Playoff Pregame #11: Washington Capitals vs. New York Rangers

#7 Washington Capitals vs. #1 New York Rangers
Location: Verizon Center
12:30 PM
Radio: 1500AM, 820 AM, and XM
Series Schedule:
Game 1:   Apr 28, 2012, WSH@NYR, 1-3 L
Game 2:   Apr 30, 2012, WSH@NYR, 3-2 W
Game 3:   May  2, 2012, NYR@WSH, 1-2 L (3OT)
Game 5:   May  7, 2012, WSH@NYR, 7:30 PM
Game 6*: May  9, 2012, NYR@WSH, TBD
Game 7*: May 12, 2012, WSH@NYR, TBD
Familiar Faces of Former Capitals:  D Steve Eminger (212 GP, 2002-08)
Former Ranger:  RW Mike Knuble (141 GP, 1998-2000)
Know The Enemy: Our Bloguin Partner: The New York Rangers Blog, Blueshirt Banter

Read on for exclusive content from Caps RW Troy Brouwer.

Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images

The Washington Capitals are down 2-1 in a series for the second straight time this postseason.  Even after a triple overtime game that saw the Capitals go 115 minutes without a goal from their forwards, the team seems optimistic.  Capitals’ #1 center Nicklas Backstrom was raring to go in practice on Friday and looks primed to put forth a dominant performance.  As they have yet to lose consecutive games since March, all signs point to a Capital victory on home ice this Saturday matinee.  The Capitals have a few areas to clean up, but when asked about the Capitals’ focus areas for game 3, Troy Brouwer said, “To play relatively the same as we did last game.  We played a good patient defensive game and we got a lot of chances, our forwards were getting opportunities, and we just gotta bury those.” 

The New York Rangers got to enjoy the outcome of Wednesday night’s win on enemy ice, but they did not get to return to their own beds, either.  The key to the Ranger victory was their strong forecheck.  They were able to keep the puck in the Capitals’ zone for extended periods, wearing out the Caps defenders and keeping the forwards from attacking. Troy Brouwer talked about breaking up the Ranger forecheck: “We’ve got to slow them up in the neutral zone.  They’re getting a lot of speed, they’re getting that fourth man, the defenseman jumping in.  They’re getting a lot of odd-man rushes, so we gotta make sure that our forwards are recognizing that, getting back and slowing them down through the neutral zone.  [That defenseman] been squeaking by us, we haven’t been able to pick him up.  We gotta make sure that on our forecheck, we’re conscious of him jumping up.”  If the Capitals can break up the forecheck early, they will have a decent chance of generating good counterattack opportunities. 

Injury Report: Capitals’ G Tomas Vokoun (groin) is out. 
-For the Rangers, RW Mats Zuccarello-Aasen (arm) and D Michael Sauer (concussion) are out.  C Brandon Dubinsky (lower body) is day-to-day. 

Three Things To Watch For:

Courting Traffic:  After scoring two greasy goals in game 2, the Capitals displayed poor execution on offense in game 3.  They did not get enough traffic to the net to screen Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist and were held to one goal through 115 minutes.  When asked if the coach is putting more emphasis on getting traffic to the net, Troy Brouwer said, “I don’t know if he’s made more emphasis on getting traffic to the net, he’s made more emphasis on making sure we’re making good plays toward the net.  We had a couple odd man rushes where we didn’t get anything out of them.  Lundqvist is a good goalie, and if he can see it he’s gonna stop it.”  Brouwer should know, he was the man screening Lundqvist for Ovechkin’s game-winning goal in game 2. 

Going to the Well:  Rangers Coach John Tortorella used his top players a lot on Wednesday night.  The Rangers’ top four defensemen all played more than any Caps’ defender: Ryan McDonagh (53:17), Marc Staal (49:34), Dan Girardi (44:26), Michael Del Zotto (43:33), all well over their season averages.  Considering the Capitals were credited with 59 hits in the game, including 11 from human wrecking ball Matt Hendricks and 5 from Troy Brouwer.  We asked Brouwer if he thought the physical pounding would have an effect on the Rangers’ defensemen, and he said, “I hope so.  A couple of their defensemen played upwards of 50 minutes, any time you can finish those checks, like Hendy’s hit on McDonagh can’t feel good, you gotta continue the physical play.”  If the Rangers defenders are still mentally and physically drained from the last game, the Capitals bruising forechecking forwards could have their way with them in the corners. 

Give It Away, Now:  The Caps were credited with 26 giveaways in Game 3, by far the most of any game in this postseason.  To be fair, it was a triple overtime game, but considering their previous high for giveaways in a game this postseason was 14, it is far too many.  The Capitals had averaged 8.7 giveaways per game before Wednesday night, and that includes all their overtimes.  The Capitals must get the puck in deep on a regular basis, as neutral zone turnovers lead to quick attacks by the Rangers.  A major factor in not giving the puck away in their own zone, at least, will be breaking up the New York forecheck, not an easy task.  The puck possession battle must tilt back into Washington’s favor if they want to win the game.