No Need to Panic

Posted May 7, 2013

After the Game 3 loss, should the team and fans be alarmed? (Photo by Caps Outsider)

With a loss to the New York Rangers on Monday night, the Washington Capitals’ lead in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs was cut in half. While a 3-0 lead would have been great and historic for the franchise (you can take a look at my feelings about that here), the loss is not as bad as it looks. While the Caps lost with a late goal in the third, there are many reasons for the fans to be confident the team will be playing past the first round.

Looking at the game from the outside, it would appear as though the Rangers controlled the flow of the game. They spent more time with the lead, and doubled the Caps in power play opportunities six to three. However, there is more to the game then just the obvious stats.

While the Caps took six penalties, only one of them came back to hurt them on the score sheet. While that one was a nice play on their part, it was a result, and perfect example, of the Caps lack of defensive awareness.  With the puck sent into the corner, defenseman Karl Alzner chased Ranger forward Mats Zuccarello, who recovered the puck first. Fellow defenseman John Carlson picked up Brian Boyle, but no one picked up Derek Brassard, who skated past Troy Brouwer and put the Rangers up 2-1 early in the second period. Had Brouwer been aware of Brassard, he could have likely stopped the pass and kept the score where it was, thus possibly changing the outcome of the game.

Of the Rangers six power plays, the fact that they only scored on one is a good sign for the Caps going forward. That was the first power play the Rangers had scored in three games. Before tonight’s game, the Caps were tied with the Chicago Blackhawks with a perfect penalty kill percentage. Also before tonight, Caps goalie Braden Holtby led all playoff goalies in save percentage and goals against average. These are not only signs that the team is helping him out, but that the young goalie is comfortable and confident.

The Caps spent the last one minute and 54 seconds of the game on the power play, with much of that being a six on four. While opportunities presented themselves, the players were unable to capitalize on them, taking zero shots. As hockey great Wayne Gretzky once said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” That power play was one of their three failed attempts Monday night. Had they been able to convert on just one, the game could have been different.

While it may not be objective to say, it would appear as though the Caps dominated at times controlling the puck, but were unable to score. They were able to set up where they wanted to be at both five on five, and on the power play, but were unable to beat Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. Part of that can be credited to the Rangers defense, but some of that is a result of being unable to capitalize on rebounds, or a lack of effort. Numerous plays were telegraphed passes, none more obvious then Ovechkin’s pass to Mike Ribeiro with seven minutes left in the second. Ovechkin had Lundqvist committed to stopping him, leaving Ribeiro open to the Caps captains right. The pass was too slow, leaving plenty of time for Lundqvist to slide over and make the save.

Going forward, the series is going to be about adjustments. The Rangers did a better job of not falling for the fake shots, as they did at the end of game two, which may have been a reason for the Caps inability to score at the end of the game. The fact remains that the Caps still lead the series at two games to one. No matter what happens, the Rangers will have to find a way to win at Verizon Center. If the Capitals can win the game Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, thus splitting the two games in New York, they control their own fate going home up three games to one. Even if they do not, the pressure is still on New York to win a game on the road. Not the easiest of tasks in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.