This is your captain speaking. We’re experiencing some slight turbulence directly over New York City. Uhhhhhh…I just want to let you know that this is perfectly normal, folks. With so muchhhh uhhhhh….hot gas coming out of the city, a little shake up is to be expected. This craft is built right though, so, uhhhhhh….we’ve got nothing to worry about. Thanks for flying CapsAir, folks.
Okay, so it happened. Our first loss of the series. Did it come down to some deep-hidden flaw in the nature of this team being brought to light under the antique highbeams of Madison Square Garden? Was it the Canadiens in the first round three years back, saying “Alors!” and blocking every shot, effectively stymieing our one-dimensional slapshot offense? Was it Tampa Bay the year after that clogging up the neutral zone like a dental dam and forcing us to admit that we had less idea how to enter the offensive zone than a virgin on prom night?
No, it was not. This year’s edition of the Washington Capitals is the most complete and well-rounded of any in the last several years. The offense is ferocious and precocious, lethal on the powerplay and based around a forecheck so potent they should call it a fivecheck (#fivecheck. Dibs.). We have two bona fide starters in Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth, both locked up to new multi-year contracts and both capable of being the guy for any team in the NHL. Our defense is still our Karlsson Heel (too soon? ), prone to boneheaded plays and poorly timed penalties, but it’s not the Swiss cheese it was of the Boudreau Era. I am convinced our bench boss, Adam Oates, is a genius and I said from moment the Erat trade happened that it was a good one. What happened on Monday was because of penalties.
The New York Rangers were awarded six power plays. Six. They scored on one of them, which was enough to give them a 4-3 victory. I am not going to say that any of them were undeserved, but I’ll say that a few more Tony awards will have to be minted this year for the crying done on Broadway Monday night. The Rangers made damn sure that any perceived opportunity, big or small, was brought to the referees’ attention like Wile E. Coyote had stuck a lit stick of dynamite in their boots and they had to be warned.
When Alexander Ovechkin got high-sticked in the final minutes of the third period, did he sell it? Absolutely, and in real-time so that the referee wouldn’t know. But he did genuinely get high-sticked, and his sell was no more egregious than what happens every night in every arena across the league. The Rangers pursued refs like lost puppies looking for whistles. Ovechkin simply sang for his dinner.
The Rangers’ powerplay is nothing to write home about, but six opportunities is too many to give any team. As we saw throughout the end of the regular season, it is hard to win games when you can only use four players. But Oates has his team chanting “trust the system” like some grand Orwellian nightmare, so I believe this ship will right itself.
I guarantee four or fewer power plays for the Rangers on Wednesday night, a thirty-three percent reduction from Game 3. If the Caps can stay at even strength or better with the Rangers, the best team is going to win this series, and it is going to be the one from Washington. Taking Game 4 at MSG and returning to DC only needing one would be the best way to start.