Mon 27 Apr 2009
Where do we begin? I guess I could start the explanation with the “ifs and buts” of Game 6 – the points Sunday where the game could changed if a play went the Rangers way but didn’t.
The first one occurred when Donald Brashear ended Blair Betts afternoon with a shot to the head – the kind of play the NHL has supposedly staked out a “zero tolerance” stance. Instead of the Rangers getting a five-minute major (much like the ones called against Colton Orr this year), the Blueshirts and Capitals ended up skating four-one-four after Paul Mara and Brashear draw matching minors.
Betts’s loss is felt as Washington goes ahead for good as Mike Green’s scores his first goal of the playoffs on a shot similar to the one Henrik Lundqvist yielded to Milan Jurcina to open the scoring. The Capitals ended up with a pair of goals in seven minutes, pretty much putting an end to Game 6.
The second one occurred nine minutes into the second period when Nikolai Zherdev had Simeon Varlamov down and out of position, but went wide on his backhand attempt. For the second time at Madison Square Garden, the Capitals capitalized on a Ranger miss at one end to score at the other end. Instead of the game being 3-2, Viktor Kozlov’s goal made it 4-1 and did put an end to Game 6.
Of course, if I started my explanation with Game 6 with those two parts of the game, I would be overlooking the bigger picture. The New York Rangers are now a team that is hopelessly lost. They are a team that has completely reverted to their old ways of not being able to recover from an adversity. Washington is playing like a team that knows it has its opponent on the ropes. Right now the Capitals like look a bunch of great white sharks circling a wounded seal.
Despite whatever the players said following the game, their expressions during the game spoke louder than their words. During a break in the second period to fix the glass, the NBC cameras panned the Blueshirts bench and they did literally look like “dead team skating”.
Frankly, the Brashear hit on Betts shows (literally and figuratively) can do whatever they want to the Rangers without worrying about retribution. The bottom line is that the Capitals are toying with the Rangers.
The Brashear hit should, once and for all, show why Colton Orr has to be in the Rangers lineup – especially when the likes of the Brashears of the world are also in the lineup. While Orr may or may not have dissuaded Brashear, you can bet your last dollar that he would not have gotten away with it if Orr was in the lineup. Perhaps some old time hockey retribution might have prevented the Rangers collapse following the loss of Betts.
Interim coach for the day Jim Schoenfeld called out some players on his team for not being ready to give it their all to end the series at the Garden.
“We had some guys who were locked in and ready to go, and we had some other guys who wanted to test the water,” he said to Rick Carpiniello of the Journal News.
John Tortorella spoke earlier in the series about the need for the Rangers big players to step up. While Rangers nation is waiting for that to happen, they are not getting a lot of contributions from their support players on offense – something the Capitals are getting in spades.
“You have to get scoring from everyone in the playoffs,” Tom Poti told Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post. “You can’t have your big guys scoring night in and night out. You have to have your grinder and your role players score some goals, too.”
The problem with the Rangers is they are pretty much a team made up of grinders and don’t have any big scoring guys to rely upon. Even with Alexander Ovechkin and Mike Green starting score, in the last two games the Rangers have been beaten by the likes of Matt Bradley, Jurcina and Poti (a goal and three assists).
The Rangers are at a point where every mistake (physical or mental) is being taken advantage of by the Capitals. Zherdev follows up a Derek Morris turnover with a turnover of his own that leads to Jurcina’s goal.
Washington makes it 3-1 directly following a Rangers power play as Marc Staal gets caught pinching at the end of the man advantage and forgets about Poti coming out of the penalty box.
It is no coincidence that the beating the Rangers psyche has taken has coincided with Henrik Lundqvist’s inability to be The King. While Game 5 could be explained away by his teammates poor play, Game 6 is squarely on Lundqvist’s shoulders.
If you listen to the NBC announcers, the Capitals have discovered a flaw in Henrik’s game and are shooting high to the glove side. Quick memo to NBC, you can pretty much beat any goaltender high to the glove side if you places your shots properly. Take it from me I know because I have given up my share of those goals. Lundqvist has a propensity to give up these goals because he is a butterfly goaltender and you beat butterfly goaltenders with high shots.
Ryan Callahan beat Varlamov high to the glove side for the Rangers second goal of the afternoon. Does that mean the Rangers have found the rookie goalie’s flaw or was it just a good shot that beat a good goaltender?
The problem with Lundqvist is his facing the same dilemma that all goaltenders go through. When goalies are off their game, they tend to fight the puck because they are trying to do too much in order to right themselves. In Lundqvist’s sake, he is reverting to the butterfly too fast in an attempt to make saves. As a result, he starts battling the puck and looking “to find the puck” rather than being in position and letting the puck find him.
“It is not a fun feeling to sit there [on the bench] knowing that, obviously, you want to be on the ice,” Lundqvist explained to Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post. “It is hockey. It happens. You just have to deal with it. I have to look over the game and see what I can do better.”
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