It’s cinco de mayo and if you’re going to stay inside on a gorgeous May day, it better be for a very good reason. If that reason is watching the Washington Capitals tie up their second round series 2-2 against the New York Rangers with a 3-2 win at home, that’s a pretty darn good reason.
Today’s celebration is about celebrating the return of the dead, and after playing 2 games in 1 with a triple overtime in game three, it sure felt like the return of the dead tired. The Washington Capitals seemed to have recovered better while nursing their loss, coming out quickly in the first period and creating some great tic tac toe plays. It wasn’t so much that Washington played their best period in the series, but that New York played their worst. They were slow, spending most of that period in their own zone and puck watching.
Washington came in with home crowd energy and a bitter taste of defeat and it showed. New York appeared dazed and confused. Everyone but Lundqvist, who continues to be the standout player for the Rangers in the playoffs. While his teammates have been on and off, often seeming to score by accident while parked out in front of the opponent’s crease, Lundqvist has been the only Ranger who has maintained a high level of play and consistency. He proves he’s the best every night. The rest of the team is more stop and go.
New York’s game style is not sophisticated. They work hard at blocking shots and like to score from the back of the net, grinding down low and throwing it back to whoever happens to be planted on the crease. Washington seems to be countering their game style with more of the same, blocking shots themselves, something that they’re not known to do, and playing a better cycle game. They’re better at exploiting the area in front of Lundqvist, knowing that traffic is the key to getting it by them.
Ovechkin, Backstrom and Green all found ways to take advantage. Ovechkin was gifted a turnover in the first, Backstrom laid in a nice one and Mike Green put in a sizzler for the game winning goal. After a frustrating season with injury, Green finally gets one on the board and it was a beauty.
Washington may finally have learned to overcome adversity, a message that former coach Boudreau tried to hammer into the team during his tenure with the Caps. This Washington squad came into the season with lofty expectations, floundered during the regular season and most would argue that they backed their way into the playoffs. They definitely had a lot to prove and benching their star player may have been one of the best decisions they’ve made in this series.
Ovechkin is more effective with limited ice time and the rest of his teammates have stepped up. As is often the case in the playoffs, the biggest impact comes from your unsung heroes, your workhorses and scrappers. All the goals came from Washington’s stars, but there was no mistaking the contributions from Beagle and Hendricks, doing the little things right to keep the Caps in the game and consistency from character players like Laich.
The New York Rangers may have been tops in the regular season, but there’s good reason to believe that the 7th seeded Washington Capitals may effectively end their season in the following week. The Caps already stunned many in the league by eliminating the defending Stanley Cup champions Boston Bruins in round one. Indeed, many analysts expected the Bruins to make short work of the Caps and with one game ready goaltender, it didn’t look like much of a series. But we have a series now tied at 2 and Washington may wear down the Rangers after all. What a story that would be.
About the Author
Written by Mika Oehling
Office worker and sports nerd. Cannot play a professional sport to save my life, but love to write. Prone to rants, raves, snarky humour and caustic commentary. My team's the Ottawa Senators. Author of Armchair Hockey, a work of humourous fiction released this year and available for sale online at Chapters and Amazon.