Guess it's a good thing Game Two is just as important as Game One, right?
The easy thing to do at this point would be to try and pin the Capitals loss on a single factor or, even better, a single player, because then we could have an immediate identifiable problem and, potentially, and easily identifiable solution. But the reality is that there were several factors which individually would not have been overwhelming, but collectively were too much for the team to overcome. Among them:
Schultz's spill - The most obvious of the team's mistakes, Jeff Schultz's mis-play that led to Brandon Dubinsky's goal was the result of his two biggest weaknesses, a lack of agility and a tendency to be too tentative, being exploited effectively by the Ranger center who, to his credit, made a pretty nice play. The danger now is that Schultz loses confidence and becomes even more susceptible to his tendency to over-think rather than trust his instincts and starts playing as tentatively as he was in late February and early March.
Theo's average outing - Although Schultz's miscue was the single play that's most likely to be in the spotlight, Jose Theodore may be the Capital who's going to take the most heat for the loss (though this is probably in part due to the obvious an potentially viable Plan B of Simeon Varlamov). Theodore looked uncomfortable in net all night, and while it's hard to fault him too much for any of the Rangers' last three goals, it would have been nice if he'd stopped at least one of them. The good news is that Theodore, who described himself as "not happy" with his performance, has done a good job of bouncing back from disappointing outings this season.
Avery goes unchecked - We're not generally ones to complain about officiating (and please, for the love of all that is holy and good, if you want to complain about last night's officials in the comments do it in a restrained, mature manner and point to specific examples) and you'd have to include the "small sample size" caveat in this discussion, but our theory that the officials were going to be keeping a close enough eye on Sean Avery to prevent him from being effective didn't seem to be in effect last night. Sure, Avery was whistled for a (blatant) penalty on John Erskine, but he was allowed to set an obvious pick that led to Scott Gomez's goal, and his slash-crosscheck-slash on Theodore near the end of the game was four penalties rolled into a five second span - none of which were called.
A lack of discipline -The Caps only had four minor penalties but three of them - the two puck-over-the-glass penalties and Erskine's high stick - were completely avoidable - and the precursors to two of New York's four goals.
Some other thoughts on the game:
- What did Bruce Boudreau, Craig Laughlin, Joe Beninati, Al Koken, and Ivan Carter all have in common last night? They were wearing red ties. Well played, gentlemen.
- The new red supports for the glass around the rink were a nice touch too.
- The Capitals dominated on faceoffs, winning 46-of-66 (70% on the night), led by Nicklas Backstrom (13-of-18, 72%). No Capital was below 57% on the dot.
- Alexander Ovechkin's first period: one assists, eleven shot attempts, six shots on goal, and six hits in 7:53 of ice time. Alexander Ovechkin's game: two assists, 28 shot attempts, 13 shots on goal, six hits, three takeaways, and a +1 rating.
- In the pregame, Laughlin called Henrik Lundqvist "big" and "imposing." 6'1'', 195 doesn't earn you that distinction in today's NHL - even if you are a goalie.
- No one ever said he was a great skater, but it's amazing Nik Antropov doesn't get called for interference and/or diving a half dozen times a game.
- Viktor Kolzov looked about as good as he has all season.
- Mike Green's backcheck in the first period to save a shot after a the puck jumped his stick at the Rangers' blue line was beautiful.
- The Capitals fourth line wasn't as effective as we'd hoped going in, especially considering Boyd Gordon's return to the lineup.
While the good news for the Capitals is that the problems that cost them last night's game are ones that fixable, the fact is they have, for the time being, squandered their home ice advantage and put themselves in a hole that it's not going to be particularly easy to pull themselves out of.