Mike Green: picking the right time to play the best hockey of his life.
Shut the book on the quarterfinal series between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals. In just five (not that short) games, the Caps sent the Rangers to an early vacation and a hot shave. This is the first Caps playoff series since the lockout (and the first of Bruce Boudreau’s career) that has not gone to a full seven games.
For the first time in the series, a goal was scored in the first period. While on the powerplay, Mike Green caught his own rebound and used Dan Girardi as a backboard for the game’s first score. Scott Hannan stretched a pass to Alex Ovechkin in the second, who then beat Henrik Lundqvist on the backhand. Alex Semin’s one-timer off Marcus Johansson made the score 3-0, which should have been the final. But then this happened:
About a minute later, Wojtek Wolski finally got one past Michal Neuvirth. Oh well. Caps beat Rangers 3-1. Series score: 4-1. The Capitals advance to the next round, but first comes a few days of well deserved rest.
- Michal Neuvirth was scant seconds away from his second shutout of the series before Wolksi got one through. For a player unknown to many before this year and mocked by another coach on pay-cable earlier this season, Neuvirth acquitted himself exceptionally well in five games. If there’s one goalie in the NHL who has distinguished himself in the postseason, it’s the babyface wearing red in the Washington net.
- The New York Rangers are a good hockey team. They were able to lick the Capitals righteously two times during the regular season. But the playoffs are a crucible whereby teams’ resolves are tested, and the Rags proved not to be made of sterner stuff after all. They mounted little offense, were flatly out-coached, and resorted to cheap thuggery when frustrated. But…
- Henrik Lundqvist is a mensch. The King was a giant presence in the New York net: poised and precise. Beating him in five games is a feather in the Capitals’ cap, but that doesn’t belittle Lundqvist’s talent or effort.
- Verizon Center fans are loud. Maybe it’s time to come up with some more creative cheers though. Share your ideas below. Here’s mine: N-A-S-T-Y! He ain’t got no alibi!
- Mike Green caught a tasty puck in or around the ear-cular region and did not play another shift. For a fellow who had a point in every game of the series but has been recovering from a concussion, this is a troubling setback. Green did return to the bench, and Bruce Boudreau insists that he could have played him, so we’re encouraged. At least Mike will have a long time to recover before next game.
- Once again revisiting the curious axiom, the Capitals’ best players were their best players today. Mike Green, Alex Semin, and Alex Ovechkin executed MISSION: SCOAR MOAR GOALS with aplomb. How scary is this team when they play up to par? Lord Stanley scary.
- Meanwhile, Nick Backstrom is still scoreless since March 6th, going at least 22 scoring chances without converting. Snakebit doesn’t do this drought justice, it’s more like BasiliskfromHarryPotterandtheChamberofSecrets-bit.
- Who went 80% (12 of 15) on the faceoff dot AND leads the team in facial hair? Bookish Boyd Gordon, who really shoulda combined with Matt Bradley for a goal or ten today.
- Two goals (the Caps’ and Rangers’ first) were followed by some Rags-initiated brawling. According to Darren “Danger” Dreger, Dan Girardi dislocated his finger when he punched Brooks Laich in the first of those scrums. Instant karma’s gonna get ya.
The Capitals won this short series because they played their brand of hockey: getting pucks deep in the offensive zone, cycling until the defense got nauseated, crashing the net, and generally being bad asses in their own zone. On the other hand, the Rangers had neither their signature toughness behind the goal line or any offensive threat tonight, and that might have made all the difference. Those extended shifts in the OZ early on set a tone of this game that never quit. A triumphant and exuberant win for a team that badly needed an early victory in the first round.
And that’s the story of the quarterfinals. We don’t know yet who our second round opponent will be, but we know we’ll have a rested and focused team ready to face them. We may yet see the return of Mike Knuble (hand) or Dennis Wideman (leg) or Tom Poti (jkjkjktotallynotcomingback). But first: downtime. Let’s put to rest the Madison Square Garden drama, the Sean Avery ad hominem attacks, the hay-making hack pieces about Boudreau’s job security or the Alexes’ playoff production.
Four down. On to the next round.
Additional reporting by Ian Oland and we totally ripped off some of Neil’s tweets, too.