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Capitals vs Rangers Game 2: What Worked and What Didn't

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Heading into Game Three, we take a look at what worked and what didn't for the Washington Capitals in the second tilt.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

With a chance to bring a commanding 2-0 series lead back to the Nation's Capital, the Caps got off on the wrong foot for their Madison Square Garden matinee, and were never able to fully correct course, allowing the Rangers to pull even.

Like we did for Game 1, let's dive in and have a look at what worked and what didn't in Game 2.

What Worked

  • The Singular Effort of Alex Ovechkin
Sound familiar? For the second game in a row Alex Ovechkin was arguably the Capitals best skater, and adding yet another clip to his highlight reel. At this point, Ovi is churning out spectacular plays with the "he's a great teammate now" narrative in the background at about the same rate as he was before. And in fairness, if you're going to drop the "all series, baby" on The King, Henrik Lundqvist, you put the burden on yourself to deliver. So far, that hasn't been a problem for Alex Ovechkin. It very rarely ever has.


  • Power vs Power
Sound familiar? For the second game in a row, the Ovechkin/Nicklas Backstrom/Joel Ward line saw the bulk of their minutes come against the Rangers heavy artillery in Rick Nash, Derick Brassard, and Martin St. Louis. And for the second game in a row, the guys in the white sweaters got the better of the guys in the blue sweaters. Ovechkin boated a 59 CF%, with Backstrom not far behind at 55%.

Whatever Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh are doing...it's not really working (both of these guys finished the night at a sub-40 CF%), and given the success the Caps' top scoring line has seen at Madison Square Garden, it makes you wonder whether Barry Trotz is really going to need to break his back trying to get more favorable matchups on home ice.

  • Braden Holtby
Sound familiar? Braden did what Braden does in the playoffs— thrive. Maybe you want to see him stop the Dan Boyle goal. Maybe you want to see him keep that Derick Brassard game winner from squeaking though. Maybe you're ignoring the fact that both of those pucks should never have even made it to the net, and maybe you're ignoring the fact that if not for Holtby's wizardry throughout this one, you've probably flipped the channel to watch literally anything else.

Holtby was great in net and did one of the most valuable things any athlete on any team can do: he gave his team a genuine chance to win, when they had no real business doing so.

Maybe you've noticed the Game 2's "What Worked" are identical to Game 1's. Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby have been consistently brilliant, and if those two sustain their level of play, the Caps are going to win more often than not. But that kind of reliance is precisely what gets teams in trouble this time of year, so the Caps need to work on minimizing the component's of their game that didn't work...

What Didn't Work

  • Starting
Whether it's the early afternoon start, or some sort of voodoo magic activated by playing the Rangers, the Caps just can't seem to get off on the right foot against New York. As the Peerless pointed out in yesterday's recap, the Caps have been outscored by the Rangers in the first period to the tune of 7-2, and Game 1 was the only time they didn't light a lamp during the first 20.

Here's a look at Saturday's possession trend, courtesy of Natural Stat Trick (like so much of the data in these What Worked/What Didn't is).

Note how the Rangers storm out, cash in, and then the Capitals settle down and, for the most part, take control of the game. This is the exact precedent set during the regular season. Here are the same graphs, for the Rangers and Capitals four regular season meetings.

April 11, 2015

Two early goals here from the Blueshirts, and then the Caps take off, but ultimately fall 4-2.

March 29, 2015

In the Caps and Rangers' penultimate game of the regular season, the Caps came out strong, and actually managed to cash in. The Rangers got things moving back in their direction, but the Caps rallied and won, 5-2. This is the only game of the season where the Caps came out looking better than the Blueshirts.

March 11, 2015

Same thing. Couple early goals by the Rangers, and then the Caps' boosters kicked in.

December 23, 2014

Look familiar by now? It's a disturbing trend, and the Caps' need to buck it if they want to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
  • Troy Brouwer
Troy Brouwer actually had the Caps' best possession numbers in this one, on the ice for 16 shot attempts for and only 3 against (an 84% CF), but at a certain point the lack of production becomes the bigger story. The playoffs is that point, and Brouwer has only 2 points in 8 games (0G, 2A), only one of which came at even strength, and only one of which was a primary point (goal or primary assist). His failed clear on the Rangers 2nd power play of the first period— whether a component of the referee interfering with the puck's exit path, or something else— was nothing short of terrible. And then, the beneficiary of a missed offsides call, Brouwer failed to cash in on a point-blank look against a sprawled Henrik Lundqvist. And then, down by one, and with time winding down, he took a bad penalty (though he was perhaps the victim of a fine acting job on the part of Keith Yandle).

  • Capitals Beating Themselves
If you think about it, all three of the Rangers' goals in Game 2 were consequences of poor play by the Caps in their own zone— something commonly referred to in this domain as the "soul crushing boner". Taking nothing away from the Rangers', their opening goal came as a result of wholesale confusion and lack of skating by the Capitals. Their second goal came as a direct result of Brouwer's failed clear. On the Rangers' game-winner, the puck should have never even arrived on Derick Brassard's stick. A little bit more attention to detail— or fundamental execution— and the Caps probably eliminate at least one of these tallies.

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The Caps' stole one from under the Presidents' Trophy winners, and now they get to come home to play in front of their raucous faithful. Two games into this one, the Caps' have set themselves up for success. On Monday we'll learn just how opportunistic they are.