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Monday, April 20, 2009
Caps 4 Rangers 0 (Rangers lead series 2-1)
Ok, now that was more like it. The Caps played their best game in a month at a time when they needed it the most. Going down 3-0 would have signaled curtains but the Caps never let the Rangers sniff a commanding lead in the series by scoring early, playing excellent defense and getting good goaltending from Simeon Varlamov to get themselves back in this series.
This is the kind of effort the Caps need all the time. Clearly, it appears as if the key to beating the Rangers is to get a couple of quick ones past Henrik Lundqvist and making the Rangers play catch-up. That's easier said than done against King Henrik but this Ranger team does not appear equipped to come back from too many big defecits. The best part about tonight was that the Caps did not rest on getting a 2-0 1st period lead. They kept attacking New York, hemming them in their own zone for long stretches. They played with desperation, yet didn't press, something they struggled with in Washington, particularly in Game 2. Now, the matter is: Can they do this 3 more times? If they do, the Caps win this series. If the Caps bring anything less than what they did tonight, the Rangers could steal this thing yet.
Notes From The Hangar:
- Simeon Varlamov was very, very solid tonight. He made the saves when he had to, something Jose Theodore couldn't do. The team did a solid job of building a coccoon in front of him and limiting the quality looks the Rangers had. I wouldn't go so far as to say a star is born, but Varly was unphased by playing in a hostile Madison Square Garden, by Sean Avery's antics and by the 33 shots the Rangers put on. Dude is as cool as ice, at 20 years old no less, his rebound control is superb and his athleticism is off the charts.
- I thought John Erskine was the Caps best defenceman tonight. He played with his usual snarl but under control and he baited Avery into some stupid penalties. Erskine initiated but didn't retaliate.
- At the same time, I thought Mike Green was a weak link. Greener looked like he had Flubber on his stick the thing was bouncing off it so much. The guy was an adventure out there, especially in the 1st and 2nd periods.
- Alex Ovechkin was going like a madman tonight. Even more than usual. But unlike the two games in Washington, he didn't try to force plays. If he was the Tasmanian Devil in games 1&2, Ovie was controlled chaos tonight. His pass on Alex Semin's 2nd goal was a thing of beauty.
- I've said it before and I'll say it again, Brooks Laich is the perfect playoff player. That goal he got tonight was exactly what he needs to do in this series: get traffic in front of Lundqvist and bang in rebounds.
- The Caps had three lovely bing-bangers (one-timers into open nets) tonight. Both of Semin's goals and Tom Poti's goal were perfect passing plays.
- How awesome was Backstrom's pass on Poti's goal? Does that kid have eyes in the back of his head or what?
- Donald Brashear was a welcome addition back in the Caps lineup tonight. The Rangers didn't engage in much chicanery tonight knowing they'd have to answer to somebody.
- And now that I've mentioned the word chicanery, allow me to discuss Sean Avery's night. Games 1 & 2 showed what Mr. Sloppy Seconds can bring to the Rangers: physicality, agitating and creating mayhem in front of a goalie. Tonight showed how the diminutive, starlet-dating winger can kill your club. Avery spent almost 10 minutes in the box and none of those penalties were of the smart variety. Let's see, he punched Erskine in the face in full view of the ref, he ran Varlamov to earn an interference call, took another interference call trying to start something with Nicklas Backstrom, took a whack at Varly and Erskine in full view of the ref to get another roughing call and, finally, an early exit from the game. The Caps power play didn't punish Avery for all his sins but you could tell he was testing the limits of John Tortorella's patience. I'm surprised he didn't staple Avery's ass to the bench after that punch on Erskine. The funniest part, at least from a Caps fan's perspective, was watching Avery slink away the minute Brashear growled at him. Little man didn't feel like playing so rough then, did he?
And for the first time this series, I actually feel like posting the highlights from NHL.com.
So, one win in the books. Let's make it another on Wednesday night eh? Until then, let's call this one more...for the good guys.