You always have to expect the unexpected in the playoffs and the Rangers/Capitals series has been full of surprises. I think most people were expecting a lot of close games going in, but what they probably weren't expecting was for the Rangers to look as poor as they have at times this post-season. Despite being the lower seed in this matchup, the Rangers were a much stronger team at even strength during the regular season and could take advantage of this series if this carried over into the playoffs. Instead, the Rangers have been outplayed in at least three of the five games and now find themselves on the brink of elimination heading into Game Six after losing to Washington in overtime. The Rangers have especially had a lot of trouble playing away from Madison Square Garden and last night, they played as poorly as the "Fire Tortorella," and "Buyout Richards" enthusiasts make them sound to be.
Things started off well for the Rangers as they scored the opening goal less than a minute into the game but it was all downhill after that. The Rangers offense went to sleep after the first period, getting outshot 19-9 in the second and third period while generating only two total scoring chances. It's not that they weren't trying to create offense, they just couldn't seem to get out of their own zone to save their lives. You can attribute this to the Capitalsr relentless forecheck and the Rangers not playing aggressive enough to beat it. The Caps ended up with more blocked shots than the Rangers, but I felt like New York was playing a more laid back system than Washington and put more emphasis on shot blocking than trying to out-shoot Washington.
It's understandable that Tortorella wouldn't want to get in a run-and-gun style game against a team like Washington, but spending this much time in your own end is just as dangerous. Henrik Lundqvist was the only reason why this game stayed tied for as long as it did, as he backstopped the Rangers as much as he could and bailed them out of numerous tough situations. As great as Lundqvist is, the Rangers looked like they were playing not to lose for 40 minutes, big no-no in the playoffs, and it eventually burned them. The Rangers have played well at home, so they have a chance in this series but they still need to win one more game at Verizon Center to advance and that seems unlikely barring some improvements.
New York Rangers vs. Washington Capitals Game Five
A great first period by the Rangers was completely erased by their play in the next forty minutes. You can not create only two scoring chances over two periods and expect to win. Like I said earlier, Lundqvist was the only reason why this game even got to overtime and the Rangers were very fortunate to even be in this position to begin with. It's actually kind of mind-blowing that the Caps couldn't jump in front at some point when you consider that they recorded three power play scoring chances in the third period and that the team has been running hotter than the sun as of late. That's what a goaltender like Lundqvist can do for you, though. New York actually had a few chances to steal a win in overtime since they played a much open style of play then but the Capitals got their just desserts after Mike Ribeiro banged in a rebound to clinch Game Five.
There are some reasons to be concerned here if you're a Rangers fan even if they still have another game at home. New York hasn't been able to play well on the road this series and that needs to change if they have any hopes of advancing. Even if Lundqvist is good enough to bail them out, their offense can't continue to perform this poorly.
Rangers Individual Scoring Chances
|4||Michael Del Zotto||10:45||2||3||4:44||2||0||0:00||0||0|
Best EV Forward: Derek Dorsett +2
Worst EV Forwards: Carl Hagelin & Ryan Callahan -7
Best EV Defensemen: Michael Del Zotto & Steve Eminger -1
Worst EV Defensemen: John Moore & Dan Girardi -5
A look at the performance of the Rangers top players explains why the team got shelled at even strength. The Callahan-Stepan-Hagelin line had their worst performance of the series and were virtually non-existent during regulation. While those three were invisible, Nash & Richards performance fell under the category of "actively harmful," as they were both terrible defensively and didn't do much to make up for it at the other end. Nash managed to salvage something out of the game with a decent showing in over time but he, Callahan and Richards were on the ice for more chances against relative to their ice time than any other Ranger forward. These two are obviously more depended on for their offensive play, but they didn't do much in that front either. Rough showing all-around.
The play of Ryan McDonagh & Dan Girardi against Ovechkin's line has been put under the microscope by NBC's crew and the Rangers managed to get the best of this matchup in the previous two games. This wasn't so much the case last night, though as both McDonagh & Girardi were underwater in scoring chances and most of that damage came against the Caps first line. I thought McDonagh was one of the Rangers best players, and he was certainly better at controlling possession than the rest of their blue-line, he was still on the ice for half of the Capitals even strength scoring chances. He also ended up -18 in 5v5 shot attempts, but I think there were some instances where he did a good job of preventing chances by blocking shots or forcing the Capitals forwards to the outside. The Rangers were stuck in their own zone for the 75% of the game so if you can force any shots to the outside then it's generally a good thing. That being said, he was still on the ice for a lot of Captials scoring chances so he did have his struggles.
McDonagh & Girardi stayed on Ovechkin for most of the game even without Tortorella getting the last change but the Rangers defensive depth got exposed in a bad way with the Caps second line crushing the Stralman/Moore defense pairing. Tortorella usually gives McDonagh & Girardi enough ice time so they play a handful of shifts against the opposing team's second line but the Rangers lack of a legit second pairing really hurt them last night.
Capitals Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Mike Ribeiro +7
Worst EV Forward: Mathieu Perrault -2
Best EV Defenseman: Karl Alzner +8
Worst EV Defenseman: John Erskine -2
Ovechkin managed to finish the game with five scoring chances despite not recording any in the first two periods and he was on the ice for 13 of the Caps total chances last night. His line had a relatively poor defensive performance but they really kicked things up a notch in the third period and over time despite not getting on the scoresheet. It ended up being one of those nights where you just had to do your best to contain him rather than completely shut him down because that wasn't happening. These three were very good but they were also on the ice for a lot of chances against, which wasn't the case for the Capitals second line. Ribeiro, Fehr and Brouwer were the Caps best line at tilting the ice in the team's favor and they eventually got their reward on the game-winning goal. It was only fitting that Karl Alzner took the initial shot to set the whole play up since he had a dominant performance.
The Rangers could only muster one total scoring chance during the 28 minutes where he was on the ice and he also did his part ot pitch in offensively with some timely keep-ins and good plays to help the Caps maintain possession. He was the key standout on the Caps defense corps but they also got solid performances out of basically everybody except John Erskine. Adam Oates actually shifts his defense pairings after the first period in which the Caps were outchanced 1- 5 at even strength when Erskine was on the ice. He finally took him off the team's shut-down pair with John Carlson and replaced him with Jack Hillen while giving some tougher assignments to Alzner & Green. This decision paid off enormously for the Caps as Carlson performed better on the second pairing and Erskine looked much better once he was given easier assignments. I fully expect this to continue the next game.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
Ovechkin's line got the better of Girardi & McDonagh when all was said and done and the Ribeiro line ran over anything the Rangers tried to put in their way. Adding ot that, the Alzner/Green pairing crushed the Rangers top-six and John Carlson was able to keep Rick Nash in check for most of the game. Basically every matchup that could go wrong for the Rangers did and they'll just have to hope that this is the low-point for them in the series because it's hard to imagine them playing much worse than they did last night.
|1||NYR||19:07||Boyle - GOAL||16||22||36||5||27||30||19||90||8||4||52||70||5v5|
|2||WSH||12:16||Ward - GOAL||21||24||5||27||30||19||90||42||8||52||70||4v5|
|OT||WSH||10:36||Ribeiro - GOAL||16||22||36||6||17||30||9||16||20||27||52||70||5v5|