don’t have the forward depth to outscore Washington but their defense and Lundqvist can keep them in every game in this series at least. One of their forwards will need to step up eventually, though. Wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a bottom-six player after watching this game.

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