Thursday, April 23, 2009

3 down......13 to go

Enough Bluephoria, enough patting each other on the back, enough talk about being up 3-1, time to look forward to game 5, take a look at what's going on around the league, and see what lies in store in our Ranger's Crystal Ball.

Some questions that need to be answered for Game 5:

1) How many awkward man hugs do we think a drunk Dave Pucks had at Game 4 with random strangers? I am going with at least 3, but under 6.

2) Can the Rangers possibly win another game where they get ABSOLUTELY DOMINATED? So far in the series they are being outshot 149 to 99! 50 shots, over 4 games, so between 12-13 extra shots a game for the Caps. Can't remember ever seeing a shot descrepency like that where a series was even tied, let alone the team that was outshootin the other by a 3-2 margin is TRAILING 3 games to 1?

3) Can we get just ONE dynamic offensive performance this series, just one, please? Gomez was a force in game one (3 points, tying goal) but since has been relatively quiet. Other than that, we have just had moments where antropov had a great shift, callahan had a great period, Drury sucked it up and threw a great shot on goal, but can't we get just one magical night where a Zherdev scores TWO goals, has 2 assists and puts this game away for Hank on his own? (I wouldn't count on Zherdev because Torts is not giving him much ice time against the Caps. He knows Zherdev might be the Rangers best offensive counter punch to the Ovechkin line, but at the same time, if Zherdev does one of his lazy behind the back passes, he could set up a 3 on 1 rush, two or three times during a game, and the Rangers might never recover)

4) At what point does the unstoppable force finally move the immovable object? The Capitals started this series 2 for 5 against the Rangers vaunted penalty kill. The best power play vs the best penalty kill, an intriguing matchup, and through two periods of game 1, the Caps were at 40%, had two goals, and looked like they were going to decimate the Rangers greatest "weapon". Since then, the Caps have gone 2 for 17 the last ten periods (11.7%), which other than Hank, is the difference in the series. The Rangers have won 3 games by ONE goal. Two of their wins they scored 1 goal, and 2 goals total. For the series the Caps power play 4 for 22 is at 18.18%, a full ten percent (or in this case, 2 goals) less than there season average. Can the Rangers keep it up for one more game? Will Sean Avery allow them to?

5) Can the Rangers really beat arguably the best home team in the Eastern Conference, THREE times in their building? The Capitals played near .750 hockey at home, losing only nine times in regulation all season long, and the Rangers are looking to go 3 for 3 in their building, is this possible? The Rangers were a below .500 road team, one that during one stretch, went over a MONTH without a victory on the road.

Answers coming Friday at 7 pm

Some Rosen Comments from Last night I am not letting go:

Some fan bases grow to love their announcers over time. Their announcers remind them of their childhood, great victories, they find their voices to be calming like a parent (assuming you didn't grow up in a broken home, or aren't irish). This is not the case for me with Rosen. I have always found his voice to be annoying, and while I do respect how hard it must be to call a hockey game, I have always thought he has floundered. Not to mention that the man is just horrific to look at. Every time they do a close up of him, my freshly made grilled chicken sandwich, or my delicious steak that I've been waiting all day for has to get put aside, because my appetite is surely gone. Which leads me to drink. So yes, I blame Rosen and his Penguin Profile for my drinking. That said, I usually give him a pass on his ridiculous comments, but I decided a few last night needed reprimand. Here's what you missed Dave:

1) "Good shot, but it missed the net."

It's a Rosen classic, I have just chosen now to attack it. Explain to me how a "good" shot ever misses the net? Are there "shots" that intentionally miss the net, bounce off the boards, and end up directly on someone's stick for a goal? Yes, they are called "passes". Was that what happened in this case? No, Paul Mara rifled a shot well wide of the net, which went out of the zone on the other side, and led to an odd man rush for the Capitals. Almost every shot that has missed the net this series for rangers defenseman has led to a rush the other way for the Capitals. By definition, a shot can't be good, unless it is on net. I guess Rosen just gets impressed with the power that these guys can drive the puck? Well, I am sure Hank wouldn't mind seeing 100 GREAT shots on net in Game 5, as long as all of them missed the net.

2) "Boy if callahan could play non-stop all game, he'd be amazing."

Remarkable. I mean, it is a true statement. If Ryan Callahan could play for 60 straight minutes, that would be pretty amazing. He'd be the only player in NHL history outside a goalie to play 60 straight minutes, that's pretty cool. He'd also be playing more than 3 times as much as he does normally, so his stats would probably triple, so I guess we can give him around 66 goals on the season, leading the league, that's pretty amazing. He'd also be some sort of cyborg with lungs and a heart twice the size of Rosen's penguin nose, enabling him to never understand the concept of "tired". Rosen might be right on this one, if Ryan Callahan could play non-stop all game, he'd be devestating. I was wrong.

Some Things to Look Ahead for: (Dave, hang on to your chickens)

- Does past playoff history mean that much in the present? Nope, in fact it almost always means nothing. But when the past playoff history is the PREVIOUS YEAR, and the current team has a similar makeup? It might be slightly more relevant. The Rangers won 2 road games in jersey last year, lost a game 3 at home, pulled out a one goal victory in game four, and then went to Jersey for Game 5 in the same situation they will be in friday night, and they got the job done in game 5. A lot of guys on this team were on that team, they know the importance of finishing this series as soon as possible.

- That said, this young Caps team, outside of Theodore (who is no longer a factor) and Federov, have very little playoff experience, but the experience they do have is falling behind the Flyers 3-1 in the first round last year. They then rallied to force a Game 7, and then overtime in Game 7, but ended up losing. We'll see which team harps more on last years experience and is able to repeat history.

- Rangers lead this series 3-1. They have had a 3-1 lead 11 times in their history. They are 11-0.

- Boston waits: Heading into the playoffs we talked about the potential prophetic nightmare journey the Rangers might have to make to go to a stanley cup (Washington-Boston-Pittsburgh-Detroit), well so far in the first round, it appears the Rangers potential next 3 opponents are all advancing, so its time for the Rangers to get it done. Boston wrapped up a dominating performance over Montreal last night in Montreal. A series that really was never close at any point. Now Boston waits, snug in their fair weather sports loving town. An entire new generation of hockey fans with fresh pipes screaming for their team, ready to collapse at the first sign of adversity, or a home loss. I am not going to spend too much time looking forward to Boston, but let me say this: The Caps have maybe the most explosive offense in the NHL....Boston scored more goals than them in the regular season...and allowed less. It's a different type of attack, with a slew of 20+ goal scorers on every line. Where as the Rangers went into this series with a goalie edge, statistically there will be none in Boston. But the biggest thing the Rangers have to take into account, outside of Brasheer and Ovechkin (who looks to hit everything he possibly can), the Capitals are not a very physical team. They are just skating the Rangers to death, exhausting them on every shift. The Bruins score as many goal as the caps, and are a VERY physical team. It would not be wise to head into Boston with the Bruins having a week's rest, and the Rangers coming off a hard fought 7 game series. They know this. They have to end it Friday night.

- Very good article from Pierre LeBrun on that I have provided the link to here and at the end of this post. For those hockey fans out there wondering if they had ever seen a performance like this one from Hank before (it's not just the plays he is making, but it is the scorers he's doing it against), LeBrun makes an excellent comparison between Hank vs. these Caps, and Roy vs. The Nordiques (soon to be Avalanche) in the 1993 Stanley Cup Playoffs (which montreal went on to win, their last cup). From the article:

The way in which the high-flying Caps are down 3-1 to the New York Rangers in their Eastern Conference quarterfinals series following Wednesday night's 2-1 loss at Madison Square Garden brings back memories of that '93 first-round matchup between the ubertalented Nordiques and rival Montreal Canadiens.

The Nordiques were loaded with 21-year-old Mats Sundin, 23-year-old Joe Sakic, 20-year-old Mike Ricci, 20-year-old Owen Nolan and 21-year-old Adam Foote. But what they didn't have was Patrick Roy. He was in the Montreal net and single-handedly stole the series away from the more talented Nordiques; the Habs were outshot and outchanced, but not outscored, during their six-game victory.

Feel like you've seen this movie before?

The Caps have the 23-year-old Ovechkin, 21-year-old Nicklas Backstrom, 25-year-old Brooks Laich, 25-year-old Alexander Semin and 23-year-old Mike Green. But what they don't have is Henrik Lundqvist. Sure, Capitals rookie goalie Simeon Varlamov played another solid game, stopping 19 of 21 shots. But like Roy in '93, Lundqvist is in the process of stealing this series.


  1. Okay Nugs, don't worry - I'm hungover and back to my usual grumpy self today.

    Just for the record - I promise you - I did not hug any strangers last night.

    (But I did high-five a few Ranger-Fans-I-Don't-Personally-Know after we scored. But everyone was doing that. It's the playoffs.)

    And - you know I'm against counting your chickens before they hatch - but I'm entirely in favor of Worrying In Advance. So it's okay to think about how tough the Bruins will be even though the Cap series is a long way from over.

    I'd favor the Caps in all three of the upcoming games - but that still gives us a good shot of stealing one of them.

    Game 5 may be the best chnace for us - while the Caps are down - wondering how they can win a game against Lundqvist - and worried about being swept at home.

    In game six - if they get there - the Caps will be coming off a win and knowing how well they played twice before in New York. So I'm with you Nugs - the Caps are down - let's kick them now.

  2. Oh and on Sam Rosen - I feel more like he's an old uncle who's losing it.

    In game 3 - didn't he get both ends exactly wrong on that catastrophic sequence where the Rangers hit the post and then the Caps made it 2-0? I think he said "Goal" on the Save and "Save" on the Goal. That's pretty bad.

  3. I can attest to Dave Pucks not inflicting or being afflicted by any drunken hugs at the Garden. There were as he himself admits several high-fives to strangers. However, several of the high-fives were to the same stranger, so my question is are we looking for cumulative high-fives, or unique users?