Today’s game review brought to you by Norm. The only fault that I have is that he didn’t comment on Hank’s beauty. After the game, with his mask off, he looked like a dream. The hair was perfect and his eyes – bluer than robins’ eggs.
Here is his review:
To whoever is the editor (that would be me, the omnipotent E3) tonight, here comes a game report, which you can repost or ignore as you wish. Fun task, though time-consuming, and now I appreciate previous reporters with even more respect.
“Good game for the Rangers, obviously. But from the Caps point of view, it was not their A game, to say the least. Gives you an appreciation for how well the Rangers have played in game two’s of back-to-backs. The Caps didn’t take long to open up Route One in the middle of the ice, and the Rangers had one break or near-break after another. The Caps knew they were lucky to be down only 2-0, and had their coaches to thank. I need Carp to come up with something like his shootout-after-the-game-ends acronym for the insufferable offside-after-the-goal-has-been-scored rule, one that I hope hits the trash bin off in the off-season. Gifted the 1-goal deficit, they finally broke through with some good passing against a good PK, catching a bit of a break on the deflected goal, but it might have gone in anyway. But…that was it. The Caps had a chance or three the rest of the way, but from the equalizer to the end, the hosts owned this game and visitors clearly ran out of gas. What a great faceoff 1-2-3 to win it. As good a win, though an admittedly flat game all around, as the Rangers have earned this season. Some observations:
A) Hayes stamped himself all over that first period. Some terrific passing from him but a reminder he needs a couple thousand more hours of drilling before he adds goal-scoring to his list of talents. He failed to look the puck onto his tape with a wide-open net. Disappeared in the second, and had a great play in the third to clear the high slot and save a goal. He just keeps getting better.
B) Good on McDonagh for not peeling out but instead following his shot and showing the patience of a natural goal-scorer on the follow-up. Couldn’t have happened without Nash tying things up in front there, nice that he got an assist, though I didn’t see him touch the puck.
C) Lundqvist had a shaky-looking first period, including yet another fumble attempting to stick-handle behind the net. I often wonder whether he should just leave those alone entirely. Probably not a good idea overall—he gets it right more often than not, as he did in the third when he ate the puck effectively and waited for help—but the coaching staff has probably wondered more than once about the stay-in-the-crease option. A couple of big saves, though, especially in the middle of the game, and giving up one against the Caps is always a good accomplishment.
D) It’s interesting to watch how the overly-concussed Staal goes about his business these days. He’s no banger, if he ever was, but he does a good job of angling guys into the boards, easing them off the puck. There are better defensemen, to be sure, but his experience does show. Does the little things well.
E) I’m loving me some Zibanajad. When he first came up, not that I saw him that much, he seemed to be all flash. Now that he’s a seasoned pro, while he still has the flash, he’s become a solid player all around. Easy to see now how much the team missed him during those doldrums. Key piece of the puzzle, was his face-off win for the deciding goal.
F) That offside rule is so ridiculous. Close offside calls are missed all the time, but if there’s a goal, all hell needs to breaks loose? Let’s say a missed call were to lead to a heavy forecheck that wears down the opponent and results in a goal later on. Can a coach ask for a replay and then request a free time-out to make up for the “unfair” forecheck? NHL bigwigs have to know what a game-killer it is. Best case, the home fans get a cheer of relief if it goes their way, knowing in truth that they’ve just been scored on. Fix it!
G) Holden gifted the Caps a 2-on-1 early, but cleaned it up (with Lundqvist) very nicely. And his trying to block Ovi’s shot in the second led to a goal. Admirable but perhaps getting out of the way and being first to the rebound if there is one? Good game overall along with his five sidekicks.
H) Grubauer, I thought, had a nice game, though he didn’t need to make any spectacular saves. The’s breakaway attempt, for example, was not much of one. Why he didn’t go to his backhand move, which is nearly impossible to stop when he’s carrying speed, I have no idea. (He almost scored on that one in the third coming in from the boards.) But as much as Grubauer was not spectacular, nor did he suck, which is often good enough.
I) And the only two times he was beaten, Grube’s D hung him out to dry. Shambolic Caps’ defending on both Rangers goals. The Rangers’ defense on the other hand, while much maligned at times this season, showed why every now and then, their deep, no-stars rotation can be highly effective. Very few mistakes this afternoon, and very many good clearances and passes out of the zone.
J) Buchnevich, I think, is riding the struggle bus. He had one very good forecheck going in the second, for example, doing his part to keep a cycle going, but was pushed over from behind with ease, coughed it up, out of the zone it went. He’ll stay on the 4th line, I think, until he learns how to add the boring, grindy stuff to his game.
K) Zucc had a below-average game, to my eyeballs, right up to his terrific play in the winner. He had a horrible pass on a 2nd-period 2-on-1, one which had it gone through—low odds there—would still not have been any good. Not his day, I thought, but later, when it counted: Boom! Great feet, then great hands. Key goal in a statement game, especially for a guy who’s been getting it in the neck for his lack of scoring this year. Hope it’s a streak-starter.
L) Grabner is downright scary on the PK. Had the Caps’ pointmen on their heels whenever he was out there. With good reason. The first kill (thanks, Oscar, for the dumb o-zone penalty) was a breeze.
M) After the first period, the Rangers must have thought it was their game to lose, five-six grade-A’s squandered. But they were pretty tight through 25 minutes, until the post rang at about mid-game. Was it Wilson shooting? Can’t remember, but the shot was going wide until Lundqvist deflected it, slightly. At that point, the Caps were sustaining some good forechecks and I was thinking they, too, must be worrying about lost opportunities biting them in the end.
N) Then The committed one of the dumbest penalties you’ll ever see, made all the more needless by the fact that he had put in a good effort just prior, with an eye-catching backcheck. But he grabbed like a lobster and the Caps got the PP winner soon thereafter. At the end of the second, even if the Rangers had blown slightly more chances, 1-1 was about the right score IMO.
O) Breaking down the PP goal, looking at the replays, the Rangers didn’t do a lot wrong on the play, but if I had to pick on anyone, it would be Stepan, who I thought slight overplayed his corner of the box, which sucked Nash and Holden in to help, leaving Ovi too much time to shoot. Who knows if the undeflected shot might have gone in, but Lundqvist was square, so that much was good, too.
P) Boy, can Vesey be bad in-zone. He had one shift in particular that was a near parody of a runaround, as he skated from man to man executing flyby sweepchecks, the puck always a tick ahead of his late charges. The Rangers are lucky to have him, a solid rookie. But he’s still a rookie.
Q) In the second, Klein had a textbook breakup of a 2-on-1, and I thought he was the best Rangers defender in the game, McD’s big goal notwithstanding.
R) I remember thinking, when the Rangers then blew a THREE-on-one—I think it was the otherwise solid Zibanajad who slowed the play down and passed it away, ignoring his trailer—that the home team deserved to lose this one. So many instances of poor execution in the o-zone, but to their credit, they stayed with it, never hung their heads that they weren’t cashing in, especially after having their second goal Fedex-ed to Toronto.
S) Speaking of which, the power play looked good both times. Good pressure, made the Caps work, scored once. Good enough, perhaps, to have the Caps think penalties weren’t worth taking, subconsciously or otherwise. The goal and the good passing should give the PP units some confidence moving forward.
T) How weird was that Miller injury interlude? Down on the ice behind the play, who knows how badly hurt, and…commercial break! Then we have to wait for five minutes for the replay, which showed if not a from-behind penalty, certainly a play worth discussing. But the moment had passed. Fairly crappy coverage there.
U) Speaking of crappy coverage, how about the crappy ice? Starting off with Skjei in the first minutes, guys were losing their edges all day long.
V) It looked as though it would be a squander-thon to begin the third. First, Vesey tried the JV move, off a pass from Stepan, of trying not once but twice to shoot the puck through Grubauer’s right pad. Oscar, not to be outdone, soon submitted his entry for Worst Attempt at Net of the season. Shoot, I guess he thought, toward the net’s area code, hope for a chip on the ice?
W) Back to the winning goal, how great would it be if the Rangers could pull off a three-man weave like that one more often! Zib wins the faceoff the easy way, shove-passes forward to TK’s tape; he skates through the circle, hits a good-enough pass to Zucc’s feet; then Zucc commits magic. Yes, it helps that the Caps were as stationary as tin table-hockey players with nobody on the knobs, but a nice play nevertheless.
X) Loved to death the way the Rangers closed out the game after the winner, putting the Caps to sleep for almost twelve minutes of near-perfect, responsible, defensive hockey, with the occasional two-man forecheck thrown in. Always three back, and kept the puck on the perimeter in their own zone. Lundqvist easily handled the one or two times there was a threat, and the game ticked off the clock as quickly as I can recall. A tiny push 6 on 5, as you’d expect, but from the Caps point of view, meh.”