Mon 18 Apr 2011
Forget everything that has been written about the magic of playoff beards because the Rangers are basking in “the Power of the Moustache” thanks to Brandon Dubinsky’s bank shot that propelled the Rangers to their Game 3 victory.
The only way that goal could have been more amazing was if The Moustache called the banks off Karl Alzner’s back and Alexander Ovechkin’s stick.
The Rangers victory on Sunday sets up a critical Game 4 on Wednesday. While it still might be too early for a “must-win” game, it is not too early for a “really-need-to-win” game. The last thing the Rangers want to do is head back to the Verizon Center facing elimination. However, the Capitals might be feeling even more pressure to win on Wednesday.
A Game 4 loss could cause flashbacks for the Capitals. After coming off a three- games-to-one deficit to defeat the Rangers in 2009, Washington proceeded to blow a two-games-to-none lead against the Pittsburgh Penguins as they lost in seven games.
In 2010, Washington frittered away a three-games-to-one lead as the Montreal Canadiens came back to win in seven games.
Lost in all of the talk of the Rangers perseverance in Game 3 was a pair of game-saving defensive plays. With about seven minutes left in the second period, Marcus Johansson’s scoring opportunity after a Rangers power play was thwarted by a Dan Girardi shot block.
The second huge defensive play came six and half minutes into the third period when Ruslan Fedotenko’s diving backcheck broke up a Capitals’ two-on-one with Ovechkin and John Carlson.
Another unsung play was made by Marc Staal on the Rangers second goal. His ability to get his point shot over a sliding Matt Bradley, and on goal, was the key to Vinny Prospal’s rebound goal.
Even Erik Christensen and Brian Boyle deserve credit on the Rangers first goal as the Blueshirts finally got some traffic in front of Michal Neuvirth and the Rangers had a player get a shot on net.
Speaking of Boyle, you have to love his work as the center on the “Pest Line” with Sean Avery and Brandon Prust. They are the reverse “Bash Brothers” from the old Disney Ducks movies. I say reverse because it is the Rangers smaller guys who are the physical players as opposed to the bigger guys in the movies.
The Rangers definitely made a more concerted effort to crowd Neuvirth in an attempt to solve the young netminder.
“Every scrum in front of our net, they were hitting our goalie,” Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau told Tracee Hamilton of The Washington Post. “They [the officials] kept warning them not to do it, did nothing about it, so they kept doing it.”
So what was the difference in Game 3 as opposed to the first two games?
“We scored some goals. I don’t think we did much different. I thought we got to the blue a little better today,” Coach John Tortorella admitted in the post-game press conference. “Again, it’s a tight-checking game. The chances are hard to come by both teams. We found a way to score a goal, a couple of goals here. There’s no magic potion. We played the same way we want to play. We just scored three, they scored two.”
As the Rangers look forward to Game 4, they are going to need to continue crowding Neuvirth while finding a way to hit the net when they have open shots.
One interesting point during the game was made by Ed Olczyk who kept hammering home the point how Neuvirth was extremely reluctant to come out of his net to play the Rangers dump-ins. The Blueshirts might want to use that to their advantage by getting the puck in deep and going to work on the Capitals defense with an aggressive forecheck.
The defense is going to have continue being more active in the offense, but it is a Catch-22 situation because the blueliners have to be careful to pick their spots and the forward have to be ready to cover the defensive zone if needed.
Speaking of Catch-22 situations, the Caps first goal came as a result of the Rangers losing track of Ovechkin. The second goal came as Girardi focused in on Ovechkin to the point that Staal was left in front to defend three Caps.
Part of the way the Rangers can increase their offensive output is to be quicker in their transition game so that they can overcome the Capitals defensive system.
Obviously, if the referees are going to start clamping down and handing out more penalties, the Rangers must be careful during the post-whistle scrums. Far too often the referees will call the retaliation as opposed to the initiation.
While Boudreau and some of his players lamented the number of calls that went against the Capitals, forward Matt Hendricks managed to put it all in perspective while issuing a warning for both teams as they head to Game 4 on Wednesday night.
“A lot of them, obviously, we were guilty,” Hendricks said to Katie Carrera of The Washington Post. ”We’ve just gotta really watch our sticks there. They’re calling them a little tight now in the playoffs, as everyone’s heard around the league we’ve just got to be a little more disciplined.”
Staying out the penalty box is one thing, but the Rangers power play has to find a way to have an impact on this series. The problem is that the Blueshirts inability to score with the man advantage is heightened by their inability to generate any consistent offense on the power play – something which saps the energy out of the Garden and stalls any Rangers momentum.
In addition to getting more traffic in front of Neuvirth, and finding a way to get more shots on net, the Rangers have to get more movement on their power play – both in terms of passing the puck and player movement.
On the Rangers first five-on-three power play, the Rangers spent the time looking to set up one perfect shot. The problem is that by standing around, the Blueshirts made it easier for the Capitals to defend. Puck movement plus player movement equals more open shooting lanes.
I guess it is time to once again address the 800-pound gorilla in the rink known as the War room in Toronto. The NHL made the correct call on the goal that was disallowed at the end of the second period. However, in this day and age, why doesn’t the league get the “official game clock” synched up with the clock in the arena and synched up with the network’s clock.
The biggest problem was that it took NBC an hour before they ever showed the NHL’s overhead camera shot with the official clock inserted. You can bet that the MSG Network would have had that shot up as soon as possible during the second intermission instead of waiting until late in third period.
While I am speaking of MSG, it is incomprehensible how they failed to show the Rangers post-game show immediately after Game 3. All we got was an abbreviated version before shuttling hockey out of the way for the New York Knicks pre-game show.
I understand that Cablevision and MSG see the Knicks as THE team; however, did we need to see the Knicks pre-game show, Game 1 of the Knicks-Celtics series, and the Knicks post-game show on BOTH MSG and MSG+.
Why didn’t the network simply show the full Rangers post-game show live on MSG+ while showing the Knicks on MSG? I know there are some cable subscribers that do not get MSG+, but it still makes no sense not to show it on MSG+ anyway.
Heck, if Cablevision, the Dolans and MSG were so adamant to show the Knicks on two channels (not to mention the fact the game was also on TNT with Marv Albert doing play-by-play), then why not just show the post-game show on MSG2?
What purpose does it serve to have the Knicks on two channels?
How can Ranger fans expect the Metropolitan area newspapers and media outlets give their team any respect when the Rangers own network and corporate bosses will not show them any respect?
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