Mon 13 May 2013
The New York Rangers all did their mother’s proud on Sunday as they turned in their best effort of the playoffs – with Mamma Lundqvist and Mamma Brassard smiles shining the brightest.
However, the NHL didn’t do either team any favors as there will be no rest for the weary as the Rangers and Capitals return to the ice for a seventh and deciding game about 25 hours after Game 6 ended. It might not be the ideal situation, but it is one that Rangers Coach John Tortorella believes the players need to embrace.
“If I am a player, I want to play right away,” Tortorella explained in his post-game press conference. “The regular season crap means nothing. You make your legacy in these games. You see what kind of character you have as a player and a team.”
The quick turnaround time might prove to be the one chance a team has to carry the momentum over from game to another. If the Rangers are able to get off to another quick start they can go a long way to help neutralize the Caps home ice advantage.
In the end, the next game’s momentum is only as good as the next game’s goaltenders.
Henrik Lundqvist’s legacy does not need to be built – he is merely adding on to an already impressive resume. It is players like Derick Brassard who are embracing hockey’s biggest stage. After struggling to find his playoff legs during the first two games, Brassard has scored seven points during the last four games.
You have to love Brassard whether it was his brutal honesty or naiveté of youth when he said that his game-winning goal came as a result of listening to the Garden crowd’s chant of “Shoot”.
The one thing that was overlooked on his goal was Brassard’s slight hesitation before he shot the puck. Brassard’s delay was just enough to open up a shooting lane. It also didn’t hurt that Rick Nash was camped out in front of Braden Holtby.
If the Rangers want to win their first Game 7 on the road after five defeats, the Rangers need to replicate what they did on that goal – especially on the power play. The Rangers need to find ways to open up shooting lanes and get traffic in front of Holtby – especially on the power play.
As you can see, I am stressing the Rangers need to find ways to score – especially on the power play. Game 6 was the first time that the winning team did not score a power play goal. The Rangers can’t continue to fritter away power plays – especially those of the five-on-three variety.
The Rangers power play needs success on a dual-level. The obvious first level is to start producing goals. The second level is finding ways to maintain momentum on those man advantages when they don’t score. During Game 6, the Rangers power play failed on both levels.
It is kind of amazing that the Rangers could be so aggressive during five-on-five play and then become so passive on the power play. More often than not, the Rangers power play appears to be five guys standing around waiting for a bus. There needs to be more player movement and more MEANINGFUL puck movement. Merely passing the puck from the left point to the right point is not going to get it done.
If the Rangers keep a man in front of the net at all times, it will force one of the Capitals defensemen to play the man. That would turn the man advantage into a pseudo four-on-three – which opens up the ice and should help open up the shooting lanes.
Okay, as my wife Roe would say, the horse is already dead and buried so there is no need to keep beating it.
Speaking of beating dead horses, the Capitals are sounding the drums of discontent concerning the way the series has been called – with the five power plays to none advantage the Rangers ahead being one of the main topics of conversation. The other was the charge that Mike Green’s cross-checking penalty was a result of Derek Dorsett’s slew-foot attempt.
“That play to me is the one that does concern me because it looked like a slew-foot to me and obviously that’s why Mike reacted,” Oates said following the game. “Mike’s not that type of player, and you’re watching it. To me it looks like a slew-foot. Very dangerous play. Greenie’s one of those guys that they want to target, but to me, that’s a very dangerous play.”
In her game story in the Washington Post, Katie Carrera offered this definition of a slew-foot: “The Capitals said Dorsett slew-footed Green, which is when a player uses his legs or feet to knock an opponent’s feet out from under him.”
$100 to the first person who can provide me with tape that shows Dorsett knocking Green’s feet out from under him. Of course, I am not going to have to pay out that Benjamin because it did not happen – regardless of what Oates, Braden Holtby, or Joe Micheletti opine.
I am sure that this quote from Dorsett didn’t help the post-game meal go down any easier.
“In the postseason, they’re letting us play a little bit too,” Dorsett told Stephen Whyno of The Washington Times. “You’ve just got to make sure you don’t retaliate and just play hard and try to get under their skin.”
If you watch the play, Green begins to initiate contact and is in the process of shouldering off Dorsett. As he is doing that, Dorsett’s left leg comes off the ice as he crashes into the boards. Was he going to attempt a slew-foot? The only person who knows that is Dorsett, but the bottom line is that he didn’t knock Green down.
Funny, but I don’t remember Oates or the Capitals complaining about the referees catching the retaliation when Brian Boyle slashed Mike Ribeiro after he was cross-checked in Game 5, nor do I remember the Capitals putting up much of a fuss when Jason Chimera fast-washed Ryane Clowe into the glass earlier in that very same Game 5.
Frankly, Green and the capitals should be relieved that Green didn’t get four minutes for that cross-check because he did draw blood.
Honestly, if Washington is going to harp on how they are having to battles the Rangers and the officials, then the Blueshirts task of winning Game 7 is half complete.
Yes, Washington has been whistled for 31 penalties as compared to the Rangers 19, but there is one thing to remember – the Rangers were the least-penalized team in the NHL during the regular season (averaging 9.2 PIM per game).
As loud as the Capitals were in voicing their displeasure over the officiating, Comcast SportsNet analyst Alan May, a former Capital, really let one of the officials have it. According to Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post, May offered the following assessment via Twitter: “1st Star today for Rangers #25 referee Marc Joannette, even worse today than he was at MSG Wednesday.”
Here are my random Ramblings from Game 6:
• As tough as it is on the Rangers and Capitals having to play Games 6 and 7 on back-to-back nights, how do you think the Boston Bruins feel? Mechanical problems with their charter plane forced them to spend the night in Toronto and fly home this morning. In the mean time, the Toronto Maple leafs spent the night in Boston.
• Okay, let’s get all of the negative numbers out of the way. The Rangers have lost 10 of their last 11 playoff games at the Verizon Center. The King is only 3-10 in Washington in the post-season – the same record he has in playoff overtime games. Conversely, Holtby is 5-0 in home playoff games. The Blueshirts have twice rallied from a 3-2 series deficit to win (1994 against New Jersey and 2012 against Ottawa); however, in both cases Game 7 was at MSG.
• You know the games are getting more intense and important when you see Alex Ovechkin hit the ice twice to block shots on the same shift. Ovie revved up his engines last night as he fired five shots on goal – compared to the three shots he managed in Games 3 and 4.
• Green’s cross-checking penalty might have been born more out of frustration at his play that anything Dorsett did. Granted the Caps had no power plays, but Green was pretty invisible until the final moments of the game. By the way, big block by Brian Boyle on Green’s point shot with 25 seconds left in the game.
• Ovechkin wasn’t the only superstar who stepped up his play. Rick Nash was more active in Game 6 than in any other game in the series. While he raised his level of play, you can see that Nash is still not 100% because he seems to be missing that extra gear. Still, it was Nash’s rush and screen that helped lead to Brassard’s goal.
• In the middle of such an important and intense game, Caps rookie Tom Wilson provided a light moment when he pretty much had to crawl back to his bench in the second period after having his skate blade break off.
• Speaking of the second period, it might have been one of the best periods of hockey all season. The Rangers have had all kinds of problems in the second period – allowing seven of Washington’s 12 goals in the second period (and that does not include the two overtime goals scored during the “long-change”).
• Washington is facing their straight seventh and deciding game. They defeated Boston in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals before losing to the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
• The Rangers face a bit of a Catch-22 in terms of shooting the puck. They have to find ways to hit the net more while avoiding all of those shots that are hitting Holtby in his chest. They might need to look to take wrist shots and try and pick corners rather than slap shots trying to overpower Holtby. In addition to creating traffic, they need to get Holtby moving one way and shooting back against the grain. Also, when they attempt wraparounds they need to get a better angle because he is doing a good job of holding tight on the post.
• The Blueshirts need to be active and aggressive on the forecheck from the opening whistle. They have to look to make plays at all times, most importantly in their own end. They are still being too passive in terms of clearing the puck during battles at the blue line. While it didn’t cost them a goal on Sunday, it did lead to Ovechkin’s thundering hit on Dan Girardi.
• If the key to real estate is location, location, and location, the key to tonight’s game will be faceoffs, faceoffs, and faceoffs. After a poor Game 5, for the most part, the Rangers responded well in Game 6. They lost at least 10 seconds after losing the faceoff on their five-on-three power play. Winning faceoffs will help the Rangers manage the tempo of the game and help derail the power plays the Capitals will get tonight.
• The last word goes to Officer Steven McDonald: “We need one play, one shift, one block, and a goal to make this game and this season a memorable one … so get it done!”