Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Larry Brooks of the New York Post,
The Rangers need to try to win this game, not avoid losing it. They have to be aggressive, they have to pressure the Capitals, and they have to use their speed to disrupt even if the wheels in motion aren’t creating enough scoring chances. There has to be desperation in front of Braden Holtby that forces the goaltender to make second and — what a concept — third saves.
Oh, and if the Rangers get one goal, then Henrik Lundqvist has to find the way to make it stand up, the way he did in the 1-0 clincher against Montreal last year.
Of course that was then and this is now. But the Rangers’ created an identity for themselves last spring. That was the genesis of 2014-15.
It started with a vow back in September at camp, or maybe last June in L.A.. The Rangers have to be better, every one of them does, but it would be stunning if this is not their best game of the playoffs.
Until they say it, it isn’t over. And it is impossible to believe those words would ever come out of the Rangers’ mouths.
from Justin Terranova of the New York Post,
NBC Sports analyst Pierre McGuire breaks down what the Rangers have to do to get back into their series with the Capitals with The Post’s Justin Terranova.
Q: Has this been a Rangers breakdown or do the Capitals deserve the credit?
A: The Rangers have done a lot of really good things, but the Capitals have done a fantastic job of blocking shots and [Braden] Holtby hasn’t given up a lot of second-chance opportunities. The Rangers have had a lot of trouble scoring on the power play all playoff long, and even during the season it was a problem.
Q: What can the Rangers do to combat what the Capitals are doing to slow down the game?
A: What the Rangers did at the end of Game 3 and all of Game 4 is really jump their defense up, to try and create offense and some different cycle situations in the zone by being aggressive with their defensemen. And it’s really helped. They had some glorious scoring opportunities just because Alain Vigneault deployed some of those strategies. It just comes down to finding a way to beat Holtby. It’s hard to score because of the way the Capitals close down shooting lanes and the way they block shots. I do think the Rangers can find a way to do that, and I do expect this to be a long series.
from Isabelle Khurshudyan of Capitals Insider,
There have been times when Jay Beagle has tried and failed to block a shot for his goaltender, and when he’d turn and look at Braden Holtby after he inevitably made the save, Beagle would usually receive praise anyway.
“You hear something like that from your goalie, like, ‘Great try on that block, you were in the right spot,’” Beagle said. “Even though I didn’t get the block, it allowed him to see it, so the next time you’re going into it, I’ll take that off the face for him.”
The Capitals are not only blocking more shots for Holtby this season, but they’re doing it in a different way than last season, getting low to block a shot so he can still see the puck should it get through. In Washington’s win over the New York Rangers on Monday night, the Capitals’ ability to clear shooting lanes for Holtby paved the way for the Game 3 shutout.
“There are so many benefits to guys getting low,” Holtby said. “From my standpoint, I think it takes away more surface area and I also have more lane to see. If guys stand up, you usually only have a little bit of surface area being blocked and a lot blocking my vision.”
The Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers currently face uphill climbs in their respective series, if either want to return the Eastern Conference Final, they’ll need to step it up.
from Alex Prewitt of The Washington Post,
Mike Green had no desire to discuss the future, because the future might take him away from here. He did not want to consider life beyond this season — whenever the Washington Capitals’ playoff run ends, the defenseman’s contract expires and he enters unrestricted free agency. Sitting at his locker stall in a private moment Monday, inside the practice facility that became his office a decade ago, he tapped his foot and fiddled with his stick. He would not allow himself to think about leaving behind this city, these friends, this home.
“Excuse my language,” he said. “It scares the [heck] out of me.”
The fear is kept at bay, Green explained, by what’s happening all around him. The Capitals have moved within two wins of advancing into the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in his career. They are using a new system under Coach Barry Trotz that liberates Green inside the offensive zone and allows the skilled puck-mover to pick his spots. The summer signings of defensemen Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik have lessened the burden on Green, allowing him to finish second among NHL blue-liners in points per 60 minutes, despite averaging his lowest ice time since 2006-07.
Green has never been this happy with the Capitals, he said.
from Alex Prewitt of Capitals Insider at the Washington Post,
The fortress erected by the Washington Capitals, the one built to protect their stonewalling goaltender, contained a gauntlet of traps guarding the front gate. They hurled bodies at airborne pucks, clogging shooting lanes and shuttering windows of opportunity for the New York Rangers. They boxed out with their butts and cleared rebounds with their sticks, ushering traffic away. They had always held the utmost confidence in Braden Holtby, because no sane person would consider otherwise, but when chaos came knocking at Verizon Center, even the NHL’s active leader in postseason save percentage needed help.
“It’s something we’ve been working on all year, just boxing out and trying to make sure that Holts can see the puck,” forward Jay Beagle said. “Whether it’s trying to block a shot, there’s a lot of stuff that we’ve gone over this year that we’ve changed just a little bit to his liking to give him the best chance to see the puck and not to become a screen. Our ‘D’ have been unreal in front of him.”
Three games into these Eastern Conference quarterfinals, a fluky bounce off two skates the only separation in Washington’s 1-0 victory and thus a 2-1 series lead, the Capitals have withstood slow starts, prolonged defensive-zone shifts and the Rangers’ speed. They have relied on Holtby, who made another 30 saves for his second career postseason shutout – both against New York, in this building, with the calendar reading May 4 — but also on themselves, trusting their system to steer them through the harrowing waters of close games.
The Rangers did win 3-2 today to even the series at one, but what a goal from Alex Ovechkin to make the game close.
added 3:30pm, NBC version is below...
from Larry Brooks of the New York Post,
You could feel the heat rising with every word that came out of Alain Vigneault’s mouth during the coach’s press briefing following the Rangers’ practice on Friday.
Fourteen hours after his team’s last 1.3-seconds Game 1 defeat to the Capitals, Vigneault’s anger was palpable, his normally calm, light, buttoned-down demeanor escalating into a series of verbal challenges thrown at his team to be better, sharper and more aware for Saturday’s Game 2.
Play to the end, urged the coach, whose constant message of whistle-to-whistle did not translate on Thursday, when the Rangers fatally decided to play whistle-to-red light on the winning/losing sequence.
Be better against the Nicklas Backstrom-Alex Ovechkin-Joel Ward line, demanded Vigneault, who called the number of “good looks” generated by that unit “unreal.”
Get more involved in the offense, the coach instructed his defense. Finish your scoring chances, he prodded his team, which has recorded two goals or fewer in five of six playoff games, getting one in the first 60 minutes of each of the last three matches, a number Vigneault said “Won’t cut it.”
Note the game starts just after 12:30pm ET today and is the only game on the NHL schedule today.
from Sally Jenkins of The Washington Post,
Based on their 2-1 victory over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night in the opening game of their Eastern Conference semifinal series, they are finally trending in the right direction. This is now a full on bona fide trend: The Caps are winning the close ones even when they don’t play great. They met a physical opponent and out-toughed them and won the mental battle, too, losing their 1-0 lead late in the final period only to rally and win on that gasp-inducing buzzer-beater by Joel Ward, a goal that sucked all the beery breath out of the Garden crowd.
“We were relentless,” Holtby said.
What was so interesting was that the Capitals didn’t start well. They had to work their way into the idea of winning this game. In fact, at first they couldn’t even find the puck. The Rangers were simply faster — at everything. Their hands were quicker, sticks were quicker. They made ice chips fly with their skating. The Rangers played as if they took Coach Alain Vigneault literally when he said of this series, “It’s a race to four. First team that gets to four wins.”
from Larry Brooks of the New York Post,
There couldn’t be a more sudden hockey death than the one the Rangers suffered at the Garden in Thursday’s stunning 2-1 defeat to the Capitals on Joel Ward’s goal from in front with 1.3 seconds remaining in regulation.
After all, it was just about that time to kick back and wait for overtime in Game 1, but the Rangers kicked back too early and the Caps had no interest in waiting, which could be why Nicklas Backstrom showed no compunction at all in leveling Dan Boyle into the right corner wall from behind to trigger the sequence that ended with the puck in Henrik Lundqvist’s net.
The Blueshirts have a kick, all right, on the non-call against Backstrom, but this has been a playoff tournament replete with referees swallowing their whistles, presumably under an NHL dictate. The act of hitting from behind has largely been codified.
But that doesn’t get the Rangers off the hook for this one. That doesn’t get the team off the hook for an ordinary effort that might not have been good enough in December or January and wasn’t even close to good enough on the final night of April.
There should have been a penalty called against Backstrom, but the greater misfeasance belonged to the Blueshirts, who seemed to freeze at the lack of a whistle, and presented no opposition to the ensuing winning play on which Alex Ovechkin’s beauty of a centering feed against the grain found Ward all alone to the goaltender’s left.
Watch the game highlights below...
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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