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Old Habits Return in Loss

Every Cap fan knew that we would see a different Ranger team now that the series has shifted to New York.  The Ranger offense had been so anemic that, logically, it could only improve.  The question would only be whether or not the Capitals could continue their defensive success.  The answer, as we learned last night, was not what we would have hoped.

Prior to the game, Braden Holtby voices some of his concerns with the Capitals being “too loose” going into Game 3.  Ten minutes into the game, it seemed his concerns were unfounded.  The Caps had already killed off yet another Ranger power play and were already up 1-0 thanks to Nicklas Backstrom.  But then, the looseness seemed to arise.  And sure enough, Brian Boyle leveled the scoring as a Ranger power play expired.  A power play that the Caps had effectively limited.

Throughout the remaining two periods, the Caps displayed the two biggest problems they had early in the season: poor d-zone coverage and bad penalties.  The remaining three Ranger goals would be a direct result of poor coverage in the slot. 

Brassard would strike first (Rangers’ first PP goal of the series) when he found some space in the slot from Troy Brouwer and easily beat Braden Holtby.  Yes, he only got the puck from a lucky bounce, but Brouwer still can’t let his man be in that position alone.

After Green had tied it up, Asham would put the Rangers back in front on more poor coverage.  After the Caps lost a puck battle along the boards, Erskine, Carlson, and Beagle all get caught watching Brassard below the goal line that not a single one realizes Asham is coming in unmarked. 

Then there was the Stepan winner.  After the Capitals fail to clear the zone, the Rangers work the puck back down low, effectively drawing both d-men below the goal line.  Johansson, who is initially marking Stepan, has to let him go to guard the point.  Backstrom is way too late getting over to pick him up and his attempt to take away Stepan’s stick is nothing short of comical.

The Caps’ success in the first two games was a direct result at them taking away the slot.  When you take away the slot, as the Rangers were successful in doing for Game 2, you make things significantly easier for your goaltender. 

This looseness that would continue to show throughout the game was the main reason the Caps had to get so hot to get into the playoffs.  In fact, Holtby had made similar remarks about the team just prior to their March 19th game against Pittsburgh.  A game that, despite losing 2-1, is widely believed to be the turning point of the Caps’ season. 

They do still hold a 2-1 lead in the series, and a split in New York will do just fine, but they need to tighten back up if they have any idea of taking a series lead back home.

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About F Street Faithful

Welcome to the home of the F Street Faithful, run by Matthew Tate.  This is a go-to blog for all things related to the Washington Capitals.  The F Street Faithful is 5% news and 95% breaking down the news.

In the past I have written for several other sports blogs as well as the college newspaper while at  York College of Pennsylvania.  I am a graduate of York College of Pennsylvania but am based out of Southern Maryland. 

You can follow me on twitter @FStreetTate but I must warn that I do tweet about more than hockey. You can also e-mail me at any time at overtheboard@gmail.com.