Archive for Playoffs
A questionable hit, a massive brain fart, and Joel Ward all combined to give the Washington Capitals the 1-0 series lead on Thursday night. The Caps and Rangers are at it again this afternoon in a 12:30 matinee at MSG, looking to avoid going down 2-0 before headed to D.C. The Rangers played the Caps’ game in the first two periods on Thursday night, getting thoroughly outworked. New York needs the game to be a track meet to win, and that’s what happened in the third period. Skate, speed, generate off the rush, and they will win.
Of course, Alain Vigneault will need to adjust some of his matchups. He will need to try and exploit Brooks Orpik’s skating by trying to get the Kreider/Stepan/Miller line out there on him. He will need to keep two of McDonagh/Girardi/Staal/Klein out when Ovechkin is on the ice. He will need to try and get Nash out there against the Alzner/Niskanen pairing. Try to get Hayes on the ice against Green/Gleason.
Kevin did a nice run down of how the Caps play today, Justin broke down how to beat Braden Holtby, Chris did a full preview of the series, and I wrote about why shadowing Ovechkin isn’t the right move. If you haven’t checked those out, you should. They are good reads while waiting for the game to begin.
The New York Rangers entered last night’s game looking to take advantage of a supposedly tired Washington Capitals team. The Rangers were fresh off a week long break. The Caps had just played a grueling seven game series. Instead, the Caps played suffocating defense through 55 minutes, limiting the Rangers’ chances to the outside, and eventually got a late goal from Joel Ward with less than two seconds remaining to get the win.
The Rangers looked slow and rusty in their first game in a week, and it took them 55 minutes to get to that wide-open, rush style play that they like. They played the Caps game until then, and the Caps played their low-event hockey perfectly, relying on an absolute rip from Alex Ovechkin on the powerplay to take a 1-0 lead late into the third. Jesper Fast got the tying goal late, but the Rangers took a nap in the final two seconds before Ward’s tying goal.
The Rangers tried to contain Ovechkin, who was a machine all night. When he gets going, no one is going to stop him. I think they did a decent job of limiting him to the outside for the most part, but he did wind up with 16 scoring chances for (SCF) to just 6 against. He had a 2:1 ratio for CF and FF as well. He’s a game breaker, and if you limit him to one PPG from the outside, I consider it a win. That said, they still lost.
On to the goals:
After easily dispatching of the Pittsburgh Penguins in five games, the New York Rangers open up the second round of the playoffs at home against a familiar opponent in the Washington Capitals. But these aren’t the same old Caps teams of the past, focused on offense only with no defense. This is a physically brutal team that will try to punish the Rangers, playing a sound defensive game and using their lethal powerplay to their advantage.
Kevin did a nice run down of how the Caps play today, Justin broke down how to beat Braden Holtby, and Chris did a full preview of the series. If you haven’t checked those out, you should. They are good reads while waiting for the game to begin.
Two Game 7’s later and it feels as though Anaheim’s and the Rangers’ first rounds ended an eternity ago. Here at BSB, we’ve collected our round two predictions to check out how we see the next four-to-seven games will play out for the eight remaining teams.
Calgary Flames vs. Anaheim Ducks
Becky’s Pick: Ducks in 5. The Flames did a great job taking down the talented
Sedins Canucks, but the Ducks are just too big and too strong for the small, resilient Flames. I think this run was fun for Calgary, but I don’t see the C of Red, no matter how much young talent they’ve got in Johnny Gaudreau or Sean Monahan, taking out the veteran Ducks.
Dave’s Pick: Ducks in 4. I don’t know how the Flames keep winning, and I am rooting very hard for them, I love watching them. But they don’t match up to Anaheim, as the Ducks are better in every facet of the game.
Kevin’s Pick: Ducks in 5. Calgary is really fun to watch and there are big things in store for these Flames, but right now they just don’t have the personnel to match up with Anaheim. Too many wily veterans, too much size.
Suit’s Pick: Ducks in 6. The Ducks manhandled the Jets in a very crazed atmosphere in Winterpeg. There’s something to be said for that. It’s going to take more than a sea of red though to knock Anaheim off their game. The Honda Center on the other hand isn’t a tough place to play. I could see the Flames stealing one in Cali to make this series interesting enough to get you to watch it. However, depth and goaltending win playoff series and I’m not sure the Flames are there yet.
Justin’s Pick: Ducks in 5. Oh man, I want more than anything to pick the Flames in this series. I didn’t think they would make it past Vancouver, and they keep defying the odds. I do think they will be fairly manhandled by the Ducks, though.
Minnesota Wild vs. Chicago Blackhawks
Becky’s Pick: Hawks in 6. The Blackhawks organization is familiar with winning, whereas the Wild still have a thing or two to iron out and learn before they can go too far. Devan Dubnyk has been a genius, but I’m not sold yet; I think that had the Blues advanced, they would lose to the Hawks, who seem to have the Central Division’s collective number throughout. My gut says this only takes five games, but I’ll give the Wild the benefit of the doubt with an extra game.
Dave’s Pick: Wild in 6. Minnesota is scary hot right now. Chicago has goaltending issues, which gives the advantage to Vezina finalist Devan Dubnyk. Up front, both teams are skilled, deep, and play solid possession games. I think this is a toss up too, but I’m going with the hot hand.
Kevin’s Pick: Wild in 7. It just feels like destiny at this point – Minnesota is white hot. The Blackhawks had an easier time with Nashville than I expected, but I think Minnesota’s speed, and Devan Dubnyk, will spell the end for Chicago.
Suit’s Pick: Blackhawks in 6. I have a ton of respect for Mike Yeo, the coach of the Wild. He was on the verge of getting fired a few seasons ago so he decided to completely restructure his system from a grind it out style to a more skilled game. It paid off. This team can fly. Still, Dubnyk is a bubble waiting to burst and Chicago has a tendency to make good goalies look bad.
Justin’s Pick: Blackhawks in 7. I haven’t been sold on Devan Dubnyk’s elite status yet, and I’m going to continue to believe that bubble will burst. I do like Minnesota’s team, though, and they will give the Hawks a big test. I still like Chicago’s chances in this series, which will come down to experience, depth and secondary scoring.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Montreal Canadiens
Becky’s Pick: Lightning in 7. In the series I least want to watch but definitely will, I think that my original pick to come out of the East will take it. Ben Bishop proved that he could shake the playoff jitters and throw a stellar performance last night. The Bolts have more depth than the Habs, who went 6 games against a streaking team with AHL goaltending, replaced by a freezing cold Craig Anderson who threw out some amazing performances. Bolts may take it in 6, but I’ll go conservative.
Dave’s Pick: Lightning in 6. I picked Ottawa over Montreal last round, and my lack of faith in the Habs continues. This is a team that is deeply flawed and riding an absurd season from Carey Price. Tampa Bay is skilled, deep, fast, and solid defensively. Price won’t be enough to win them this series.
Kevin’s Pick: Lightning in 6. That seven-game war with Detroit was a really good lesson for Tampa Bay’s young players, and now the Lightning get a rematch against the team that smacked them in the first round last season. I made the mistake of picking against Carey Price once, and I’m doing it again. Tampa is so much deeper than Montreal, and come on, you know the hockey gods are going to make Rangers/Lightning happen.
Suit’s Pick: Lightning in 7. Despite Tampa being better on paper than the Habs, Montreal is still a tough place to win a playoff game. I think this series goes the distance. I’ll give TBL the edge in 7 only because I’m partial to Cally, Boyle, and Stralmania who have been around the block before.
Justin’s Pick: Canadiens in 7. Every ounce of my being tells me to pick Tampa Bay in five or six. They are just the all-around better team. However, at this point I simply cannot bet against Carey Price. Ever since the 2014 Olympics, the guy has been superhuman.
Becky’s Pick: Rangers in 6. The Capitals do have an upgrade in coaching under Barry Trotz, but this Rangers team is on a mission this year. They’ve rested and didn’t just see seven games against a team with two of the hardest hitters in the NHL The loss of Mats Zuccarello hurts, but the beauty of the 2014-15 Rangers it that they have depth. The Rangers beat the Capitals to close out the regular season while resting three of their guys; I’m confident they take it in 6.
Dave’s Pick: Rangers in 7. The Caps scare the jeebus out of me because Braden Holtby is good, the Caps are actually playing defense, they push puck possession, and their powerplay is downright lethal. The Rangers are without Mats Zuccarello, which is a huge loss, but are better on defense and in net, and have the better depth. This won’t be an easy series, and I think it’s really a toss up. But I’m a homer.
Kevin’s Pick: Rangers in 7. I’d feel much, much better about this pick if Mats Zuccarello was healthy. As I wrote yesterday, this isn’t the same Capitals team. They’re a real handful on both ends, and if the Blueshirts again don’t get anything out of their power play, then they could be in real trouble. This pick comes down to one man: Henrik Lundqvist.
Suit’s Pick: Rangers in 7. Dave mentioned it yesterday, but this isn’t the 2012, 2013, or 2014 Caps. The team is finally committed to playing both sides of the puck and their heavy forecheck is scary. Any team that can play dump and chase and still end up positive in puck possession will be a tough out. Holtby doesn’t scare me though and he’s susceptible to some bad rebounds. Whoever wins the crease will take this series. My money’s on our boys, obviously.
Justin’s Pick: Rangers in 6. I know the media are really trying to play this series up as marquee, but I don’t like this matchup at all for the Caps. The Rangers took the season series 3-1, and haven’t seen meaningful statistical production from Rick Nash, Chris Kreider or Marty St. Louis yet. The Rangers speed is going to be very difficult on the slower Washington blue line, so as long as they stay out of the box, I like their chances. I know the loss of Zuccarello is going to hurt, but the Blueshirts have the depth to cover.
Tonight old foes reunite. The New York Rangers and Washington Capitals have seen a lot of each other in recent years as this will be the fifth time since 2009 the teams face off in postseason play. The Rangers welcome the Caps to the Garden well rested, but with plenty of question marks thanks to an indifferent powerplay, key players underperforming, injuries, and players returning from injury. We’ll get to the Rangers in a moment. Let’s take a look at the Capitals.
Capitals at a glance
We know what the Capitals are and what they do. The Capitals are a big team with immense top end skill and are a team who look to punish you physically. Forget about Alex Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom for a moment (if that’s possible). The Capitals will try to outmuscle the Rangers with the likes of Joel Ward, Jason Chimera, Tom Wilson, and Troy Brouwer.
If you include Ovechkin, the Capitals have six players up front who stand 6-2 and above who all weigh in over 215 lbs. That’s not even accounting for guys such as Brooks Orpik and Tim Gleason on the blueline, both of whom love the physical stuff. While the Rangers can more than hold their own physically and along the boards, this isn’t the type of series they’ll want to play.
The Capitals enter the series with better possession numbers to the Rangers (52.0% against the Rangers 50.2%, even strength and score adjusted), similar shooting percentages (8.8% against 8.1% at even strength) but –for those of you that place significant worth in the statistic– are a much better team in the faceoff circle, leading the playoffs with a 56% success rate. It goes without saying that if the Rangers spend a lot of time in the penalty box, the Capitals faceoff skills combined with their (regular season) league-leading powerplay will make them pay.
It took seven grueling games, but the when the Capitals defeated up the upstart Islanders on Monday night, D.C.’s finest secured a date with the Rangers for the fifth time in seven years. This brings us to our second round goaltending preview of Braden Holtby.
When I sit down to write these posts, I always take a look back to see if I’ve done previews before and see how my current analysis stacks up against my observations from prior seasons. I realized this time around that I’ve already done two (!) previews of the twenty five year-old Saskatchewan native. Those prior looks can be found here and here. Seems like only yesterday he was making his playoff debut.
After flashing serious potential in his first few seasons on a defensively porous Capitals team, Holtby put everything together this season under Barry Trotz. His numbers (2.44 GAA and .923 save percentage) were both single season bests. Additionally, he started 72 games this year, by far a career high (we’ll get to that later). He really cemented himself as an upper-echelon goaltender this season. Read More→
Though it seems like the Rangers and Capitals clash in the playoffs every year, this Washington team is very different than the one the Blueshirts have met three times in the last four postseasons.
In some ways, the roles have been reversed. Whereas John Tortorella’s Black and Blueshirts were known for their grind it out style and fearless defense, former Capitals squads possessed all-world skill but lacked a winning mentality. Now it is Alain Vigneault’s team that is known for its speed and skill while Washington has adapted a more gritty defense-first style.
You only needed to watch the clinic the Caps put on in Monday’s pivotal Game 7 against the Islanders when they allowed just 11 shots to see the marked difference. Read More→
The Rangers practiced with a new set of lines today, as they adjust to life without Mats Zuccarello. As expect, St. Louis moves up to the first line, with Fast moving to the third line and Sheppard coming to the fourth line:
There were adjusted powerplay units as well:
Hunwick was in for Yandle, who will practice tomorrow.
On paper, the Rangers are still a scary team with some solid depth. However, that injury to Zuccarello still hurts.
The series schedule for the Rangers and Caps has been released, although there is a slight variation in the schedule depending on the outcome of the Detroit/Tampa Bay series.
- Game 1: Thursday 4/30, 7:30pm
- Game 2: Saturday 5/2, 12:30pm
- Game 3: Monday 5/4. 7:30pm
- Game 4: Wednesday 5/6. 7:30pm
- Game 5: Friday 5/8. 7:00pm
- Game 6: Sunday 5/10. TBD
- Game 7: Wednesday 5/13. TBD (if Tampa Bay wins)
- Game 7 will be Tuesday 5/12, time TBD if Detroit wins
There are many advantages to winning a series in five games, something that Rangers fans aren’t familiar with. It feels strange to have (somewhat) stress-free hockey to watch at your own leisure and not worry about being eliminated. It allows your team to heal up (see Chris’ post yesterday) and look ahead at future endeavors. It also helps us be better hockey fans and watch other teams, if for no other reason than to weep over our brackets, most of which are FUBAR.
The West was settled up yesterday evening, something that will take the East at least through tonight, if not through Wednesday to complete. There were upsets, expected wins, and upsets over expected wins, so overall a pretty great first round out of the West. Of all the series, there is something different that is interesting of each of them. Consider this a premature round one playoff post-mortem.
Let’s start in Winnipeg, the series that took the least amount of time to settle up. The Anaheim Ducks made quick work of the Jets, sweeping them under the rug. What was so great about this series wasn’t particularly the hockey, it was the fans. Winnipeg hasn’t seen playoff hockey since 1996 (though the franchise was in the playoffs in 2007, it was down in Atlanta). I don’t think it’s a surprise to anybody that Canadians love their hockey, so for the passionate fans, homecoming during Game 3 was insane.
So insane that, even after they were eliminated, and despite the fact that the Whiteout is a direct response to the Calgary Flames’ “C of Red,” the Flames took out this classy ad congratulating the Jets on a successful season:
As if you needed a reminder, THIS is why we love hockey.
The Flames took out the Vancouver Canucks, consistently proving themselves in the third periods of games, just as they had done during the regular season. The Flames, though I don’t see a Cup run this season, will be very good next year, with tons of young talent despite their smaller size.
The St. Louis Blues were a heavy favorite to win it all this year, stacked with offense and finally fully healthy on the defense front. The team had veteran leadership, tons of fairly new talent and the emergence of possibly one of the purest goal scorers in Vladimir Tarasenko. The downfall could’ve been goaltending, with Brian Elliott losing his starting role to 24-year-old Jake Allen, the future goalie of the Blues. They also had a giant monkey on their back — having been eliminated in the first round for the past two years, plus the added pressure of being favorites, they had to at the very least make it out of the first round.
And they didn’t. So what gives? Sure, Devan Dubnyk has had himself one heck of a season after being traded to the Wild, and yeah, he’s a Vezina Trophy finalist. The issue here is this: before coming to the Wild, he was having an average-to-good season, and only played 58 games this season en route to a nomination in a year that the winner has been locked up since February. Spoiler alert: it won’t be Dubnyk bringing home that hardware in June. So do the Blues firesale? Do they get rid of Ken Hitchcock, a Stanley Cup and 700+ game winner? There’s no doubt that Hitch is a good coach, but has he run his course with these Blues? It’ll certainly be interesting to see what moves they make this summer.
The series outside of New York that I was most invested in was the Ottawa-Montreal series, because how could you not be interested? Ottawa came from firing their coach midseason and being 14 games out of the playoffs to making it in to the playoffs as the first Wild Card team. They rode career AHL goalie Andrew Hammond, who went 20-1-2 since he had taken over the net in February. Twenty wins, and only one loss in regulation. The team rallied around new coach Dave Cameron and, after hearing his pressers, it’s not surprising why they did.
The Senators were eliminated last night in a 2-0 game (with the second goal being an empty netter with 2.1 seconds left), a game that was all puck luck and amazing goaltending. After being down 3-0 in the series, the Sens forced it to six games and came close to going back to Montreal for a winner-take-all later this week. Cameron wasn’t afraid of the media, of any scrutiny whatsoever. He went to veteran Craig Anderson, who stood on his head after being sidelined with a hand injury for most of the past three months. I don’t think it’s foolish to recommend that Cameron win the Jack Adams this year; if Dubnyk is getting consideration for a good half of a season, why can’t Cameron?
On top of what we’ve covered here of the Rangers-Penguins series, the only thing I have to add is that it was foolish of people (myself included) to discount Marc-Andre Fleury. Seeing the absurd penalties that the Penguins took regularly is a testament to the type of nights that Fleury had to frequently deal with, being a man down and having an obliterated blueline. Fleury impressed me this series, as did Taylor Chorney, a defenseman who seemed to have himself pulled together (though I kept thinking his name was “Shortie” and wound up singing Usher a LOT this series).
As for the Rangers Playoff Beard Watch©, Keith Yandle is in the clear lead, though he did admit to starting his playoff beard the day after the regular season ended. His genes plus the time advantage have him in the lead.