Friday, May 3, 2013

Rangers Drop Game 1 To Capitals 3-1; Clowe, Staal and Doresett Practice

The Rangers dropped last night's Game 1 contest to the Washington Capitals 3-1 and now find themselves in an 0-1 hole heading into Game 2 tomorrow of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. After jumping out to a 1-0 lead in the first period, the Capitals scored three unanswered goals and the Rangers were never really able to find their game. Their top offensive guns, Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan, failed to generate much of anything, and the team fell apart in the second period when the Capitals scored two goals in a span of 46 seconds.

To be honest, I really don't think the Rangers played well at all at any point in last night's game. They were obviously ridiculously lucky to get out of the first period with a lead, and it pretty much all went downhill after that. They got off to a terrible start, which I said in my three keys to getting a win last night was a major no-no, and played like a team that was totally unprepared for the Capitals' offense. The Capitals were firing anything and everything on Henrik Lundqvist last night, and it ultimately paid off when their third goal came off a ridiculously bad angle shot that Lundqvist simply has to stop. The Rangers, on the other hand, never played with any offensive game plan until the score became 3-1, and at that point the game seemed like it was totally out of reach with the way the Rangers looked last night.

The first period last night wasn't necessarily good, but it was what I expected. I thought it was vitally important for the Rangers to survive the first period and just get into the first intermission scoreless. Turns out, they did one better and somehow came out of the first with a 1-0 lead despite the Capitals dictating play and out-shooting the Rangers 14-8 in the period. That being said, I never felt comfortable with the way the Rangers looked. It's one thing to play a conservative first period on the road to wait for the energy of the home crowd to die down, and it's another to play a conservative first period because you're taking boneheaded penalties and look lost on the ice. The Rangers just could not generate any momentum last night and seemed to spend way too much time in their own zone.

- Before I get to the action of the game itself, I have to bring up the fact that the officiating was absolutely abysmal last night. The always-incompetent NHL refs called an uneven game that the Rangers came out on the wrong end of, as always seems the case. The charging call on Arron Asham that resulted in the Capitals' first goal was a total joke, as was the roughing call on Ryan Callahan at 10:44 of the second period. Callahan was cross-checked four or five times directly in front of the referee's eyesight in front of the net by John Erskine and the only call that was made on that sequence was somehow on Callahan. I guess getting cross-checked constitutes as a roughing minor in the NHL's world. On the Capitals' third goal, Anton Stralman was hooked to the point that he was spun around and lost the puck. And, of course, the referees failed to overturn what should have been the Rangers' second goal late in the third period on a shot from John Moore that would've been physically impossible for Holtby to keep out of the net considering how deep he was playing and reached behind him over the goal line to try and grab the puck. Not much more needs to be said. I fully expect the Rangers to get the short end of the stick every time out, but it's still frustrating to see a playoff game called so poorly time and time again with nothing being done to try and make sure it doesn't happen again.

- The biggest culprit for the Rangers' Game 1 loss was, without a doubt, the power play. The Rangers had a 5-on-3 man advantage for 56 seconds in the second period after the Capitals took a two-goal lead and went 0-for-5 on the power play overall with eight shots on goal. Even on goal would've completely changed the flow of the game. It was basically everything we've come to expect from a Rangers power play - too many guys standing around, too much passing and not enough shots. It seemed like most shots the Rangers did take were either wide or blocked. You simply cannot afford to let those types of opportunities come and go without taking advantage of them, and that's exactly what the Rangers did. A power play goal on the 5-on-3, in my opinion, would have changed the outcome of the game. The Rangers were playing like a team with no confidence, and a big goal would've definitely helped them with that.

- Carl Hagelin was, obviously, the only Ranger who did pretty much anything last night. His goal came with a bit of luck, as it deflected off John Erskine's skate during a wrap-around attempt, but it was a perfect example of what Hagelin brings to the table with his speed. He was making things happen all night, which is more than can be said for any other Ranger. It probably would've made sense to give him some power play time given how well he was playing, but for some reason John Tortorella thought otherwise. Unfortunately, I think the turning point of the game came when Hagelin failed to convert on a short-handed breakaway. A goal there would've put the Rangers up 2-0 and in the driver's seat, but Holtby just got a piece of Hagelin's shot to steer it wide and off the glass. Would've liked to have seen a different move from Hags there, but it is what it is.

- Rick Nash attempted 16 shots last night, with eight of them being registered on goal. For the most part he really didn't have a good game and wasn't noticeable, but I blame that more on the fact that the Rangers didn't consistently generate any offense until the game was out of reach. The Rangers will need Nash to carry the offense this series if they want to advance and they'll need to come up with a better game plan to put more pressure on the Capitals in their zone come Game 2.

- With Marc Staal out, the Rangers need Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh to pretty much play a flawless series as the anchor on their defense. That wasn't the case last night. The Caps' second goal came when McDonagh and Girardi both got caught sleeping in the neutral zone and left Marcus Johansson alone in the middle of the ice to get free for a breakaway. McDonagh also took a holding penalty (still don't know how that was a hold) late in the first period because the puck got by him while he was trying to chip the puck deep in the neutral zone.

- Chris Kreider finished with 8:23 TOI with no power play time despite technically playing on the Rangers' third line. I truly don't understand why he isn't getting a better opportunity, but I'm resigned to the fact that Torts just does not trust this kid this year under any circumstances for whatever reason. If and when Ryane Clowe and Derek Dorsett are ready to return to the lineup both Kreider and Kris Newbury have to be the odd men out. If Torts isn't going to try and give the kid more ice time when this team is starved for offense, why even play him?

- Speaking of Clowe and Dorsett, I really hope they are ready to join the lineup for Game 2. The Rangers noticeably lacked an edge to their game last night and I think having a guy who could bang bodies and deliver some hits might have changed the momentum in the game a bit. At the worst, at least it would've put a hurting on some players on the Caps, who had no problem roughing up the Rangers any chance they got.

- Dan Girardi led all skaters with 29:00 TOI. The Rangers desperately need Marc Staal to come back to help pick up the heavy load of minutes Giradi and McDonagh have had to carry in his absence.

- Derek Stepan failed to record a point last night and now has one goal and nine assists in 26 career playoff games.

- Some good news from practice today: Ryane Clowe (undisclosed, but presumably a head injury) and Derek Dorsett (fractured clavicle) both participated in practice today. Clowe, wearing a non-contact jersey, didn't rule himself out of Game 2 tomorrow, but he also didn't give a definitive answer as to whether or not he thinks he'll be cleared by the Rangers' medical staff for contact in time for tomorrow's game. Dorsett practiced fully and was cleared for contact for the first time since being acquired by the Rangers on April 3. Brian Boyle (right knee) also skated on his own after taking part in yesterday's optional practice, and Marc Staal (right eye) skated in a red jersey just like all the other defensemen. It would certainly be a gigantic boost to the team to get any of those guys back any time soon. If I had to guess, it seems like Dorsett is the closest to returning (I guess I should say debuting?) out of the four.


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