There was a point during the Capitals’ 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers when it seemed like victory was within reach. That moment came at the close of the second period.
Brooks Laich skated the puck into the Rangers’ zone with ten seconds left to go. He had a decision to make. Leading a 3-on-2 break in the closing seconds, he could have either pulled up and shot the puck from the perimeter, hoping for Jason Chimera to convert the rebound, or he could send a lateral pass over to the Capitals leading scorer, Alex Ovechkin, and see what magic he could make.
Instead, Laich opted for option C: a high-risk, high-reward hailmary saucer pass to Jason Chimera that would have to travel over two defenders’ sticks and somehow find the tape of his stick.
He chose C, and he made it work. Let’s review.
Photo credit: Len Redkoles
The Washington Capitals took their future into their own hands with a big overtime win over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night. As John Walton said, “the king is dead, and the Caps are still dancing.” The Caps have waited until now to find out who their round two dancing partner would be while a couple Games Sevens shook out. But now we know who will join the Caps in the conference semifinals.
The Washington Capitals will face the New York Rangers in the second round. This is fine with us: we’re in a mood right now and there’s nobody the Caps cannot beat. Still, of all our team’s potential dancing partners, the Rangers are the ones who usually step on our toes. Follow us past the jump to have your memory refreshed on exactly who these guys are, and what they’ve been up to since we saw them last.
The Pregame: Fun! Today’s installment of “Places That Smell” has us visiting the big macher of smells, New York City! Boo-yah!
This is fun because it’s true. The entire place is one massive reek… or, more accurately, hundreds of smaller little reeks. Did you know, for instance, that the five boroughs of New York City were formed not for political reasons, but as a way of keeping one smelly New Yorker from having to endure his pungent neighbors? The subway pretty much put an end to that, and now the whole place stinks like the laundry room in a European hostel. Anyone who’s been in either knows this to be gospel truth.
Photo edit: Ian Oland
The Pre Game: We’re thankful for Puck Buddy Bunny and Dave E filling in for us on the pregamer for the Winnipeg Jets game a few days back. So, too, were RMNB readers, if the comments are to be believed (and really, has the Internet ever lied?) “I retract any critical statements I’ve made of Doug Johnson in the past,” commented one ‘CDizz.’ To which we say: ha ha! We’re betting you will soon be retracting that retraction, Mr. Dizz. We now return you to your regular, disappointing pregames.
It must be said, however that these last few games have been anything but disappointing for Caps fans. Sure, Wednesday’s result was closer than we like (in part due to a genuinely crummy officiating call against Mike Knuble’s third-period goal that made us throw things at the television) and we’re still only talking a ‘streak’ of two games. We always considered, and still do, any talk of streaks in either direction premature. A streak implies consistent success or failure of the team to execute; this past week or so proves that Coach Boudreau’s squad is not consistent, playing like jellyfish one game and superheros the next. Still, Sasha, Nicky, and Chimera were a gravy-boat of goodness against the Jets, as was the team overall, and we have reason to believe that may continue. Or hope. Reason to hope, maybe. To believe. Moving on…
Photo credit: Chris Gordon
The world’s most famous hockey player has got some new gear. After dropping CCM over the summer, Alex Ovechkin unveiled a new six-year sponsorship with rival manufacturer Bauer, whose equipment Ovi used for the first three years of his career. This is Ovechkin’s second new sponsorship of the week after news of his long-term deal with superpower Nike for “lifestyle” and “performance” products surfaced on Thursday night.
“I think that CCM treat me well,” Ovechkin told reporters Tuesday afternoon. “They help me a lot and without that project I can’t score 65 goals. But in that kind of moment and that kind of situation right now, I feel that Bauer is company who I’m looking forward to work with. I played with this stick a couple years ago and I like it.”
The move doesn’t exactly come as a surprise. With Ovi’s ditching CCM — and therefore their parent company Reebok — that left Bauer as the only company with the cash to pickup a superstar endorsement.
The move was also teased on Bauer’s Web site over the holiday weekend, with their home page sporting a picture of skates with the Great Eight’s trademark yellow laces and the banner “This year will be different.”
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.
Is Arnott happy or angry he scored? (Photo credit: AP)
Thanks to tallies authored by the two Alexes Wednesday, the Capitals opened up their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series against the Rangers with a 2-1 overtime victory. Who would pot the goals in game two? Um, obviously the Jasons.
After a scoreless first period, Brooks Laich decided to hold a forechecking clinic at 2:11 of the second period, taking on towering Rangers’ defenseman Matt Gilroy. After being knocked to his keister not once — but twice — Laich pushed the biscuit with only one hand on his stick to Marcus Johansson. Mojo — acutely aware of all of his surroundings — immediately sent a tape-to-tape pass to Jason Chimera, who roofed the puck high and glove side past a stunned Henrik Lundqvist.
1:57 later while on the power play, Jason Arnott would win a face-off. Alex Semin then passed it back to Alex Ovechkin at the point. Ovechkin, when pressured by a Ranger penalty-killer, skated across the blue line with the puck and fed Mike Green who was rotating down to the slot. Green then wound up to the sky with all his fury and released a slap shot. Gilroy blocked the attempt both with his skate and stick. Unfortunately for him, the muffed puck then deflected across the ice directly onto the blade of Jason Arnott’s twig, who was skating towards the net already looking for a rebound. As Lundqvist panicked and made a quick move to block the right corner of the net, Arnott made a veteran move and waited as he fell down and then shot the puck past. ANGRY SCOAR FACE.
That would be all she wrote. Michal Neuvirth would get his first career playoff shutout. Caps beat Rangers, 2-0!
No team has given the Washington Capitals more trouble this season than the New York Rangers. Those 6-0 and 7-0 shutouts pushed some Caps fans into spiritual desolation, broke up several marriages, and probably killed a house cat or two. Fitting then that the Caps and Rags should meet in this first round of the playoffs. You know that old Klingon proverb, right? Revenge is a dish best served by two guys from Russia named Alex.
We were scoreless through two periods when Rangers newbie Matt Gilroy caught a pass from Brandon Prust and beat Michal Neuvirth. With only six minutes and change left in regulation, Alex Ovechkin’s repeated swats forced the puck past Henrik Lundqvist’s pads. And then, after nearly nineteen minutes of overtime hockey and with fatigue setting in, Jason Arnott intercepted a bad clear from Marc Staal and set up Alex Semin for the game-winner. It took damn near eighty minutes, but the good guys pulled it out: the Caps beat the Rangers 2-1 (OT) and take a 1-0 lead in the series.
Photo credit: Rob Carr
Shutout and embarrassed by the New York Rangers. Now where have I heard that before? The Caps certainly did their best December 12 impression on Friday night, with the added twist of dropping the game in front of their home fans, who didn’t respond kindly.
“I am absolutely not happy,” said Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau. “I mean our fans deserve better. That’s three games in a row at home. You know, we deserved to get booed there. It’s not fun when you come home and you got the best fans in the world and you play like that.”
The first action in the contest came when Jason Chimera delivered a hard check along the boards to the Rangers’ Michael Sauer, who didn’t take well to Chimera’s rough play. After a little back and forth the two dropped the gloves with neither getting too much of an upper hand. Just under six minutes into the game the period got ugly for the Caps. It started when Mike Green and Derek Stepan went for the puck in the corner with Stepan catching Green with an elbow. The recently injured Green immediately hit the ice, clutching his head before heading to the locker room as soon as play stopped. Just seconds after Green’s injury Steve Eminger gave the Rangers the lead, as the puck knuckled past Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth. At 14:47 in the period Sauer got into the action again setting up Erik Christensen in front of Washington’s net, putting New York up by two. The Capitals would get a chance to rally when Alex Ovechkin skated down the wing, beat Ryan McDonagh, and fired a shot on Rangers ‘keeper Henrik Lundqvist as he slid down the ice on his rear. Sounds familiar, eh? This time, however, Ovi was unsuccessful.
In the second frame, things would only get worse for the Capitals. At 4:19, while on the power play, Christensen would pot his second of the night, set up by an excellent backhand pass from Ryan Callahan. The Caps in-game entertainment crew responded by playing “Unleash the Fury” much earlier than usual. But that did little to stop Washington’s poor play as later in the period Stepan would extend New York’s lead to four after a misplay by Neuvirth.
In the third, the Rangers put a five-spot on the Caps when Vinny Prospal flicked a wrist shot over Neuvirth’s shoulder. But that wouldn’t be it. Brian Boyle would extend the lead once again in the waining moments of the game. Are you still reading? Rangers rout Caps, 6-0.
The Capitals, who are 24-3-3 at home this year, currently have a club-record 12 straight wins and look for (unlucky?) number 13 tonight against the New York Rangers at 7:05pm. Unfortunately for the Capitals, against them tonight is the dreaded reverse-lock. For those who don’t know what that is, that’s when a scenario presents itself where conditions seem so perfect for a win – that it’s fair to assume the other team will do so because of unforeseen happenings. Why do we feel that way? Well, John Tortoralla has decided to rest Henrik Lundqvist tonight (Matt Bradley’s Best Friend), and is instead giving the keys to backup goaltender Alex Auld. Auld’s numbers on the year are: W/L: 9-6, GA: 3.00, SV%: .894 and his career numbers against the Capitals are W/L: 3-4, GA: 2.73, SV%: .896. Um, weak. Bruce Boudreau will counter with our time-traveling buddy Jose Theodore.
Anyways, since the reverse lock may be in effect – look for a 5 goal game from a gentlemanly Sean Avery who’ll concentrate more on forechecking than being a complete prick, and zero points from Marian Gaborik, who’ll be in the lineup for the first time since February 12th. And oh yeah, a 45 save shutout from Alex Auld.
Back in reality land, Tarik El Bashir has the Capitals Forward Lines for Tonight’s Game:
1st Line: Ovechkin-Backstrom-Knuble
2nd Line: Laich-Belanger-Semin (Belanger promoted)
3rd Line: Chimera-Fleischmann-Fehr (Flash back to center)
4th Line: Bradley-Steckel-Walker (Bradley returns!!)
Also, our partner Michael Hoffman, who will be supplying us quotes for the rest of the year, asked Bruce Boudreau about Alex Ovechkin’s slump since returning from the Olympics. Here’s what he had to say:
“Every year I’ve been here, Alex has had a little bit of a stretch where he just can’t find the net and then the next thing you know once he gets one in, he gets ten in four games. That’s the way’s he’s been and this is his little funk. I expect him to come out of it very soon.” – An Ovechkin goal scoring slump? Coach Boudreau isn’t concerned
Will Ovi come out of the slump tonight? Will Sean Avery be an a-hole? Make sure to watch the game on CSN and follow the Russian Machine on Twitter for all your updates.
Also, below the jump are your must reads before tonight’s game. We will be referring to them as Puck Drops for now on!
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