Sat 11 May 2013
Coach John Tortorella can call Game 6 whatever he wants. However, whether he wants to admit or not, his Rangers have their backs to the wall in a must-win, do-or-die, now-or-never, please-fill-in-your-own-sports-cliché elimination game.
“I don’t consider it an elimination game, we’re trying to win one game,” Tortorella told Andrew Gross of The Record. “I’m not going to even use that word. Again, we’ve bounced back. Guys that haven’t been in it, it’s an opportunity; that’s the way they have to look at it. So we’ll go home and try to win a game.”
In trying to win Game 6, Tortorella should show his team the first 19 minutes of the game and the 10:36 of overtime because they pretty much did not bother to show up for the second and third periods – outside of Henrik Lundqvist. It would be most interesting to see how much more the Vezina Trophy nominee could accomplish with a little help from his friends. As crazy at it might seem Lundqvist is 3-10 in the playoffs in overtime.
“Frustrating and disappointing, but it’s not over,” Lundqvist lamented to Dan Rosen of nhl.com. “We have to go home and regroup. It’s going to be a tough couple hours and then you just forget about it.”
The Blueshirts got the quick start they needed 53 second into the game when Brian Boyle buried Derick Brassard’s centering pass for a 1-0 lead. The quick start allowed the Rangers to carry over the momentum they built up in the games at Madison Square Garden. But as well as they played in that first period, there were ominous signs ahead following their goal in the game’s first minute.
In a replay of Game 1, the Rangers never managed to find a way to extend their precarious one-goal lead – even though they had their chances. The Ranger squandered two first period power plays and saw Derek Dorsett and Carl Hagelin denied on breakaways with Hagelin’s attempt disrupted by a trip by a John Erskine trip.
While they dodged a bullet when Anton Stralman returned to action after suffering some type of leg injury, they were not so lucky when Jason Chimera rammed Ryane Clowe into the boards. The subsequent power play was little consolation as Clowe never returned and his status for Game 6 is up in the air. Joe Micheletti later said that it appeared to be a head or wrist injury. Given that Clowe was coming off a concussion and his head did hit the glass, it is probably a good bet that Clowe has suffered another concussion.
Despite all of that going against them, the Rangers had a 1-0 lead after the first period. However, a seemingly innocent flurry of shots at the end of the first period by the Caps would prove to be the momentum changer for the game – and possibly the series.
Down a goal, the Capital intensity, urgency and physical play picked up and the Rangers never managed to match the caps until the start of overtime. By that time, it was too late. The aggressive and confident Rangers team from the last seven periods of hockey was replaced by a passive team content to let their all-world goaltender carry them to victory.
Much like Game 1, Friday night’s game turned on special teams play. While the Rangers continued to kill two minutes while on the power play, the potent Washington power play tied the score.
The Rangers mantra coming into this series was to stay out of the penalty box and avoid taking bad penalties like the plague. However, after wearing the hero’s garland for about 27 minutes of playing time, Boyle donned the goat’s horns with his retaliatory penalty against Mike Ribeiro. Not only did Boyle’s penalty put the Capitals on the power play, it killed a possible four-on-two rush for the Rangers.
“It’s a dumb penalty and you don’t kill those off,” Tortorella said to Rosen. “That’s a guy that is playing really well for us, but it’s a dumb penalty.”
As stupid a penalty as it was, and it was a stupid penalty, it was a case where both players should have gone to the penalty box because Ribeiro obviously cross-checked Boyle – a fact that he fessed up to.
“I went to the net, he fell down, I cross-checked him, he turned around and give me a good whack on my calves,” Ribeiro admitted to Stephen Whyno of The Washington Times.
Joel Ward’s power play goal proved to be a chance at a Game 5 redemption because just a little more than a year ago Ward was the goat in the Capitals Game 5 loss to the Rangers at the Garden on May 7, 2012. His double-minor for high-sticking led to Brad Richards tying goal with 6.6 second left in regulation and Marc Staal’s game-winner in OT.
“Wardo’s a horse,” Karl Alzner said to Rich Campbell of The Washington Times. “He’s a playoff performer. I think that’s the main reason why we got him here.”
If the Rangers second period was bad, the third period was worse as they were outshot 13-4 in the final 20 minutes – and that is as result of a “flurry” of three shots in the final two minutes.
The biggest surprise of the night had to be the way the two teams approached overtime. Rather than be content to sit back and wait for the other team to make a mistake, both teams attacked early and often. The Rangers were way more engaged offensively in overtime then they were in the second and third periods. One has to wonder how the game would have turned if they showed that type of energy and urgency in the second and third periods.
The Rangers caught a bad break on the winning goal when John Moore blocked Mike Green’s shot from the point. The young defenseman was hurt momentarily, but it was just enough for him to be late to cover Ribeiro who was able to convert on the loose puck on Alzner’s shot from the point.
It is a lesson the Rangers forwards should heed – you need to be in front of the net (and facing the net) to bang home rebounds.
Here are my random Ramblings from Game 5:
• The Rangers must find a way to combat the “long-change” curse that has haunted them in this series. Seven of the Caps 12 goals have been scored in the second period – when both teams have to skate to the other end of the ice to change lines. When you factor in the overtimes, the number balloons to nine of 12 goals during the “long-change”.
• I have come to the conclusion that Rick Nash is hurt. I know that Washington is blanketing him like the Rangers are blanketing Alex Ovechkin, but all of these incessant spinorama attempts are most telling. Nash is not using his size and skating to drive to the net, nor is he snapping off his strong wrist shot. Either his leg, wrist or a combination of both are hurting him.
• The Blueshirts have no chance at extending the series to a seventh game if Nash, Ryan Callahan and Brad Richards do not elevate their games. Enough with the secondary scorers leading the way. There is a reason these guys are paid what they paid and why they wear letters on their jerseys and putting up a big effort in Game 6 9and Game 7) is that reason.
• If the Rangers want to win Game 6 (and Game 7) they better score a power play goal. The winning team as scored a power play goal in each game. It makes sense when you consider how close the games are. 10 of the last 11 playoff games between the Capitals and Rangers have been decided by one goal – with four of those games going to overtime. The Rangers are 5-5 in those 10 games.
• The more the Rangers struggle with the man advantage, the more liberties Washington is going to take without fear or giving up a goal.
• With Clowe out of the lineup, Tortorella has a decision to make. Does he insert Kris Newbury to give the fourth line a center or does he go for the high-risk/high-reward offensive style of play of Chris Kreider. My decision would be to roll the dice and go with the offensive Kreider and give him a regular shift. Odds are Torts will go with Newbury and the more responsible defensive player.
• Newbury might not be a bad idea given how horrible the Rangers were on faceoffs in Game 5 – losing 42 of 72 draws.
• Ultimately, the Game 5 loss is my responsibility. For the first time in the series I decided to write and post a game preview – thus changing the mojo of the series. Don’t worry it will not happen again because my wife has already read me the riot act
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