Friday, April 15, 2011

Rangers Lose Game 2 2-0, Capitals Gain 2-0 Control of Series

The New York Rangers fell behind 2-0 in their first round series against the Washington Capitals following a 2-0 defeat in Game 2.  The effort tonight was better in the first and third period than most of the game on Wednesday, but the problem is that you have to play a full 60 minutes in the playoffs if you actually want to win the games.  There is also that pesky fact of needing to score in order to win.  After generating only one goal and 25 shots in Game 1, the Rangers offense only had 22 shots and could not beat Michal Neuvirth who recorded his first career postseason shutout.  The Rangers have responded well to adversity all season and now that will be tested again as they look to hold home ice and get into the series on Sunday afternoon.  The difference between 2-1 and 3-0 in a series goes without saying and the Rangers will either put their say on this series Sunday afternoon or likely start saying their goodbyes to the 2010-11 year.

The Rangers played a good first period tonight and carried the play for much of the first 20 minutes.  The play was tough and physical, which is exactly the way the Rangers need it to be because it allowed them to establish their forecheck and hold puck possession.  They had their chances to score whether it be Erik Christensen missing from point blank range or Gaborik having a couple of good rushes in rout to his three shot first period.  The power play was still ineffective late in the first and nearly cost the Rangers a goal when Brooks Laich broke down with Mike Knuble, but Knuble fanned on the shot to end the period tied at 0-0.

Following that strong first they played an awful second period.  The Capitals came out early with a raised level and the Rangers had no answer.  Just 2:11 into the period Jason Chimera scored the first on a beautiful passing play that saw the puck move seamlessly from Laich to Johannson and then Chimera.  The key to the play was Laich beating Gilroy behind the net.

Ryan McDonagh took his second penalty of the game just 48 seconds after the Chimera goal.  The call on McDonagh was extremely weak, but that doesn’t matter once the call is made.  Good call or bad it is up to the penalty kill to kill it off and they were unable to do that on this one.  With McDonagh in the box it meant that Matt Gilroy would be on the ice during the kill and as usual the puck finds the guy who probably shouldn’t be out there.  To be fair to Gilroy the play was unlucky, but Mike Green attempted to play the puck towards the net while the Capitals were on the power play, had it deflect off Matt Gilroy and right to Jason Arnott who buried it.  The two goals in 1:53 of action gave any Rangers fan watching the sense that the lead was going to be insurmountable given how the way the offense was going.

The Rangers were useless the rest of the second and other than the Avery, Boyle, Prust line producing chances in the third period no one did anything to threaten Neuvirth.  The fact that Neuvirth only had to make nine saves in the final 40 minutes of action shows you that the Rangers never truly deserved to win the game.

Avery, Boyle and Prust generated a number of chances in the third period, which gives hope in some sense that they will eventually find the back of the net, but also is a problem when that trio is your best or only threating offensive group.  Avery was good in his 10:22 of ice time, but was not really used significantly until the third period.

Gaborik was a threat in the first period, but after that he pulled a disappearing act and was not seen from again.  He is paid to score and he was not even a threat once Washington raised their level, which does not bode well for the team if that continues.

Rangers Offensive Leaders Must Answer the Call In Game 2

The New York Rangers played well enough defensively in Game 1 to take the series lead against the Washington Capitals, but the offense did not generate nearly enough to actually get the win.  The team only managed to generate 25 shots on goal.  While those numbers are lower because of the 32 blocked shots by the Capitals defense, of the 25 that hit the net likely only a handful truly tested Neuvirth. 

Playing their system better would certainly help the Rangers if they had more puck possession and were able to get traffic in front of Neuvirth and see just how ready he is for this stage.  Beyond that though, while the entire offense struggled, this is the time of year the guys you look to are your stars to provide the offense.  For Washington both goals came from Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin while Gaborik, and Dubinsky were held off the board for the Rangers.  That cannot continue if the Rangers are going to get Game 2 tonight and return home with a split.

Marian Gaborik played with good effort and created some chances, but at this time of the year there are no moral victories and he is judged by whether he finishes his chances with goals not just how he plays. The chance he had from point blank range in front, even if in his skates, is one that a player of his talent, and the team’s offensive struggles, has to finish. 

Brandon Dubinsky simply has to be better overall.  He played an ineffective game and never had a significant impact after Alex Ovechkin delivered a big hit on Dubinsky during the first period.  It was the kind of hit that sets the tone for the series and helps to fire up the troops for the Capitals while the Rangers played a reactive game for much of the night.  Dubinsky has been one of the leaders for the Rangers all season long, in all facets of the game and they need him to be that in this series.  If the Capitals stars are going to produce for them offensively, then the Rangers need to have their best offensive weapons respond in kind.

Video: Jarret Stoll Drives Ian White Head First Into Boards, Suspension Coming?

Late in the first period of Game 1 in San Jose, Los Angeles Kings forward Jarret Stoll drove Sharks defender Ian White into the boards head first with an elbow from behind.  No penalty was called on the play, but it was clearly one where a boarding penalty should have been assessed.  White was helped off the ice wobbly and did not return to the game with what is almost certainly a concussion.  The question now is whether Stoll will be suspended for the hit?

Here's the video:

It is unclear if the NHL will suspend him for the play, but Colin Campbell and the NHL offices will certainly take a look at the hit before Game 2 and see if that supplemental discipline is warranted.  The fact that he is not a repeat offender and the genuine look of remorse from Stoll immediately after the play happened are likely to help Stoll's case, but expect him to still miss one game.