For those of you without a finger on the stop watch, Simeon "Iron Curtain" Varlmov - he of the limited resume who was "set up for failure" by being given the start in Madison Square Garden (blue glow sticks - scary!) - currently has a 112:25 scoreless streak going, stopping all 55 shots he's seen since Ryan Callahan beat him on the second shot of Game 2. Not bad for a third-stringer, eh, Stan? As the AP put it:
But Game 3's 4-0 whitewashing of the Rangers in their own building was more than just a rookie goalie standing on his head; it was a team effort that overcame subpar performances from its two brightest stars to skate to a relatively easy win when they needed it most.
Some thoughts on the game:
- Rarely does a game have so obvious a turning point as this one had, when Callahan beat Varlamov only to be robbed by the inside of the post moments before the Caps took the puck the other way and scored to make it 2-0 eleven-and-a-half minutes into the game. It wasn't yet "game over," but it noticeably impacted both teams' confidence.
Nicklas Backstrom is an absolute wizard with the puck, and reminded everyone of that fact last night (especially on his spin move and pass on the Tom Poti salt-in-the-wound tally). But he showed much more of his game on Monday night, winning 57% of his faceoffs, throwing four hits (more than any Ranger blueliner not named Staal), and killing off nearly three minutes of power play time. He was a monster and as good as we've ever seen him.
- Alex Semin had a pair of goals and a helper, but he could have scored four or five times with the chances he got. Of note, both of his goals came when he, Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin were on the ice together - the Rangers simply had no answer for the trio, which scored those two goals in less than a minute of even strength ice time.
- John Erskine has officially moved into Sean Avery's vacant head and has his feet up on his coffee table. Avery had the implosion for which we'd all been waiting, and it's likely not done yet. That said, when someone jabs your goaltender, you have to destroy him, Big John.
- Mike Green just doesn't look right, though he did lead the team with five hits and fired four shots on goal.
- Didn't you used to be the Rangers' penalty-kill? The last time the Blueshirts allowed four power-play goals against in a three-game span was early February.
- Speaking of the power play, can someone please explain why Tomas Fleischmann gets first unit ice time and Brooks Laich (who scored a Brooks Laich classic) doesn't? Or, for that matter, why Fleischmann gets a sweater at all?
- I know the uniform says "Girardi," but I see the number five in that blue and all I can think is "Ulf."
- David Steckel had a bad early penalty and a failed clear that forced Milan Jurcina to take another, but he rebounded to have a strong game.
- Sergei Fedorov is looking his age. Viktor Kozlov is looking Fedorov's age.
- The penalty killers were terrific again, killing all six shorthanded opportunities against (eleven in a row now), winning 60% of their draws and allowing just six shots on goal in 8:16 of man-down time.
- Alex Ovechkin had chances (he was absolutely robbed by Henrik Lundqvist's save of the series when the game was still in doubt), but despite not yet lighting the lamp, he's contributing by setting up teammates and even, yes, on the backcheck (though at least once he was cleaning up his own mess there).
- The defense, as a whole, was quite good. To be sure, the Rangers had too many shots, but most were from the decent areas from which to accept enemy fire. Still, some tightening up will be necessary going forward - the team can't reasonably expect Varlamov to be that good again... can they?
- The Caps blocked as many shots - 13 - as the Rangers did, which is a good thing given how lopsided that stat was through two games.
With a win last night, the Caps once again have life and, for the first time in the series, momentum. And they also have Alexander Ovechkin and Mike Green, who haven't even left their marks on the series... yet.
Win one game. Do it
four three times.