Saturday, April 18, 2009
Rangers 1 Capitals 0 (Rangers lead series 2-0)
The Harvester of Sorrow was in the building today. Henrik Lundqvist just stole another game and maybe this series from the Capitals who look like a very frustrated hockey team. King Henrik made 35 saves, including 16 in the 3rd period. Can't say the Caps didn't have chances in this one. But they missed open nets, they shot it high, they hit Lundqvist in the chest, they put it in the shin pads of Rangers defenders, in short, the Caps shot the puck everywhere but in the Rangers net. The New Yorkers had 29 blocked shots. 29! And not all of them on purpose, some of them the Caps shooters just put it right into their pads. The Rangers managed to get a 1-0 lead and then sat back and crowded the middle of the ice for the next 2 1/2 periods. When the Caps would get some sustained pressure, which was often in the second half of the 1st period and all of the 3rd, the Rangers would just dump it down ice and make the Caps skate 200 feet.
In some ways, today's loss was more disheartening than Game 1's. There was no Jeff Schultz or Jose Theodore to blame. The Caps played how they needed to play to win this game. But every time they would get close, Lundqvist would make a big save or the Rangers would get back and lift the sticks of Caps getting ready to shoot or they would block a shot. By the 2nd period you could see frustration start to set in on the Washington side. It was apparent especially in the body language of the Caps two best players, Mike Green and Alex Ovechkin. I've never seen Greener throw so many lazy passes around the ice and I've never seen more negative body language from Ovie. Alex Semin showed his frustration by cross-checking Ryan Callahan in the face. It just looks like a defeated hockey team right now. I don't doubt they want it, but when you see the arms get thrown in the air and the shaking of heads, its a very bad sign.
The Rangers have turned this into exactly the kind of series they want. In a nutshell, they've turned back the clock to Dead Puck Era. They're whole game plan came out today. Take advantage of a Caps defensive letdown (in this case Viktor Kozlov was the guilty party), get up 1-0 and then sag back and let Lundqvist do his thing.
The big news before the game was Simeon Varlamov getting the start in net over Jose Theodore and the kid acquitted himself well. As has been custom in Varlamov's starts, the Caps D was very cognizant of protecting their young goalie. The one goal he let in was a no-chancer by Callahan on a 2-on-1. Then again, there were so many long stretches where the Caps had the Rangers pinned back in their own end that we really didn't get to see the kid make too many big saves. I think he's warranted the start in Game 3 but we'll see what Bruce Boudreau decides to do. He threw everybody off by picking Varlamov today and the kid didn't do anything to lose the job, so he's likely the man until further notice.
Now, there's two ways to look at Game 3 on Monday in Madison Square Garden.
1) We're fucked.
2) The Caps are able to regain focus by going on the road, like they did after losing several home games in March and come back to take both games in New York.
I'm hoping its option 2 but right now, things don't look good. Lundqvist is in a groove and the Ranger defense is in the Caps' heads. I do believe its about time to press the panic button.
So, it's a must win game on Monday night in the World's Most Famous Arena. it's a nice day today so I think I will take a trip to the beach to forget about this one. Until then, let's say good night to da bad guys...