Playoff Pregame #5: Washington Capitals vs. New York Rangers

#1 Washington Capitals vs. #8 New York Rangers
Capitals lead the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Series 3-1
Location:  Verizon Center
3:00 PM
Radio 106.7 FM, 1500AM
Previous Games:
Apr 13, 2011 NYR@WSH, 2-1 W (OT)
Apr 15, 2011 NYR@WSH, 2-0 W
Apr 17, 2011 WSH@NYR, 2-3 L
Apr 20, 2011 WSH@NYR, 4-3 W (2OT)
Know The Enemy: Our Bloguin Partner: The New York Rangers Blog, Sports Haze, Blueshirt Banter

It’s Elimination Day!

The best thing that could have happened to the Capitals occurred in the second period of Wednesday nights’ game: they allowed three goals to go down 3-0 to the Rangers. They took a raft of penalties, allowed 2 goals in a span of 7 seconds, and their loudmouth coach had riled up the opposing arena to a deafening roar.  For most teams, the spectre of facing a large deficit heading into the third period under these circumstances, and against an all-star goalie and a stout defensive team with a 29-0 record in these situations, is about the worst thing that can happen.  For the Caps, it was merely the smack in the face they needed to start playing real hockey again.  The Caps’ new defensive system won them two games to start the series, but the players seemed timid.  While the Caps had only 2 goals in each of the first 3 games, the Rangers had figured out that 3-goals-in-a-game thing for the second game in a row.  Something clicked in the second intermission, specifically the Caps figured out that while that defense wins championships, offense would win this game.  The Caps offense is going to need to do more of the same to advance. 

Injury Report:  Capitals’ RW Mike Knuble (hand) is out for Game 5.  Defensemen Dennis Wideman (leg hematoma) and Tom Poti (groin) are out indefinitely. 
-The Rangers are missing RW Ryan Callahan (broken leg), LW Derek Boogaard (shoulder), G Martin Biron (broken collarbone), and RW Alexander Frolov (knee).

Three Things To Watch For:

“Nobody ever defended anything successfully, there is only attack and attack and attack some more.”
General George S. Patton, Jr.
Patton would have made a heck of a hockey coach.  The Caps seemed to figure this out in the third period of last game:  defense gets a whole lot easier when you’re playing in the other team’s end the whole time.  They would do well to remember that for the remainder of the playoffs.  That’s not to say they should abandon their defense, but, as Patton said, “Take calculated risks. That is quite different from being rash.”  Taking a risk every now and then has its rewards, and hockey games are won by scoring more goals than the other team. 

“Let your object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.”
Sun Tzu, The Art of War
The Capitals need to have killer instinct in this game to close out this series quickly.  As Tarik El-Bashir pointed out, the last time the Caps ended a series as quickly as 5 games was 1998, which was also the last time they had advanced past the second round of the playoffs.  The time off in between playoff rounds will allow the players to rest and recover, but more importantly, winning quickly means the Rangers won’t have a chance to come back.  If the Caps keep playing aggressively, they should have no problem closing out the Rangers quickly.  This game is going to come down to the Capitals wanting it more, because the Rangers will hold nothing back.

“Our building’s a lot louder.”
Bruce Boudreau
Washington Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau ripped Madison Square Garden on Monday, and by extension, the New York fans, when he said that Verizon Center was louder.  The New York faithful showed how loud they can be when they were up 3-0 in the game.  Ironically, they also showed how quiet they can be when the Caps beat them in overtime.  Expect the Capitals fans in Verizon Center to be deafening during this elimination game as the Caps look to close out on home ice.  The last thing the Caps want to do is have to go back to that “horrible” arena for another game.