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Capitals vs Rangers Game 3: What Worked and What Didn't

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

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Having stolen one game in Madison Square Garden, on Monday night the Capitals skated onto home ice for the first time in the second round of these playoffs, and came away with a hard fought 1-0 victory...and a 2-1 series lead with another game at Verizon Center soon to follow, situating them nicely for the remainder of the series.

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

What Worked

  • Goaltending
Braden Holtby's performance yesterday was phenomenal. Obviously. A 30 save shutout against the President's Trophy winners, with Henrik Lundqvist— he of 100 playoff games— down the ice from him, is no small achievement. Holtby's tremendous outing was enough to slot him at a .936 career playoff save percentage, in 30 games played, and .946 for this year's playoffs which, as we noted in yesterday's Nooner, is this year's playoff best. The following is a blurb from Game 2's What Worked and What Didn't.

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.

Given the Caps' possession deficit, and given that they were only able to muster one goal on home ice against the Blueshirts, Braden didn't simply give the Caps' a chance to win Game 3— he plainly stole it from out from under New York. If Holtby sustains this level of play— granted, a big if— it could go down as one of the best playoff performances by a goaltender in NHL history.

  • Blocked Shots
Blocked shots is one of those stats that you don't necessarily want to see your favorite team leading the charge with, night in and night out. Why? Because it's generally an indicator that their hemmed in their defensive zone a lot— not to mention the obvious injury risks that come from sprawling in front of a 90 mph slap shot.

That said, a singular effort in this department can be an immense contribution, and last night that was the case for the Washington Capitals. The Rangers attempted 59 shots last night at 5v5. Braden Holtby turned aside 26 of those. The skaters in front of him turned aside an additional 22. Many of those came from high-danger areas. Take a look at all those "B"s, via

Nice to be on the other side of a frustratingly effective shot-blocking campaign, eh?

  • Checking Line Production
It might have only been one goal, but hey, Jay Beagle's tally was enough to get the win...and what a rare thing it was.

Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Joel Ward, Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Jason Chimera comprise the Capitals' current top two lines. Until Monday night, they were also the scorers of every lamp lit by a Washington forward in these playoffs, save for one— a Brooks Laich marker in Game 5 of Round 1 against the New York Islanders.

Last night Jay Beagle, on the ice with a couple forwards with a bit more skill than your tradition third-and-fourth-line grinders, in Andre Burakovsky and Troy Brouwer, scored a goal characteristic of his own style: blue-collar and dirty, a pucked chipped from behind the net, off a couple of skateblades, and behind Henrik Lundqvist.

It was the first bit of Secondary scoring— to say nothing of tertiary or quaternary scoring— the Capitals had seen in some four and a half games. And what a difference it made.

  • Scoring First
The Capitals still didn't exactly buck their propensity for slow starts (and specifically slow starts against the Rangers), as they were out-attempted 16 to 11 in the first period, but they did score first, and for this squad, that seems to matter. It was the third time in seven meetings that the Caps have drawn first blood against the Rangers this year, regular season included, and it was the third time they've beaten the Rangers.

In these Stanley Cup playoffs, the Caps have scored first on four occasions, and won each time— following up admirably on the precedent they set during the regular season.

Protecting the lead: it never goes out of style.

What Didn't Work
  • Turtling
This might not have been a conventional turtle, but it wasn't not a turtle. Here is what I would describe as a highly graphical breakdown.
Granted, the game's overall trend was for the Rangers to be occupying the Caps' zone, but you see around when the Jay Beagle goal was scored, the Caps were beginning to tilt the ice back towards Henrik Lundqvist. That didn't last very long.

This seems to be at direct odds with the Capitals' ability to protect their lead— they're one of the worst possession teams in these playoffs when leading by one. They were pretty much middle of the road in this regard during the regular season. If it ain't broken don't fix it...but what if it's broken?

Scoring chances in the last 10 minutes were particularly brutal.

  • Quieted Top Line
Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Joel Ward have been a handful this postseason— as they should be. But after being effective in Games 1 and Game 2, this trio was not only held off the board in Game 3, but also hemmed in their own zone quite a bit, objectively losing their matchup against the Derick Brassard, Martin St. Louis, and Rick Nash Line.

(Guys and girls, go follow Muneeb, seriously).

One unproductive game against a great defensive team is nothing to be worried about, and Ovechkin and Backstrom have been great against the pairing of Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi all season...but if the secondary scoring is going to be as scarce as its been, games like they had in Game 3 will also need to be scarce to give the Caps a fighting chance.

  • Controlled Zone Exits and Icings
Contributing largely to the Caps' Game 3 possession woes was their tremendous difficulty to control the puck as they attempted to break out of their own zone, resulting in way too many icings and consequently, combined with the tilted ice, way too many draws in front of Braden Holtby. The Caps' success in the faceoff dot (and Holtby standing on his head) bailed them out for now, but the unforced errors in the defensive zone has been a recurrent them, and the team is probably lucky they haven't been more costly.

Against a fast, skilled, and high-scoring New York Rangers team, if they keep it up, the cost will arrive sooner rather than later.


All considered, a win's a win— and more than ever in the playoffs. Defending home ice is more important than any underlying metric (or statistic of any nature, really). Due mostly in part to Braden Holtby, with a hat tip for Jay Beagle, the Capitals take the ice tonight with a chance of successfully defending their turf, and putting the Rangers in an elimination scenario on Friday night.