Thursday, April 14, 2011

Caps vs Rangers Game 1 Recap

It's about time I put the official photo up
So I was expecting the Caps to get blown out based on previous games between these two big-market teams, Neuvirth's propensity to allow a ton of goals, and the Caps' recent history of shi... deucing the bed to open the playoffs under Boudreau. Instead we got a tight game with lots of defense, minimal scoring, and it was decided in OT. Neuvirth came into this game with a spectacular OT record. With 1:36 to go in the game, Semin rocketed the puck to the right of Lundqvist on a beautiful one-timer from veteran Arnott.

Thanks to blackout rules,  I was only able to watch the third period and OT... which is to say that I did not miss much other than having to eat a bit of crow. This is one of those times when I'm happy I was wrong. Five thoughts on the game:
  1. Neuvirth performed amiably, outlasting a guy who has been mentioned as a serious Vezina contender in a battle of goalies. A couple of good glove saves on hard angle shots, and it is hard to fault him for the one that got by, seeing as he never had a chance to see the puck. There were a few times when he was saved by luck and/or the post, but if he can keep playing like this, then I won't feel quite as nervous.

  2. One of the other big stories of this game was the return of Mike Green, and he did not miss a beat. Paired with Erskine for the majority of the game, Green finished with an assist on Ovechkin's first goal, 4 shots, and 4 blocked shots. He skated smoothly, was there on the offense, and showed why people were talking about his new defensive play. 52 is going to be a factor for as long as the Capitals are playing this Spring.

  3. Blocked shots. The two teams put a combined 58 shots on net through almost 78 minutes of game time, but they combined for another 60 blocked. Caps had 32 blocked shots (33 on net) while the Rangers had 28 blocked and 25 on net. Only three blueshirts failed to register a blocked shot, while the good guys consolidated a bit more, with seven skaters failing to block a shot. Alzner and Schultz led the way for the game, with 8 and 6 blocked shots, respectively. This series will leave some serious bruises.

  4. Semin, a key player in the last playoff series between these guys, showed up huge in the end, finally scoring a goal a year after failing to light the lamp a single time against Montreal despite a career-best 40 goals in 09-10. The goal came as a result of a miscue on the part of Mark Staal, who attempted to clear the puck directly into trade deadline acquisition Jason Arnott. Arnott, now with 108 playoff games under his belt, picked up the clearing attempt and made a beauty of a pass to Sasha Minor for the late late game winner. Semin also assisted on Sasha Major's goal, and was the only player on the ice to finish +2 for the game. With that mention, Ovechkin is a man on a mission, and from the looks of thing, he'll be damned if an opposing player will get in his way. With a goal, game-highs in shots and hits at six apiece, Ovi showed the Rangers that Staal and Girardi will not be enough to hold him back from what he wants: Lord Stanley's Cup.

  5. The third line continues to be an issue for Washington. This, again, is the issue with having so many forwards. Chimera and Johansson were the only two players on the Caps to finish negative, combining for five hits, three shots on net, and two blocked shots. MJ90 slumped on the dot, as he has done all season, winning only two out of seven attempts, including some key losses in the offensive zone late in the game. Originally Laich appeared to be the other man on the line, going a stellar 13 for 18 in faceoffs, and being on ice for that first goal against along with the other two. Laich was paired with Arnott and Semin late in the game, and we all saw how that ended up. If Boudreau can find a way to make this line mesh (which in my ideal world means swapping MoJo for Perreault and Chimera for Fehr), then the Caps should see a lot more chances go their way and a lot less going against. Until three guys with complimentary styles are put together on this line, it will continue to big the team's biggest liability. As it stands, putting Sturm on a line with Johansson and Chimera makes me imagine putting three Luis Mendozas on a line together.

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