I'm sorry it's taken so long for me to recap game two of the Rangers/Capitals but until this morning the pain was still too near. Capitals fans have had precious few positive playoff moments and no shortage of excruciating failures, but seeing this team potentially go down 0-3 tonight would really take a huge bite out of all the positive momentum that's come out of the lone – I can't even call it bright – non-horrible spot on the sports scene in the nation's capital.
The Nationals are staring down the barrel at the worst season in the history of baseball and their ex-general manager is being investigated by the FBI. The only time the Wizards finished the season with a worst record, they were called the Chicago Packers. And the Redskins have seemingly decided to move on from Jason Campbell after a career season.
When Bruce Boudreau coached his first NHL game almost 18 months ago to the day Washington was 6-14-1, by far the worst record in the NHL. Capitals' faithful got to see an enthusiastic group of up and comers gel and go on a memorable playoff run, the reward of which was an extraordinarily painful seven game series loss, in which Washington lost twice to Philadelphia in overtime. The lone bright side is that the Caps had gotten some playoff experience and would have a better idea of what it takes to advance in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Fast forward to today. You can't help but notice the Rangers consistently outworking the Capitals:
in front of the net where trade deadline acquisitions Avery and Antropov are paying the price and Washington cannot get in position for rebounds.on the break where Capitals wingers are shooting it from just inside the blueline with no one in position for rebounds instead of going to the net. most importantly, on defense when the other team is breaking out where the Caps are often parked on their own hashmarks and the Rangers are trapping at the blueline.
Lundqvist would easily win the Conn Smyth if voting were held today. Varlamov, I assume, will follow a command performance tonight in the world's most famous arena in what amounts to an elimination game, 2004 ALCS notwithstanding. But I don't view tonight as Lundqvist vs. Varlamov. This is Ovechkin vs. the spotlight. Ovechkin was dominant in game one with 13 shots and 2 assists, but was held in check in game 2 with only 6 shots, most of them hitting King Henrik center mass. Thus far in the series the Staal/Girardi and Redden/Rozsival pairings have split time against the Great Eight, but now Tortorella has the advantage of the last line change.
Ovy was off to an early start today, peaking on the Rangers' practice until he was forced off the bench. Caps' fans should be thrilled to see that, because he still has a reputation as a big game player after answering the bell in so many must win situations last spring, and it clear he understands this is a big time game. So have no fear, the camera is here. Win, lose or draw, Ovy's fingerprints will be all over tonight's game.
About the Author
Written by Ryan Cleaver
Ryan Cleaver was born in Björk’s house in Iceland and grew up on Easter Island, where his parents were giant stone heads. He has the ability to fire beams of tacos out of his hands and he can turn his legs into tigers. On Sundays, Ryan enjoys reading Family Circus and traveling through time. His favorite color is greenish-transparent and his favorite movie is the one you just watched.