Holy hell. In game two, Alex Ovechkin scored one of the greatest goals of his career. Skating into the New York Rangers’ zone, Ovechkin skates through two defenders. Then as he’s falling down to the ice, the Russian machine rips a shot to the top left corner past future Hall of Fame goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
So, it’s the Rangers again. For the fifth time in seven seasons, the Washington Capitals will square off against the folks from Madison Square Garden in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. These series have produced signature moments in Capitals history, such as Sergei Fedorov‘s game seven winner in 2009, and crushing defeats, like when the Rangers outlasted the Capitals by just one goal in game seven of the second round in 2012, booking a spot in the Eastern Conference Final. But, as is their pattern this year, the Washington Capitals will tell you this team is different. They don’t pay attention to the past.
“All that old stuff, get rid of it,” head coach Barry Trotz, in his first year with the Capitals, said. “Let’s look to a new era. Let’s build something.”
For the seventh time in nine games, Philipp Grubauer will be in net for the Washington Capitals, his sixth start during that span. That means Braden Holtby, the Caps’ savior for the first two months of the season, will be watching from the bench once again. Michal Neuvirth continues to remain in limbo.
“He’s only played a couple games but I feel comfortable with him right now,” head coach Adam Oates said of Grubauer after the morning skate.
Late in the second period of Sunday’s game, Washington Capitals center Mikhail Grabovski earned a penalty shot after getting hooked by Ryan McDonagh on a breakaway. Instead of getting fancy with New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, Grabo raised up his stick towards the Madison Square Garden roof and fired a slap shot into the top corner of the net.
Looking back over the last few years, I feel like I could articulate reasons for each year the Capitals got bounced from the playoffs. Last year’s Hunter Caps didn’t generate enough shots to win more than 50% of their games. Boudreau’s 2011 trap-Caps got beat by the Bolts’ suffocating two-man forecheck. The 2010 Caps were a solid team that ran into a white-hot goalie, i.e. they got Halak’d. And in ’09, an injured but explosive Caps crew couldn’t withstand the Cup-bound Penguins.
This year is a bit tougher. Certainly New York’s excellent goaltending deserves a bunch of credit for vanquishing the Capitals, but I’m hard-pressed to characterize this iteration of the team and how they fell short. I think that’s due to the abbreviated season, one bereft of a real training camp for rookie coach Adam Oates to implement his system. And that system itself is harder to peg down– I suppose it relies on a quick transition game (but not as wide-open as the 08-09 version) and using an overload defense (but nothing we’d describe as a trap, thank goodness).
So my goal is to find out — objectively– who these 2013 Caps were and how they got beat by the Rangers. (Plus: kitten GIFs.)