The NHL Playoff Recap gives you THN’s take of what happened in each game of the night and what the consequences will be for the rest of the series.
We also provide our Three Stars of the night, which will be tabulated after each round. First Star is three points, Second Star is two points and Third Star is one point. Be sure to vote on who you think the first star was as well.
Of course there’s the other side of the coin: The Black Hole is a piece of the lineup that just couldn’t get it going on a given night and contributed to a difficult evening for the team.
RANGERS/CAPITALS, GAME 4: CAPITALS 3, RANGERS 2 (SERIES TIED 2-2)
THN’s Take: The questions heading into Game 4 were whether the Capitals would be a dejected bunch after the Game 3 triple-overtime loss and would the Rangers would be sluggish after using so many of their resources. The answer came quickly and vociferously as Washington charged out of the gate, owning the ice while outshooting New York 14-3 and gaining a 1-0 advantage.
While the Rangers showed spunk for the first 12 minutes of the middle frame, the Capitals had more jump overall and you can’t help but chalk that up to the diminished energy level of New York’s top-end troops after seeing so much ice three nights ago. If you didn’t watch the game Saturday afternoon – and don’t feel bad if you didn’t: it was a bit of a stinker (is it time for 4-on-4 overtime in the playoffs? Discuss amongst yourselves…) – here are two telling stats: The Blueshirts mustered only 20 shots on goal and blocked only seven shots. They had averaged 30 shots and 22.5 blocks in the 10 games prior.
The impact of relying so heavily on the top-four defensemen is the Rangers aren’t able to employ what’s made them successful at times during both Round 1 and 2: activating the ‘D.’ Many of New York’s best chances have resulted from blueliners creeping down to keep the puck in or outright joining the rush. Reticence rules the day if you fear you don’t have the legs to get back if they get caught.
Year after year the word “depth” comes up to describe the Stanley Cup champion. It’s starting to feel like that’s the word we’ll be using to explain why the Rangers didn’t win it all this time around.
1. Nicklas Backstrom – While some players clearly lacked jump, Backstrom – who scored Washington’s second goal – wasn’t one of them. He created a multitude of opportunities and was his usual defensively responsible self. He has the trust of his fickle coach, as evidenced by his 17:47 of ice time, the second most among Caps forwards.
2. Matt Hendricks – Speaking of ice time, No. 3 among Washington’s forwards was Hendricks with 17:03. (Jay Beagle was tops with 18:13). If the Capitals go on to win the series it won’t be the superstars who were the difference, it’ll have been the depth players. In this game it was Hendricks who made the biggest impact, going 9-for-9 in the faceoff circle.
3. Henrik Lundqvist – Ho-hum, just another impressive night for the Vezina Trophy finalist. If not for his play in the first period, this game could’ve been 2-0, 3-0 or worse after only 10 minutes.
The Black Hole: Let’s go in a different direction here and tape this label to Rangers coach John Tortorella for the use of his lineup in Game 3 and Game 4. Even if his squad does win this series, you have wonder if they’ll be able to keep up as they progress deeper into May and June.