Once upon a time Henrik Lundqvist was an elite goaltender.
That time was the first thirty minutes of the first game between the Rangers
and the Capitals. But then the team in front of Lundqvist let him down and
there was only so much the reigning Vezina winner can do. The Rangers played the
kind of hockey that made people believe that Winnipeg deserves to be in the
playoffs instead of them. They were slow to the puck, they were lazy, they were
not aggressive and worst of all, they wasted fantastic opportunities.
They came out weak and they returned weak as the Capitals
absolutely ran rampant over the former Eastern Conference Champions. The
Rangers seemed to completely forget the game that got them this far. Every
single play was as casual as you could imagine. They Capitals were so dominant
in the first period that it was nothing short of a miracle that the Rangers
came out in the lead. But, as the Rangers have done time and time again, the
team in we cheer for is nothing short of an embarrassment. In the second
period, the Rangers gave up three goals. Last year the Rangers made history by
never giving up three goals in the first 16 games. And they never gave up this
much in the regular season to the Capitals all year.
Nash made his sophomore playoff appearance and was a ghost.
Even though Gaborik is gone, Nash is fitting into the role of “disappearing in
the post season” just fine. He needs to start acting like the player who we
gave up so much for. Former Conn Smythe winning Richards did absolutely nothing
to silence the critics that he should be bought out next year.
Just like when the
Rangers faced the Panthers, they have this tendency to make mediocre
goaltenders look like Patrick Roy. Holtby should not be giving this team the
fits; but when every single goal is right into his glove, it is not tough to
look like a Conn Smythe winner.
This team needs to get back to doing what they do best. They
need to be aggressive on the forecheck. They need to not give into the
Washington fans who have not watched a hockey game before 2008. They need to
just shoot everything. They cannot afford to get suckered into cheap penalties.
The Caps are a smart and chippy team. They need to play smart hockey. They
literally need to do the opposite of everything they did in game one.
Whether it was with the extra attacker at the end of the
game or the extended 5-on-3, the Rangers were never able to take the game over.
They gave too much credit to a much untested Holtby. The shots they put up were
easily stoppable or easily blockable. The only puck that was put passed Holtby
was the only tough shot he faced all night. He is not that good; and more importantly,
the Rangers are better than the team we saw.
The Rangers need to get to their roots. They need to get
down into the trenches and treat these games like the acts of war they are. Now
is not the time to be scared of blocking shots. Now is not the time to take,
literally, pointless penalties. Now is not the time for Callahan, Stepan, and
Nash to disappear.
The Rangers can still come out and take this season back.
The Rangers defense can tighten up and force out the Capitals’ big guns. The
Rangers can stop with the lazy plays and start to play real playoff hockey.
Outside of one awful, abysmal, atrocious 10 minutes, the Rangers could have
stolen this game. They now continue this series as the clear underdogs. If the
players who were brought in to score goals start to score goals, then this
series is ready for the Rangers to take and move on.
*Photo credit goes to
more by Dan French, be sure to visit www.liftthepuck.com