Well since we already have a post on what the New York Rangers need to do to be successful, I figured I would make my first post on this blog to discuss what the Washington Capitals need to do to be successful in the first round. Everyone can point to the fact the Capitals need to tighten up on defense and that they need strong play out of Jose Theodore (Who by the way is 4-0 in first round series in his career, knock on wood). The Capitals really need to focus on puck posession (just as the Rangers do), keeping it simple, come out with fire, and prevent big time goals.
Dont be TOO afraid of the New Rangers
Although John Tortorella has done a good job springing some life into the team, the stats are not overwhelming. Torts is 12-7-2 as the Rangers head coach and was pretty much .500 until the last 3 wins of the season. The teams goals for per game was 2.47 before Torts, and 2.81 with Torts, still not staggering offensive production. Though in a “less defensive system” the team’s GAA has dropped from 2.81 to 2.19 which can open some eyes.
The Puck Posession Game
Coach John Tortorella has stressed in the media the importance of his team controlling the puck. Everyteam wants to control the puck, when you control the puck you control the pace of the game. The Capitals must dominate puck possession and pump shots on Lundqvist if they want to have success in this series. Now puck possession can be misleading, the Capitals sometimes tend to hold on to the puck TOO long in an effort to make a pretty play. Simplicity is the key here, hold on to the puck, but if you have the shot, take it. This will hinge on Nicklas Backstrom in my opinion, with the Rangers concentrating on taking away shots from Ovechkin, Semin, and Green, the young swede will have to take the reigns and put the puck in the net.
Don’t Let King Henrik Intimidate or Sean Avery Irritate
The stats this season tell the tale of Lundy v.s. the Capitals. His GAA is 3.67 with a save percentage of 88%. Not very gaudy numbers or ones that King Henrik likes. The Capitals put up at least 30 shots in 2 of the 3 games Lundqvist played in and in the other they put up 27. Keep pumping them on net and the goals will eventually come. Superpest Sean Avery will do everything in his power to do what he is good at, getting under the oppositions skin. Although i don’t think Ovechkin will be affected because of the ferocity he always plays with, Semin is a player that needs to keep his head. Semin loves stickwork and has more of a Kovalchuk demeanor(who was Avery’s target 2 years ago in the first round). IF the Capitals can stay away from Avery’s attempts they should see a few extra powerplays throughout the series.
Watch out for the BIG goal
Big goals come early/late in periods, tie games up, or put teams ahead. The New York Rangers certainly have a player on their team that pops in to my mind when I think big goals. Chris Drury, enough said. This guys throughout his career has been more than clutch come play-off time, and the Capitals need to keep an eye on him. Statistically he isn’t having a great season, but he always seems to find the net or make a big play when it counts. For a team like the Capitals who thrive so much on momentum and the Crowd strength, they cant let goals like this take the wind out of the team or the fans.
I have pointed out some of the less thought of keys for the Capitals, and its the little things that win hockey games, especially in the playoffs. This team has been a top 4 team in the NHL almost the entire season and seemed to put it on cruise control the last month of the season. If we see the fire from the last part of last season into the playoffs the Capitals have too much firepower to be knocked out this early but regardless this is going to be a tight series and my pick as the best first round series this year. Good luck to both Squads.