Notes from the series and keys to game 5

The Caps find themselves in a very familiar position as they lead the Rangers 3 games to 1 heading back to Verizon Center with a chance to close out the series on Saturday. After rallying back from a 3-0 deficit on Wednesday to beat the Rangers in double overtime, most would think that the Caps should be able to finish off New York with out any troubles but after their collapse against Montreal last season and Chicago currently making a comeback against the Canucks, it’s hard to make that assumption. I’ve looked a few more stats and videos from the series to determine what needs to happen this Saturday for the Caps to move onto the next round in five games.

– Okay, some good news first; The Caps have the advantage in the possession game and have a Fenwick percentage of 55.4% and a Corsi percentage of 53.1%. Most of that is likely from dominating them in game 1 and for three periods (3rd-2OT) in game 4. The Rangers led the corsi/fenwick battle in games 2 and 3 but they didn’t outplay us by much. When the Caps have been controlling play, they’ve been running away with it.

– I wouldn’t say Michal Neuvirth has stole games for us but he’s played wonderful these first four games. Save percentage of .941 at even strength and only allowed one powerplay goal on 16 shots. He has had to come up big on penalty kills and he was a big factor in us winning game 2 and staying in game 3. This isn’t quite a goaltender’s duel yet but both him and Henrik Lundqvist have been outstanding so far.

– If New York could muster up more offense then I would consider it a goalie duel. It’s only four games but the only forward who has been giving the Rangers an offensive spark is Brandon Dubinsky and their defense corps haven’t been producing offensively except for Matt Gilroy and Marc Staal. Someone has to step up for the Rangers to come back in this series. They have 30+ shots on net the past two games so maybe an outburst is coming?

– Speaking of outbursts, I would like to see Nicklas Backstrom have one in game 5. He only has one point this series and hasn’t looked like himself at all. However, he has the best relative corsi rating out of any player on the team, showing he (and his line) are doing their jobs at getting the puck moving in the right direction. I would like to see some results soon, though.

– John Carlson and Karl Alzner have been getting plowed the last couple of games. They were on ice for all three Ranger goals (but they did set up the game-tying goal) and have been giving up a lot of chances as well. They played great in the first two games of the series, though so it hasn’t been all struggles for them.

– Boyd Gordon has only started 7.7% of his shifts in the offensive zone and somehow he has only surrendered an average of 12 shots per 60 minutes. That is pretty incredible.

– That Prust-Boyle-Avery line for the Rangers has been very effective at giving the Rangers momentum. They are the best line in terms of corsi and are going up against some pretty tough competition, as well.

– Everyone is talking about how well Girardi and Staal have been “shutting down” Washington’s top line and while they have been workhorses this series, it’s been Ryan McDonagh who I’ve been impressed by. Him and Mike Sauer have also been playing a lot of minutes and are doing a pretty good job of slowing down the Caps 2nd line. Only one goal surrendered while he was on ice. That’s really impressive, especially for a rookie.

– The Rangers have had the lead more times in this series than the Caps have. The only time the Caps have had the lead was in game 2, where they won 2-0. The Caps have been playing well with the score tied, though which is very good. Outshooting the Rangers by about 20 shots.

– The Caps have 12 powerplay opportunities, tied with Boston for the lowest in the playoffs.

Keys to Game 5

Top line needs to produce

Ovechkin, Backstrom and Semin have been our best forwards in terms of possession and while they don’t always play on the same line, they need to produce if we’re going to win this series. As I mentioned earlier, Backstrom has been very quiet and Ovechkin has two goals which is good but I feel like he wasn’t a factor at all in game 4. Semin is well…Alex Semin. It was all Bad Sasha from his game winner in game 1 to the third period of game 4. Jason Chimera said “your best players need to play like they are” and these three aren’t right now.

Stay Out of the Penalty Box

I know the Rangers powerplay has been abysmal (1/18 this series) but 14 penalties in two games is way too many and it’s the reason why we were put in a hole in both game 3 and 4.

Crash the net.

This speaks for itself right now. It’s how we’ve gotten the most success against Lundqvist and I see no reason to change it.

Get physical with Girardi/Staal

As I noted earlier, these two have been worked like dogs by the Rangers this series and have played over 30 minutes in some games. They have to be getting tired right about now and Ovechkin has been known to get physical against defensemen so I think this would be a good time to do that. Putting Chimera on the top line again would also work if Knuble can’t play. Not only have these two played a ton of minutes, but the Rangers have been rolling with four defensemen during crunch time. Gilroy and McCabe have only been used in offensive situations while Staal, Girardi, Sauer and McDonagh have been used for everything else. We have the advantage of rolling six d-men now so let’s take advantage of it.

I think that covers everything I wanted to talk about. Enjoy the game, relax and let’s go Caps!


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