The Washington Capitals lead the New York Rangers 1-0 in the series as they win 2-1 in a grueling 2-1 overtime match. Alex Semin scored with a minute and a half left in the first overtime period.
Do not expect any of the future games to be any different from tonight’s game in terms of style of play and roughness. The games in this series between the Caps and Rangers are only going to get tougher and closer from here on out, as the Rangers will want to seek revenge. However, the keys to the series that I provided in my preview of the series were matched by Washington.
Already in this season’s playoffs, the Capitals outhit the Rangers 35 to 31 and blocked 32 shots from the Rangers to 28 shots of their own shots being blocked, and only allowed 25 shots on net. So the physicality and defense was certainly matched by the Capitals; thus, aiding in giving them the win tonight.
Special teams were a small factor in tonight’s game, as only two penalties each were assessed to the Caps and Rangers, respectively. The Caps made sure that they played smart hockey and did not get penalized as much as they did against the Rangers during the regular season. In fact, much of the way Washington played seemed to be conscious of doing things differently than during the regular season.
The defensive system was significantly tighter for the Capitals than in past games between the two teams, and the main factor for the Caps’ defense was their goaltender, Michal
Neuvirth, who, aside from much speculation, received the start for tonight.
Justin Goldman, who owns the goalie scouting service, The Goalie Guild, thinks highly of Neuvirth, saying, “he’s in a decent rhythm and playing with poise and confidence.” Goldman continued, “Even though he has given up a handful of ‘weak’ goals, he’s quickly shrugging them off, bouncing back and displaying the composure needed to win pressure-filled games.”
“He’s down at times, but he’s not falling apart,” said Goldman. “Internally, he doesn’t allow one or two goals to erode his confidence. And when a goalie is interally confident, like I currently see with Neuvirth, there’s a good chance his defenesemen and teammates will continue to stay confident in him as well.”
It is not that Henrik Lunqvist was not crucial for the Rangers, as he entirely kept New York in the game all night. But all of Goldman’s points about Michal Neuvirth were what gave Washington their confidence, and ultimately, showed the difference-maker that Neuvirth can be in a game for the Capitals, as their offense and other talents came to the top to help the team get ahead.
Along with the factor of the talent coming out to win the game for Washington, the biggest scorers showed up: Alex Ovechkin got the game-tying, first goal for the Capitals past the half point of the third period. More importantly, secondary-primary scoring came from Alex Semin, who obtained the game-winner with 1:36 remaining in the supplemental period.
According to Mike Vogel from Washington Capitals.com, Caps head coach Bruce Boudreau said, “We’re not getting anywhere without Alex Semin scoring,” Boudreau went on and said, “We need him to go and create that other offensive threat.” Semin had night scored in 14 playoff games prior to tonight’s game-winner for the Caps; talk about not going missing in this year’s playoffs already for Semin.
With this Game One victory under their belts to help relieve the demons of the past two playoff years, the Capitals can move on and focus on the rest of this series. The only two factors yet to make an appearance were setting the tone early and special teams. However, as the series gets tougher and harder to fight through, the Caps will have to take advantage of those aspects of this matchup with the Rangers, even if it seems they are not going to be important at this point of the series.
Game Two of the series between the Capitals and Rangers will be Friday evening at the Verizon Center with a 7:30 p.m. start. So find a ticket or your nearest bar and make a reservation to be there, because the series will get more attention as the days progress.