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.
Ovechpunch! Ovechpunch! (Photo credit: Jim McIsaac)
On Wednesday, the Washington Capitals will take on the New York Rangers in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. The Caps haven’t faired well against New York this season, losing three out of four regular season games including 6-0 and 7-0 shutouts. In fact, the 7-0 shutout was so bad, Alex Ovechkin found it necessary to fight. However, that was then. This is now. Let’s take a look at the numbers to preview what should be an interesting matchup.
Photo credit: Rob Carr
Not all goals are created equal. A team scoring first has almost twice the win percentage of a team that trails first, while scoring an empty net goal almost always means the game was out of reach. But what about all the goals scored in between? Of all those goals that a player scores, how many contribute to victories and how vitally do they contribute?
SCOAR! (Photo credit: Chris O’Meara)
There was a zeitgeist surrounding the Washington Capitals’ visit to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s playground. The words we kept hearing were “must win,” which is great motivator even if it’s not objectively true. Still, the Caps seemed to take it to heart, bringing an effort to the game that reminds us– above all else– of the ’09-’10 version of the team. Not bad.
Red-hot Teddy Purcell scored on Tampa Bay’s first shot of the night, a 40-foot slapper to Varlamov’s weak side. On a 4v4 sequence that we’ll discuss later, Nicky Backstrom used some stick-to-it-iveness to even the score from the crease. Brooks Laich (!) piled on with a wizardly backhand top-shelfer set up by Mathieu Perreault. Alex Ovechkin put the visitors up 3-1 with his long-delayed return to the PPG stat column. Tampa’s Brett Clark kept the second period busy with a retaliatory powerplay tally. The third period found Nick Backstrom cleaning up an Ovechkin crash for his second of the night, and Jason Chimera recording an empty-netter. Caps beat Bolts 5-2. Wings, MFers.
The top line converts, but Ovechkin is pretty mellow. (Photo credit: Lou Capozzola)
I know a special place. A magical place. A place where the beer flows like wine. Where normal men are giants, and struggling hockey teams play like they’ve never been better. A place called Long Island.
The Washington Capitals spent the evening in that benign growth of land dangling unloved off the mainland. There they met the New York Islanders (29th in the league in… oh let’s just say everything). But the Caps didn’t play down to their competition. Instead they looked like the studs we know deep down they really are. But looks can be deceiving.
Nick Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin delivered a masterful possession that Jason Chimera finished off from the goal mouth. Backstrom then broke his 21-game goalless streak by cleaning up an Ovechkin rebound. On a rail, NYI’s Michael Grabner beat John Carlson’s coverage and Braden Holtby’s read to put the Islanders on the board, but the third period was scoreless. Caps beat Isles 2-1.
Jason Chimera’s bank shot off Bryan Elliott merits celebration. (Photo credit: Greg Fiume)
The Washington Capitals came back to earn a crucial win over the Ottawa Senators on a sleepy Sunday afternoon. The worst first period team in hockey, the Caps did nothing to shake off that label today. But a late-game effort kicked off by the team’s morale leader woke them up to snatch two much-needed standings points.
Only 72 seconds into the bout, Mike Fisher scored Ottawa’s only goal while Jeff Schultz wandered aimlessly behind the net. Forty six minutes later, forechecking Brooks Laich snatched a turnover from the slot, tying the game and rousing his team in the process. Forty five seconds later and just two ticks into a power play, John Carlson bombed Bryan Elliott for the go-ahead goal. And then Jason Chimera banked one off the goalie’s back for some insurance. Caps beat Sens 3-1.
Sorry. Had to cheer myself up somehow. (Photo credit: Macaulay Culkin)
Did you think Wednesday’s shutout loss to the Lightning was the nadir of the Washington Capitals’ season? Or maybe it was the 7-0 loss to the Rangers? Tonight’s defeat at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks might give those games company in the Awful Game Pantheon. Friends, these are the dark days. Feel free to stop reading now. Won’t hold it against you.
Matt Hendricks turned a great pass from Boyd Gordon into the night’s first goal. The Canucks combined Alexander Edler’s slapshot with a few screens to even it back up. On the power play, Christian Ehrhoff found an open spot in the slot to give the Canucks the lead, which they expanded via a giftwrapped breakaway for Daniel Sedin. Marcus Johansson gave Caps fans a fleeting delusion of optimism halfway through the third period, but the Caps didn’t catch up. Daniel Sedin snatched an empty netter, and that was it. Canucks beat Caps 4-2.
The Swedish War Machine. (Photo credit: Joel Auerbach)
The Washington Capitals better get used to playing on the road. With 22 of their remaining games away from Verizon Center, the boys have to play with the discipline that was lacking tonight in tonight’s date with the Florida Panthers. The second consecutive meeting between the southeast rivals was decorated with twelve minor penalties, six apiece. But it was the Caps and their uncanny ability to place those penalties at the worst possible times that cost them the game.
The Panthers could have taken the Caps out entirely with three early goals by Santorelli, Reasoner, and Booth– two of those tallies thanks to two-man advantages. But the Caps rallied back with a pretty give-and-go and by Marcus Johansson via Laich and a Mike Knuble wrister off an Alex Ovechkin pass. MoJo struck again in the third with the tying goal, a crash-the-net maneuver that compelled Tomas Vokoun to bobble and release the puck into the net. In overtime, Mike Green’s hook put the Caps once more at a disadvantage, which Dennis Wideman exploited. Narf. Panthers beat Caps 4-3 (OT).
That is how you do it! The Washington Capitals have done the unthinkable: playing two smart games back to back.
Who better to get us started that Andrew Gordon? His goal-crashing shot off a speedy Marcus Johansson pass was the night’s first goal and the first of Andrew’s NHL career. (We knew you could do it!) The Devils responded with a Patrik Elias whizzer from above the circles, expertly screened by former Cap Danius Zubrus. Hershey’s own Jay Beagle returned fire with a chip-in up close. On a breakaway. Jason Chimera brushed off a hook and converted. Alex Ovechkin pulled an honest-to-goodness statue-of-liberty play with John Carlson, who launched a neutrino puck into Marty Brodeur’s net. Finally, Mike Knuble gingerly diverted a Tom Poti shot for the free wings. Caps beat Devils 5-1.
Maybe Pinizzotto and Andrew Gordon can carpool together on their way down.
UPDATE 1PM: The good folks in the Capitals organization confirm that five players missed practice, and players are told to stay away if they’re feeling ill as a precaution.
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