We continue our scoring chance tracking of the playoffs by moving onto the Rangers-Capitals series, which was one that many people had a split view on. One side of hockey fans see this as the Caps series to lose because they are the hotter team coming in, losing only one game in regulation in the month of April and being led by one of the NHL's best players in Alexander Ovechkin. On the other hand, some people view Washington's recent success as one that is built on a house of cards due to their poor territorial play and that their luck will run out in the playoffs. The Rangers had to claw their way into the playoffs, but their body of work for the entire season is slightly better than Washington's so it's easy to see why people would favor them in this series. However, in Game 1, it was the "hot team" that came out on top and Washington's path to victory was similar to how most of the second half of their season went.
The Caps were largely outplayed during even strength play, as they recorded only seven scoring chances when the terms were even and recorded 16 fewer shot attempts than the Rangers. It's not terribly surprising that this happened because the Caps have been a weak team at even strength for most of the season, but fortunately for them only 1/3 of this game was played at special teams and that's an advantage that works in their favor. Washington basically go to start the game on the powerplay after the Rangers were whistled for a too many men on the ice penalty and were able to establish a territorial advantage for the majority of the first period due to that. They only scored on one of their five powerplay opportunities, but I think it worked in Washington's favor that so little of this game was played at even strength because that area hasn't been their strong suit this season and the Rangers were the ones carrying most of the five-on-five play.
Needless to say, this was a very weird and sloppy game and exactly the type of game the Caps needed to win if they want to take control of this series. They got a little lucky with the Rangers missing the net so often and Jason Chimera scoring a soft goal on Henrik Lundqvist, so I would expect a slightly different result in Game 2 if the Rangers continue to control the play at even strength like they did last night.
New York Rangers vs. Washington Capitals Game 1
Much like it has been for most of the season, the power play was the Caps life line in Game 1. Half of their scoring chances came with the man advantage and they ended up tying the game in the second period on a powerplay goal from Alex Ovechkin. That being said, the Rangers power play also saw their share of chances but they couldn't finish and they probably could have recorded more if they didn't miss the net on so many of their shot attempts. Rick Nash in particular had five missed shots, which is kind of scary when you consider that he had eight which got on net.
The same can be said about their play at even strength. New York outplayed Washington during 5v5 play but this was still a relatively low-event game on both ends because the Rangers had trouble finding the target. This is a correctable error, though and they should have a better result if they strong play at evens continues.
Rangers Individual Scoring Chances
|4||Michael Del Zotto||14:47||3||3||1:37||2||0||2:31||0||2|
Best EV Forward: Rick Nash +5
Worst EV Forwards: Darroll Powe, Kris Newbury & Arron Asham -1
Best EV Defensemen: Dan Girardi & Ryan McDonagh +2
Worst EV Defenseman: Anton Stralman -1
Nash came away empty-handed on the score-sheet but he was probably the Blueshirts most active player last night. I mentioned earlier that he had 13 unblocked shot attempts and seven of them were logged as scoring chances by my count. He was on the ice for half of the Rangers total chances and the Caps defense did not have an an answer for him. You have to feel that Washington is somewhat fortunate that Nash didn't come away with anything to show for his efforts last night.
If you watched the game on NBC, you were probably annoyed with Pierre McGuire constantly pointing out every time John Tortorella got Dan Girardi & Ryan McDonagh on the ice against Alex Ovechkin's line. It's an important matchup, though and these two did a good job of limiting Washington's big line by giving up only three scoring chances. Unfortunately, one of them ended up being a goal. Caps defenseman Steve Oleksy was able to deliver a perfect stretch pass to Marcus Johansson for a breakaway and catch the Rangers top defense tandem flat-footed in the process. A costly mistake and a blunder in an otherwise solid game for these two.
Capitals Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forwards: Troy Brouwer & Mike Ribeiro +2
Worst EV Forwards: Jay Beagle & Eric Fehr -3
Best EV Defenseman: Steve Oleksy EVEN
Worst EV Defenseman: John Carlson -3
Washington's top-six managed to come out in decent shape and their second line had a very solid game all-around. Their defense and depth forwards took a beating, though. Oates elected to use his shutdown defense pairing (Carlson/Erskine) against the Stepan line while Green/Alzner played mainly against Richards & Nash. Each of them seemed to defend well at even strength but they were still outchanced and Erskine/Carlson were on the ice for eight total Ranger scoring chances. Oates also didn't really employ a shutdown line to face Stepan or Richards and was content with letting Mathieu Perreault's line play six minutes against Nash. You can see how those results turned out.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
Nash's line won all of their matchups and did quite a bit of their damage against the Caps third line. I doubt Oates will let Perreault play so many minutes against Nash in future games, though, especially when he has the last change. Stepan's line also won their main matchup against the Carlson/Erskine defense pairing but had trouble containing the Ribeiro line at even strength. The Rangers second defense pairing also had issues playing against that line which could be a problem if it continues. That line's had trouble winning the battle at even strength this year but they are very talented and can be dangerous.
|1||NYR||3:16||Hagelin - GOAL||21||24||62||5||27||30||19||83||90||4||74||70||5v5|
|2||WSH||13:02||Ovechkin - GOAL||21||24||5||27||30||9||19||20||8||52||70||4v5|
|2||WSH||5:39||Johansson - GOAL||21||36||24||5||27||30||19||90||8||4||61||70||5v5|