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Capitals vs Rangers, Game 6: What Worked and What Didn't

An uneven Game 6 sets up an all-or-nothing Game 7

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Capitals were only 101 seconds away from securing the right to play for the Prince of Wales Trophy in Game 5. Now, after an early first period Chris Kreider tally, a late first period Chris Kreider tally, and a couple of additional Ranger goals that proved too much for a strong third-period push from Washington, both teams will be heading back to New York for Game 7 on Wednesday night. Because of course they are.

Like we did for Game 1Game 2Game 3, and Game 4, and Game 5 let's dive into Game 6 and take a closer look at what worked and what didn't.

What Worked

  • Puck Possession While Trailing
No team trails by two goals quite like the Capitals. Throughout the regular season the Capitals put up shots (and goals) while trailing at a prolific rate.
This graph is a x,y plot that shows how the Capitals generate and yield shots in different score states compared to the league average. The Capitals numbers are shown in green while the league averages are black.

The Capitals came very close to coming back from what seemed to be an insurmountable deficit because they pushed the pace.

Game six shot attempt chart

Obviously the Rangers going into a shell was a big part of why the Capitals were able to push the play as well as they did, but the onslaught they brought on in the third may very well give the Caps' players some hope moving forward.
  • The Line of Ward, Kuznetsov and Chimera
Evgeny Kuznetsov's play has been magical this postseason. His puck skills may be the best on the team and he appears to have all of the talent necessary to be the second-line center this team has been seeking for years. His deflection in front of Henrik Lundqvist led to Jason Chimera's early second period goal, he scored himself in the third, and was on the ice for Joel Ward's goal to bring the Caps within one.

Speaking of Ward, he was on the ice for 28 Caps shots at five-on-five and only four Ranger attempts, per With Kuznetsov, that exchange was 16-1. With Chimera it was 22-1. That's obscenely good, and it translated on the score sheet.

The line of Ward, Kuznetsov, and Chimera was deadly for the Caps last night, and presumably will be critically important to the team's Game 7 hopes.

What Didn't Work

  • Go Go Brouwer Rangers... No, Seriously. Go.
Troy Brouwer has been a non [positive] factor for the majority of this post season; he is a key piece on the struggling power play, he has been unable to consistently execute a clean zone entry (nor exit), and no one on the team has had more all-situation individual scoring chances without a goal. Brouwer's face-off ability is a thing, though, and he is a valuable penalty killer, which shouldn't be too surprising since throwing the puck out of your own zone as far as you can is a highly valuable skill when down a man and he excels at that even during five-on-five play. Too bad he was too busy serving his own undisciplined penalty to help kill the penalty at the end of the first period that resulted in the Rangers' second goal (#AttaBoyTroy).

  • Containing/Punishing Kreider
Not only did Kreider dominate the Capitals on the score sheet (2 goals), he also dominated them physically:

Kreider's hit on Burakovsky wasn't clean and it appeared to injure one of the Capitals' best young forwards. While Burakovsky did stay in the game he spent every T.V timeout trying to keep his left leg loose. Also, Kreider's facial hair invokes visions of the devil but that's neither here nor there.
  • Defensive Breakdowns
Braden Holtby didn't play particularly well last night (certainly relative to the games that preceded last night) but neither did the defense around him. The Capitals routinely missed assignments and gave up a high number of shots from the high danger area. It's probably worth mentioning that most of those high danger shots came in the first 40 minutes.

Shot location

Man the Caps really did generate a lot of chances.

It's hard to imagine the Caps coming out of New York with a Game 7 win if Holtby and/or the defense aren't at the tops of their respective games.

So here we go again, another game seven against the Rangers. Alex Ovechkin has guaranteed a victory in Game 7 (and it's not the first time he's predicted a Caps win), so we'll know soon enough whether that bravado belongs in the "What Worked" or "What Didn't" column...