Friday, April 24, 2009

Game 5: Come On Henrik - One More!

So. Here we go again.

I am not exaggerating when I say that I have never - in my life - in any sport - felt worse about my teams chances with a 3-1 series lead than I do about this 3-1 lead the Rangers have over the Capitals. Why is that? A bunch of reasons:

The 2009 NHL statistical leading goalie in the playoffs? Of course it is Washington's Varlamov with a 1.0 Goals Against Average over 3 games and a .962% save percentage.

Our own superstar Henrik Lundqvist? He's fifth in the NHL with a playoff GAA of 2.0 - double of Varlamov's. And Hank's save percentage is .946%. So as incredible as it seems - our future hall of fame goalie with a playoff shutout is statistically underperforming the caps Rookie. But that being said - Henrik has been as good as I've ever seen him - facing much tougher and more frequent shots that Varlamov and making incredible save after save.

The Ranger's League Leading Penalty Kill? We've allowed 4 goals in in the last 4 games. Meanwhile our own powerplay has not scored at all on Varlamov.

The Capitals have outshot the Rangers 149 to 99. That's 50 more shots on goal in 4 games. The Rangers are averaging less than 25 shots a game and the Caps have launched 50 more shots at Henrik in 4 games than we have at the Cap's goalies. And that's not counting all the Capital's shots we've blocked.

So, here's what we're looking at:

  • The Caps have outscored us.
  • They have completely outshot us.
  • Varlamov has out goaltended us (120+ consecutive minutes of shut out hockey)
  • But somehow we're up 2 games on Washington with a 3-1 lead.
So why are we winning? Well here's one thing: The Rangers have never lost a lead. Now - in game one we were up 3-1 and let the Caps tie us - but we never trailed again and won that one 4-3. In Games 2 and 4 we scored first and never let Washington catch up. The Caps lost a 1-0 lead in game one. When we're up a goal or more in this series - we have circled the wagons and protected that lead - and that's been the difference.

And the time to finish the Caps may be, as Nugman says, right now. Right now Washington is reeling - wondering how they can lose a game they dominated - wondering how they lost two at home - wondering if the puck can ever get past Henrik Lundqvist - and wondering how the 7th place team that can't score has them on the brink of elimination and humiliation. When a team plays as well as the Caps have and they find they are losing the series - badly - it must be confusing and demoralizing.

At this point the Caps may start to question everything they thought they knew about the game of hockey. The second guesses creep in: Should they shoot more? Less? More high shots? More low shots? Should they attack more? Defend more? Because dominating the Rangers has, inexplicably, not been working for them.

(This is why - as we said before the first puck was dropped - when you have the better goaltender you always have a chance to win - no matter who you're playing or how good they are.)

The key for the Rangers in these games has been - keep it close early. The longer the Caps don't have the lead - the more the pressure will mount for them - their crowd will get on them - they will get confused and frustrated - and they will press. And they will exhaust themselves.

On the other hand, if the Caps get an early lead, like game 3 they could easily be off to the races. The danger here is that if Washington wins game 5 they will storm back into the Garden with a little more zip and confidence - having just beaten the Rangers and feeling they can do it again. And the pressure for game 6 falls back right back on the Blueshirts.

So, like Nugs says, the best thing is to win it now. Win it tonight. Because otherwise - well, those floodgates won't stay shut forever.

Dave Pucks Actual Keys To The Game
(real ones this time)
1 - Out Work Them (Grit)
2 - Hank - be the best goalie on the ice tonight (Goaltending)
3 - Avery - We wouldn't be here without you - but you nearly killed us with bad penalties - KEEP YOUR HEAD IN THE GAME (and out of your...)
4 - Win the first period. At least - stay even.
5 - Don't get in a run & gun with them - we' can't match the Caps in a wide open game
6 - Get a lead somehow and hang on, men, hang on.
This has been Dave Puck's Actual....

Let's steal one more. Let's end this now. Let's Go Rangers.


  1. I am hoping Washington feels the pressure tonight and starts to force shots and not be patient which hopefully results in alot more shots not being on goal.

    Rangers NEED to take advantage of any powerplays they have - Zherdev and Antropov need to step up and hopefully they have a few points between them tonight

    most importantly - STAY OUT OF THE BOX - and if that means sitting Avery the whole 3rd period then so be it - I do not want any excuse for Ovechkin to be on the ice for any more time then we already have to see him

    One thing is for sure - if we hold a one goal lead late in the game - Hank is in for a barrage of shots the likes of which he probably had never seen

    an early lead would put the pressure on them even more - so scoring first would be huge

    I am so pumped for tonight - Bluephoria baby!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Will, I could not agree more:

    1 - Lets see if we can get ONE FRIGGIN POWER PLAY GOAL and try to build from there.

    2 - Avery - I love the guy - but has got to get himself back under control. I'm hoping on the road - without the entire Garden cheering him - that he'll be calmer. Tortorella said after the game that he would speak to Avery. And then Torts today would not confirm what the lines or starting lineups would be. So it is possible that Avery will demoted to a lower line - or even sat down altogether. But that may be a good thing - it's part of that accountability thing that Torts has finally brought back to this team.

  3. And, oh yeah,
    3 - the first goal is (what's more huge than huge?) pivotal. We haven't had a lead change since the third goal of game 1. So the first team on the board tonight gets a big leg up on the other guy.

  4. Sounds simple, but another reason the first goal is so huge, if the first goal goes to the Caps, it means the Rangers have to outscore the Caps by at least 2 goals the remainder of the game to win. (It's hard to imagine the Rangers scoring two goals right now) So if the Caps get that first one, almost every player on the ice knows that if the Caps score next, it will mean the Rangers will need a minimum of 3 goals to win the game, which is all they have managed total in THREE games against Varlamov.

  5. Hey - did anyone else notice that Larry Brooks in the NY Post practically stole Nugman's Wednesday night wrap up in his article on Sean Avery today?

    Nugman: "Tonight may have been his worst night as a Ranger"

    Brooks: "Game 4 was his worst night as a Ranger"

    And Brooks (and a bunch of others) are writing today what Nugs said Wednesday - that Tortorella might have to bench or demote Sean tonight.

    Actually - I'm kind of thrilled that Larry (or someone he talks to) is reading us. Everyone is welcome.