Game (3) Day - Capitals @ Rangers

via sportsnet.ca

By now you know that the Caps' chances at a comeback in this series aren't great. But as a wise man once said when being informed that he was a 3,720-to-one long-shot at success, "Never tell me the odds."

The task at hand for the Caps is the exact same as it was heading into Game 1 - win one game, and do it four times. To be sure, the margin for error has been greatly reduced. But win Game 3 and all the pressure is back on the Rangers not to choke away Game 4. Win Game 3, and it's anyone's series. Win one game - something the Caps have done 50 times since the puck dropped on the season way back in October - and there's life.

And make no mistake about it - there's no reason the Caps can't win that one game.

Despite the "Rangers are dominating the Caps" meme that has been circulating among hockey pundits and bloggers for a couple of days now, there's little evidence to support it.

Yes, Henrik Lundqvist has been the best player in the series through two games (and, as we said before, the Rangers' only path to victory in this series is if that's the case). And the Rangers have blocked a lot of shots (though they're not a big shot-blocking team, so one wonders if that will last). But the fact of the matter is that the Caps have had two horribly uneven performances and have lost a pair of one-goal games.

They may not be up where it matters most, but Washington has won 61.9% of the faceoffs in the series, is outshooting New York 70-45, and posted eye-popping Corsi numbers in Game 2. The Rangers have scored all of three even-strength goals in two games, put up a typical 0-for-5 on the power play in Game 2, and they don't have a single goal yet on which they've done even an ounce of "dirty work." With even an average outing in goal for the home team in Game 1 and a bit of luck on a shot that cleanly beat Lundqvist and rang off the crossbar in Game 2, the New York media might still be talking sweep right now, but burying their team rather than driving the bandwagon.

But if the Caps keep playing the way the did in Game 2 - squeezing the stick to saw dust, lobbing 40-foot wristers on net, refusing to make life difficult for Rangers defensemen in the corners on the forecheck and cycle, looking to beat blueliners one-on-one to the point that even the best player on the planet becomes easy to defend - the way the Rangers have played thus far will continue to be good enough.

Perhaps it would be unfair to say that the Rangers haven't won either game so far - the Caps have lost one and Henrik Lundqvist won the other - and it certainly doesn't matter how I choose to describe it, but the series has been closer than a 2-0 deficit would indicate, and it can be a hell of a lot closer after Game 3 if the Caps play like they're capable of playing. It's now or never for leaders to lead, for young guns to fire, and for a decorated bench boss to show that he knows that there's more to coaching than changing line combinations every couple of periods.

Since Bruce Boudreau took over behind the Caps bench some 17 months ago, his team has often been at its best when it has needed to be, be it an 11-0-1 run to make the playoffs on the last day of the 2007-08 season or forcing a Game 7 after falling behind 3-1 in the series to the Flyers a year ago. Right now, they need to be at their best - and there's every reason to expect that they will be.

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