Friday, April 15, 2011

What Has To Happen: Game 2

The Rangers return to the Phone Booth (Verizon Center) on Friday night for Game 2 of their series against the Capitals and one of two things will happen: they will go in and come out wearing their Supermen costumes having seized victory on away ice or they will go in and stumble out sad after finding no change in the coin return. All will not be lost in the series by falling on Friday as the Caps will have simply held serve but the Blueshirts, for their own psyche, at least need to shove back.

So do they have to do?

1- Get off to a better start. The Rangers came out of the gate on Wednesday on fire ... for about two minutes. Washington took control at that point and held it for pretty much the rest of the game. Good, strong, physical play early would send a message and set a tone that the Blueshirts aren't about to back down and be the targets in Ovie's shooting gallery. While a Prustian tussle would ignite the flame, it might be best to save that for Sunday and the home crowd. Follow the first few shots in and cause havok in the Caps crease.

2- Forechecking. And that isn't just sending Fedotenko or Prust in alone to chase a dump. A proper forecheck is done by five guys on the ice, with players supporting other players as they push the action where they want. Washington's defenders aren't particularly impressive. As any Avalanche fan can tell you, Scott Hannan makes mistakes. John Erskine is a neanderthal. Karl Alzner and John Carlson are just kids. Very, very good kids, but just kids. And Mike Green can stickhandle, skate and shoot like the dickens but he is a disaster in his own end much of the time. Pressure these guys and mistakes will be made. And, Mr. Gaborik, you have to take advantage of those mistakes.

3- Bringing back the edge. To steal Dean Evason's line from 24/7, the Rangers need to grab their sacks and do something about the DC pressure. Compete and get in someone's face. If Ovechkin gets three chops at Henrik, the Rangers need to get three chops right back - and then send someone right over Neuvirth.

4- Stop being so damned predictable. The Rangers have blocked a ton of shots this season because they have lived in the moment and went down when needed. The Capitals blocked a ton of shots on Wednesday because they were able to read the Ranger plays. This was especially true on the power play, but the rest of the game saw a lot of the same things. Dump, chase, work the puck to the man in the circle or the slow-triggered point men and fire away. Need a lot more of the two Cs - creativity and crashing. And by creativity I don't mean fancy-ass back passes and spins - try stickhandling, try stringing together several short passes, run the damned picket fence and let 'er fly.

5- Know the roles. Watching the Semin goal another 15 times today showed that his goal came because Brandon Dubinsky and Chris Drury each thought the other one was the center on the play. They abandoned the zone, leaving Staal to deal with an oncoming Brooks Laich. While turning back and putting the puck back around the end boards might have been the better play, sending the puck up the boards is a defenseman's crutch. He couldn' t know that both Dru and Dubi had abandoned the zone - he was trying to deal with Laich. And, by the way, Girardi was caught watching , giving Semin the space to get off the one-timer. Semin may be one of those enigmatic Russians but he is a damned talented enigmatic Russian; like the other Alex, they can't give him any time or space.


Anonymous said...

As a Caps fan, but overall hockey fan, I have to say I disagree with your assessment of the Capitals blueline. Yes Carlson and Alzner are just kids, but to push them aside simply because of their age doesn't do justice to the work they have done this season. Consistently playing against top-lines, shutting down potent forwards, and rarely getting scored against aren't the work of kids. And while you say Hannan makes mistakes, got to say I haven't seen many this season. The guy is a shot-blocking, body-taking (not puck), stud. Green may have been labeled in the past as an offensive defenseman that doesn't handle his own end properly, but this season has seen a change in that attitude. His offensive numbers are down but the guy has become a SOLID d-man, making intelligent decisions and rarely getting caught below the circles.

While I disagree with your assessment, I can't knock your perspective (we all wear the home-town glasses and see what we like to see).


Mike L-Caps said...

Have to agree with the first commenter about the defense assessment. Yes Alzner and Carlson's combined age is less than mine (by 5 YEARS...augh!) but they are kids in name only. Alzner plays like a defensive veteran, rarely making a mistake, and how many other young defensive defensemen play 82 games and take only 12 penalties the entire season? Carlson has terrific shot, good instincts, and he has the potential to be as big a star as Green, maybe bigger.

Green is an All-star and a 2-time Norris runner up. Sure a lot of that's for offense, but his defense is still above average. If there was a defensive defenseman award (Ching Johnson award, named after the Ranger great from the 1930s?) Green wouldn't ever win it.

You didn't mention Jeff Schultz, who is probably one of the smartest defensemen out there. Everyone watches him and says, "Oh he skates so bad, but he's lucky he's always in the right place at the right time" Well he knows he isn't the best skater, so he is watching video all the time to know where the right place is at the right time. He's one of the smartest players out there. Hannan makes mistakes, but so does every player. He's usually making the safe play though and is a silent contributor. Most nights, I barely notice him because he skates through his 18-21 minutes and just does his job.

Ok, Erskine is a Neandertal...

Scotty Hockey said...

Haha, I knew I would tweak a few Caps fans with the Carlson/Alzner line. They are just like McD and Sauer - kids who haven't played like kids. But, just as the Ranger kids have had one or two rare moments this season where they reminded us of their age, the Rangers can force Carlson and Alzner to do the same in this series. Or at least I hope so ...

Scotty Hockey said...

Mike L - major props for knowing Ching. And I didn't mention Schultz for the very reason that you pointed out: the guy is solid.

Dennis said...

Without Callahan the Rangers have no forecheck. He is the only one who goes in hard and finishes his check first, then goes after the puck. Watching Gaborik rush in only to hold up a foot away from the defensemen is embarassing.

I like how the stats paint the Rangers as one of the best checking teams in the NHL because I see them as one of the worst. What is the definition of a check anyway? If you go to check someone and bounce off them all Prucha-esque, does that count?

Yes, Scotty, feel free to steal my term Prucha-esque. :)