The Caps had another great week, having earned five of a possible six points. Their opponents included the Panthers, Blue Jackets, and Devils. This week, they’ll take on the Senators and two division rivals in the Rangers and Penguins.
Photo by Amanda Bowen of RRBG Photography
12/22 vs. Ottawa
Power play: 19.7%
Penalty kill: 82.9%
5v5 Corsi-for: 47.4%
The Senators are coming off a highly inconsistent week in which they posted a 2-2-0 record. With losses to the Sabres and Habs and wins over the Devils and Ducks, it’s hard to tell what kind of performance the Sens will deliver on any given night. At present, they’ve got a 14-13-6 record, good for 34 points and seventh in the Atlantic Division.
Unsurprisingly, the Sens’ top scorers include Kyle Turris, Erik Karlsson, and Bobby Ryan. They also have decent secondary scoring in players like Clarke MacArthur, Mark Stone, and Alex Chiasson. In 20 games played, Craig Anderson has been phenomenal: he boasts a .930 SV% and 2.43 GAA. Special teams give these players a chance to shine–their PP and PK units are ranked 12th and 11th in the NHL, respectively.
The Sens have undergone a major change since they last faced the Caps: they have a new coach in Dave Cameron, who replaced Paul McLean earlier in December. As the Sens adjust to a new system, they give the Caps an opportunity to exploit weaknesses. The game is the Caps’ first at the Verizon Center in over a week and offers a chance to improve their home record (6-5-4). It’s also the first of a back-to-back, with the Caps playing at Madison Square Garden the following evening.
12/23 at Rangers
Power play: 16.3%
Penalty kill: 82.1%
5v5 Corsi-for: 49.4%
The Rangers have often been lauded as a strong defensive team–at the expense of their offense. A quick glance at their special teams–decent penalty kill and dreadful power play–might have you thinking it’s still 2012. So does a look at the standings, where the Rangers are nipping at the Caps’ heels in the Metro’s third-place battle. Earning two points is critical for the Caps, particularly as they face the Penguins (another division rival) later in the week.
It’s the first time the Caps and Rangers have played each other all season, and chippiness is all but guaranteed. Avoiding injury (particularly in fights!) will be essential for the Caps, who will inevitably drop the gloves in Saturday night’s contest against the Penguins. The Caps should aim to play a fast, physical game while limiting penalties-something that seems obvious, but that will be especially challenging against such a hated rival.
Scoring on Lundqvist is always a challenge, particularly with a solid defense limiting the number of shots allowed. There’s no better time for the Caps’ secondary scorers to contribute than this game. Throw in the Rangers’ five-game winning streak–with victories over the Penguins, Canucks, Oilers, Flames, and Hurricanes–and the Caps have a tough, but necessary, team to beat.
12/27 at Pittsburgh
Power play: 24.3%
Penalty kill: 86.1%
5v5 Corsi-for: 50.8%
As usual, the Penguins’ special teams rank among the League’s best. Their PDO is also incredibly high, and they’ve got decent puck possession numbers. Oh, and Marc-Andre Fleury is having an incredibly strong season. Read: there’s a reason the Pens are at the top of their division and are a strong team even beyond the confines of the Metro (22-6-4 record, good for 48 points–second only to the Ducks.)
It’s been a while since the Caps beat their archrivals, a feat they never accomplished under Adam Oates. However, none of their recent meetings have been particularly tame. All things considered, it won’t be shocking if Wilson and Latta put their fists to use. Regardless of who ends up in the penalty box, special teams likely won’t win the game for either team. (However, the Caps’ penalty kill is 27th overall, so drawing penalties instead of taking them is highly advisable.)
The Penguins aren’t a dominant puck possession team (in fact, they rank behind the Caps at the time of writing), but they’ve sustained their success thus far. Despite an insane number of injuries, the Penguins have managed to keep their high-powered offense afloat. They’re a good benchmark team for the Caps to face, even if they’re missing several key parts of their lineup.
Blocked shots quickly became a major storyline in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals as New York Rangers skaters opened the series by stopping 26 of the New Jersey Devils’ shot attempts in Game 1 before they could make it through to goalie Henrik Lundqvist (stat via ESPN.com). Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said about Lundqvist’s play, “I saw him [only] about 10 minutes of the game because there were so many Ranger players in front of him.”
Anytime I see discussions about shot blocking, particularly in the playoffs, it sends me back to the 2010 first round series between Montreal and Washington, in which the eighth-seeded Canadiens knocked off the top-seeded Caps in seven games.
@TedStarkey I credit the Montreal Canadians of 2010 for the block party.—
Mike Holden (@mikeholden) May 17, 2012
Montreal blocked 182 shots in those seven games against the Caps, for an average of 26 per game. The 2010 Presidents’ Trophy winning Capitals led the series 3-1 before the Canadiens came back to win three straight, with shot blocking playing perhaps the biggest role I’ve ever seen it play in a series.
As WashingtonCaps.com Senior Writer Mike Vogel wrote in 2010 following Game 7:
“Washington fired 94 shots to Montreal’s 38 in Game 7. Only 42 of Washington’s shots were on goal; the Canadiens blocked a whopping 41, which was more than Montreal teed up on the entire night. The Caps also missed 11 shots. In the final three games of the series, the Habs blocked 83 shots. The Canadiens had just 66 shots on goal of their own in the same three games.”
94 shots by the Caps in that Game 7! That includes 41 that never made it to goaltender Jaroslav Halák because a Montreal player got in the way first. That still blows my mind.
26 blocks in Game 1 against the Devils is something the Rangers—who then had 16 blocks in Game 2—can be proud of. But the 2010 first round shot blocking performance by Montreal against the Caps, particularly the 41 in Game 7, still might be the best block party ever.
- Rangers block fewer shots in loss (nypost.com)
- Rangers’ Girardi, McDonagh more than just shot blockers (sports.nationalpost.com)
- Capitals, Rangers and their shot-blocking: Troubling sign for the NHL playoffs? (sports.yahoo.com)
Throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs, fans have been seen in TV shots flipping opposing players the bird after a goal. But it’s rare that you see the players fire one back, which is what it appears Dan Girardi and Michael Del Zotto of the New York Rangers are doing here to this fan in Washington after last night’s three-overtime victory.
I wonder if hockey commentator Don Cherry will label Girardi and Del Zotto, both from Ontario, ‘good Canadian boys’ or criticize this behavior as “goofy stuff” like he did when Alex Ovechkin did such highly offensive things as excitedly jumping into the glass to celebrate goals. We’ll wait to hear from Cherry on this.
- Dale Hunter’s reaction to penalty call in OT on Alexander Semin (brookslaichyear.com)
- Caps-Rangers preview: The New York Rangers Blog answers our questions (brookslaichyear.com)
- Washington Capitals fall to New York Rangers in Game 3 on Marian Gaborik’s goal in the third overtime (washingtonpost.com)
This is going to be a quick post, with a few tweets and thoughts on what seems to be the sports story of the day in DC and beyond: Alex Ovechkin’s ice time in Game 2 versus the New York Rangers last night.
A few of mine from this morning…
They don't put individual player stats (including ice time) on the Stanley Cup. I'm fan of DH32 doing whatever it takes in each game to win.—
Mike Holden (@mikeholden) May 01, 2012
Odd how people felt inmates ran asylum w/ Bruce & Ovi's shifts were too long etc, yet now DH manages bench differently & people fuss. #Caps—
Mike Holden (@mikeholden) May 01, 2012
@pfholden It deserves attention (though Ovi isn't only Young Gun who saw less ice time), but I don't find it to be a big issue if it works.—
Mike Holden (@mikeholden) May 01, 2012
One from Mike Vogel after the game last night…
Eagerly awaiting stories on Backstrom's reduced ice time, lowest of 45-game SC playoff career. I'm sure everyone asked him about it. Right?—
Mike Vogel (@VogsCaps) May 01, 2012
And a couple of mine from after the game…
@BradenOwen_92 only DH32 knows for sure but likes to linematch, is playing defensive grind-it-out system & 8 is defensive liability at times—
Mike Holden (@mikeholden) May 01, 2012
@BradenOwen_92 one of the upsides is this keeps him more rested for those times when you do need to lean on him more.—
Mike Holden (@mikeholden) May 01, 2012
One way to look at this: it often feels good when you don’t need to go to your closer to win a baseball game, knowing he’ll then be better rested the next time you need him. If the Caps get involved in another long series or make a deep playoff run, keeping your players from getting too banged up is usually a good thing.
See the chart at the bottom of this article from The Globe and Mail for a look at Ovechkin’s minutes for every playoff game he’s played:http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/globe-on-hockey/alex-ovechkin-the-role-player/article2418893/
Ovechkin’s ice time last night is an interesting story, but I don’t see it as an issue right now.
This morning, we asked Caps fans on Twitter, “what is one thing the team must do differently in Game 2?” Here’s some of what we got back:
@brookslaichyear play like game 7 every game from here on out until we win the cup
— Steve Cook (@SCO0K) April 30, 2012
@brookslaichyear Get more pucks to the net, try to force some bad rebounds by Lundqvist, put a bit more pressure on him.
— Lucaslee Chatterson (@LJSwims5) April 30, 2012
@brookslaichyear Use armor-piercing pucks to defeat the posts.
— Boston Capitals (@BostonCapitals) April 30, 2012
@brookslaichyear Holtby needs to stay focused, even if a lot of pucks don’t come his way!
— ~Eileen~ (@kittileen) April 30, 2012
— Hugo Гузман (@LAICHaBOSS21) April 30, 2012
Here’s one from my brother and fellow BrooksLaichyear blogger…
@brookslaichyear How about F’s need to support D when D gets beaten down low instead of standing 2 feet away and watching. (coughovechkin)
— Patrick Holden (@pfholden) April 30, 2012
And there’s the obvious one I’d expect we might get…
— Ben Mellott (NBN) (@NBNStudios) April 30, 2012
…but then some more detail…
@brookslaichyear Screen The King, get dirty. Defense has been good, control the puck offensively to limit chances against.
— Nate Hewitt (@nphewitt) April 30, 2012
Thanks to everyone who responded.
- How Caps fans are feeling after Game 1 (brookslaichyear.com)
To get you ready for the Caps-Rangers series that kicks off on Saturday at 3, we exchanged questions with Kevin from The New York Rangers Blog. Below are Kevin’s answers to our questions. Visit their blog to see our answers to Kevin’s questions.
Other than Ryan Callahan, since I assume he’d be the obvious answer, who is the player that most embodies what this Rangers team is all about?
Dan Girardi. The Rangers are a blue collar team that is willing to do the dirty work to get the job done. And no player does it better than Girardi. He is fearless on the ice. He’ll throw a big hit along the boards, get to the front of the net to block a shot then bust it up the ice to assist with the offense. Similar to the rest of his teammates he brings that lunch pail mentality to the rink every night. Oh yeah, and he’s a pretty darn good player as evidenced by his All Star nod.
What do you think of Chris Kreider so far?
While I expected to see some great things from Chris Kreider in the playoffs, I never dreamed he’d be dominating a Game 7 in just his fifth NHL contest. His speed is deadly. There were times in Game 7 against Ottawa where it seemed like there were three of him out there. His ability to track down pucks gave the Rangers additional puck position at key moments in third period. He’s also a sniper who will bury his opportunities. But to me the most impressive part of this kid is his character. He is very humble, is willing to learn and knows his role. John Tortorella has mentioned numerous times that Kreider won’t be intimidated by the moment. Which has been proved by his two NCAA National Championships with Boston College and his Game 7 performance Thursday night. Can you think of a more pressure situation for a young player to be thrown into? He’s been unflappable.
What is the biggest difference between this Ranger team and the one the Caps knocked out last year?
Confidence. I don’t think you’re going to see a much different game plan from last year’s series. The Rangers are very comfortable playing a low scoring, defensive oriented game. While that’s the strategy of almost every team in playoffs, the Rangers feel they’re the best at it. Last year as the #8 seed they were just happy to be in the playoffs, get their young guys some experience and hope for an upset. This year, they’re thinking Stanley Cup and are confident they have the horses to do it. They have a great mix of veteran leadership and youthful enthusiasm. Helps to have Henrik Lundqvist playing at an All World level as well.
You guys made the biggest move in free agency last offseason by signing Brad Richards. Has he been living up to his contract?
Numbers wise Richards did not live up to his nine-year, $60 million contract. He finished the season with just 66 points despite playing in all 82 games which was his lowest output since 2007-08 when he had 62 points in 74 games. He did make his points count, however, as he led the team with eight game winning goals. Having said that, Richards’ worth to this Rangers team isn’t measured by points. The influence he’s had on the development of young players such as Derek Stepan and Michael Del Zotto has proved to be invaluable and will have a positive impact on the Rangers franchise for the next decade. His leadership on and off the ice has been noticeable all season and they would not be the same team without him.
Shouldn’t Brian Boyle have answered the bell again Matt Carkner? I’m not condoning what Carkner did, but it seems like the unwritten rule is that Boyle should have accepted the challenge.
I think Brian Boyle would have answered the bell if Matt Carkner challenged him face-to-face like a man instead of jumping him like a coward. Which was proved later on in the period when he excepted Chris Neil’s invitation to dance.
Troy Brouwer’s game winning goal in Saturday’s Game 6 for the Caps in Boston…
…was reminiscent of this Game 7 game winner in 2009 by Sergei Fedorov for Washington against the New York Rangers:
How loud was Verizon Center in the closing minutes of Thursday’s Game 4?
The decibel meter hit 116 at one point, says Caps fan @VeggieTart. Former Caps VP of Communications Nate Ewell tweeted, “Can’t imagine it was Feds vs NYR loud at Verizon Center but that sounded pretty impressive, Caps fans.” Goat, the fan who leads Verizon Center in “Let’s Go Caps” chants, tweeted back, “It was pretty damn close. My ears haven’t warbled like they did tonight (before that last push) in a very long time.”
I was at the Game 7 against the Rangers mentioned above (the loudest sporting event I’ve ever been a part of), but wasn’t in the building last night. My father was in the 400 Level of Verizon Center for both games and he texted, “Almost but no,” when I asked him if the building was as loud last night as it was for that 2009 game.
Were you at these games? Tweet your thoughts to @brookslaichyear or add a comment below.
- Four years ago today: Alex Ovechkin’s first NHL playoff goal and Caps fans (brookslaichyear.com)