Wednesday Update: Two players who need to get it going -- that's today's subject at BB+. Click here to read it and see today's links.
Before we get into some analysis after last night's abysmal 4 - 0 loss at MSG, let me make some statements:
- The officiating did not lose this game. Granted, it didn't help the Rangers cause and the bias against Sean Avery is disturbingly apparent, but the Rangers didn't capitalize when they had opportunities and Washington did.
- The light sticks were a farce. Sorry, but I am still a fan of the rally towels.
- The Rangers beat themselves. We will get into this in a bit, but the Rangers have nobody to blame but themselves for last night's loss.
- This wasn't going to be a sweep. Playoffs are about wins AND losses. There's no reason any fan should have reasonably expected the Rangers to sweep Washington.
Now that that's out of the way, let's get on to last night's analysis.
As John Tortorella said, "it was a good old fashioned spanking."
After being outworked, outhustled, outsmarted, and overall outplayed, the Rangers could do nothing but watch Alex Ovechkin and co. celebrate on MSG ice.
For Washington, it was a must-win. For the Rangers, it would have been nice to get that victory, but any fan would have taken a 2 - 1 lead going into Game 4 before the series began.
There was inevitable anticipation that the desperate Capitals would be running on all cylinders. Even at the end of the pregame warmup, Ovechkin, Mike Green, and Alex Semin stayed on and continued to work on shots and passing until they were essentially forced off. This work ethic continued for Washington throughout the game and never really gave the Rangers a chance to come back.
After the game, several players spoke about focusing on what they need to work on rather than Washington being the better team. This is a smart approach and draws more attention to the series rather than just the game.
And frankly, there is plenty to work on.
Many of the major flaws last night could be attributed directly to focus and concentration. Many passes were attempted in dangerous or unnecessary areas of the ice, such as in the slot or along the bluelines. This resulted in several turnovers, missed opportunities, and off-sides calls.
With the lack of focus, line changes were not smart or smooth and many players seemed lost with (and without) the puck. The first two goals were prime examples of poor positioning and missed defensive coverages in your own zone. These are the little things that good teams take care of. Last night, the Rangers were sorely lacking.
Faceoffs have been a factor in this series. The Rangers have won only 41.1% thus far and with Chris Drury injured, Scott Gomez and Brandon Dubinsky need to pick up the slack.
Many of these lost draws are in the offensive zone, which hinders any scoring chance and with the Rangers already struggling for puck possession and sustained pressure, not controlling the faceoffs makes it that much more difficult.
This has also hurt special teams. The Rangers have not been disciplined and regardless of what you think about the officiating, several of last night's penalties were mindless and lazy. Washington's power play has had success this series despite the excellent penalty killing the Rangers had all season.
Simply, the Rangers need to stay out of the box.
On the other side of the special teams coin, the power play could not have been more disappointing last night. No two players were on the same page and the puck movement was that of youth rec league hockey. Derek Morris, a good smart defenseman since coming over at the trade deadline, seemed to second guess every move he made with the puck as did the majority of the Rangers defense. The offense generated limited puck possession, but it was such an individual effort that often it resulted in a mere shot on goal without any traffic whatsoever.
Now, these points are not foreign. They have plagued the Rangers all season. However, to begin the series, the Rangers were working harder and competing. Last night, they did not.
Tomorrow night will be interesting and while it is a near must-win again for Washington, all the pressure is on the Rangers to come out strong and win the game.
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