The New York Rangers completed their sweep over the Washington Capitals last night and now have the luxury of at least 5 days off before the next round against (likely) the Carolina Hurricanes. We here have the luxury of doing a full Rangers/Caps series recap.

We know the Rangers were the better team. Sweeping the worst team in the playoffs feels like it shouldn’t be a “big” achievement, but it is when you consider how rare sweeps are nowadays. Teams that tend to grind more and play a heavier game are also tougher outs.

There are two undeniable facts about the Rangers/Caps series recap: First is the Rangers won through goaltending and special teams, with “good enough’:’ 5v5 play. The second is they needed a lot more from their 5v5 play, especially during long stretches of dominating Caps play.

5v5 numbers aren’t overly pretty, but again, good enough

The Rangers FormulaTM has been to tread water at 5v5 (48% xG share) while leaning on their skill players with the man advantage and in net. On a game by game basis, the Rangers only achieved their 48% xG share once, in Game 1. Their next closest was Game 4 at 46.5%. Game 2 (40.58%) and Game 3 (26.36%) were well under, with Game 3 being relatively atrocious.

All told, the Rangers generated a mere 5.68 xGF (scored 7 goals at 5v5) to 6.93 xGA (5 GA). For those doing the math, that’s a 45% xG share for the series, but with a 58% goals-share. This is where the goaltending matters. It’s also worth noting that not all xG are created equal.

Unfortunately, the high danger chances aren’t overly kind to the Rangers either. They were fine at limiting chances against, with their worst performance in Game 4 (10 high danger chances against). The Blueshirts allowed 6, 7, and 8 high danger chances in the other three games, respectively. Just looking at 5v5, you can say the Rangers got worse as the series went on.

It’s a fair assessment that the Rangers need to be better at 5v5. Their defense was fine, all things considered, but their offense couldn’t generate anything sustained after Game 1. That was the problem – offense, not defense. After all, they are the first team in history to hold Alex Ovechkin to zero points in a playoff series. That has to count for something, right?

Special teams and goaltending lead the charge

Evaluating at 5v5 only is certainly a flawed strategy, even if it’s something we know covers 80% of the game. The Rangers/Caps series had 22.5% of its 4 games on special teams, and this is where the Rangers dominated.

The Rangers scored 6 times with the man advantage (in just 24:30 PP TOI), with all three goals coming in Games 2, 3, and 4. Again, the Rangers FormulaTM relies on two of the three (Igor, powerplay goal, 48% xG share) to make the Rangers virtually unbeatable. The Rangers had Igor all 4 games, and got powerplay goals in three of them. The formula worked again.

The penalty kill, another major strength, also scored twice for the Rangers (K’Andre Miller, Barclay Goodrow). Meanwhile, they held Washington to just two powerplay goals in 29:13 PK TOI.

Igor, of course put up a .931 SV% and dominated throughout the series.

Rangers/Caps series recap

The Rangers/Caps series was the biggest gimme of a playoff series the Rangers got, yet it felt a bit more uncomfortable than we thought it would be. The Caps aren’t a high school team. They still made the playoffs and were good enough to make us sweat for 3 games.

The Rangers also played down to their opponent after Game 1, a trend that hopefully won’t continue against the far, far better Carolina Hurricanes. It’s been a bit of an alarming trend that the Rangers play down to their inferior opponents, but they also play up to better competition like Carolina.

The Rangers Formula held true in the Rangers/Caps series. There’s room for improvement, especially at 5v5, but the overall body of work has been fine.


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