Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Coughlin Effect | Rangers 4 Wash 3 [Rangers lead series 1-0]

The "Avery effect" is a much bandied about term to describe how the Rangers perform so much better when he is on the team. However, it appears John Tortorella decided to channel his inner Tom Coughlin, when he exhorted his team to play the season finale last Sunday evening against the Flyers all out as if it were a meaningful game.

The Rangers heeded the Coach and in doing so, they won for the first time on the road in what seemed forever, they denied home ice to the Flyers, they scored on the power play, they scored a shorthanded goal, they scored 2 goals in the 3rd period for a come-from-behind win, they silenced a hostile partisan crowd, they protected Henrik (who, in turn, made some fabulous saves) and won a one goal game.

These gentlemen are the only resident coaches in NY who have held championship hardware.

Fast forward to Wednesday night at D.C.'s Verizon Center for their first game of the playoffs against the #2 seeded Washington Capitals. The Rangers took the first step to abiding by the Giants' championship blueprint -- their special teams came through with 2 power play goals, they won on the road, they failed to wilt in front of a boisterous crowd, they scored a[nother] critical game-winning 3rd period goal, and they wrested home ice advantage from the #2 seed.

The Rangers walked into Game 1 with much going against them. They were starting their 10th playoff series in a row on the road. They had only won the first game of a series 3 times in the prior 15 playoff series. Captain Chris Drury would be out with an unspecified injury which would impact the penalty kill and faceoff prowess.

Meanwhile, the Caps had a great regular season home record -- a sparkling 29-9-3 -- led by a prolific power play unit that scored more than 25% of the time. They have Alex Ovechkin, the #1 goal scorer in the NHL this season. And strangely enough, goalie Jose Theodore is 4-0 in first round series. Despite all these obstacles, the Rangers, yet again showing their trademark resiliency, not only competed, they jumped out to a 3-1 lead, and despite being tied early in the 3rd, came through with a 4-3 victory in Game 1. Official game recap here.

In the opening period, the Rangers did well to avoid a blow-out as the Caps had the early energy The Rangers were not helped when Dan Girardi was penalized in the opening seconds (which he unfortunately repeated to open the 3rd period that led to the Caps tying goal). In a definite foreboding of how this game would turn out -- Callahan blew past a Cap defenseman on a shorthanded effort. Then a little later he hit a post (one of 2 he nailed) as the Rangers finally made a sustained rush into the Capitals zone after more than 3 minutes of the game had elapsed.

The Caps continued to fly around the ice and Ovechkin totally deked Staal on an approach to the goal that was foiled by Lundqvist. It was thanks to his strong play and the ability of the Rangers to ensure that few pucks either made it to him or that he had unobstructed vision of shots that enabled the Rangers to keep the Caps off the scoreboard. During the scoreless first period, the Rangers were outshot at one point 12-2 with 4 minutes to go. And with that period done, the Rangers calmed down and started to play much better.

In the second period, the Caps opened the scoring on a nice deflection of an Ovechkin shot from the blue line by Tomas Fleischman at the 6:40 mark. Immediately, I thought to myself "Oh-oh" after recalling the game earlier this season when the Rangers lost 2-1. But, something strange happened -- it was the Caps defensemen who were plodding, slow and clumsy, reminiscent of certain Ranger defensemen at times. A minute after Fleischman's goal, Gomez picked up the puck, as one Cap defenseman collided with Antropov near Lundqvist giving Gomez some open ice, and while he was crossing the Caps' blue line, Mike Green collided with Avery leaving Gomez with an unobstructed view of Theodore who simply was outmatched by Gomez's shot.

The Rangers received a jolt from their penalty killing. Again, Blair Betts led the way with a strong check on Green and then blocking shots although he had lost his stick. Lundqvist came up with big saves with his glove, stick and skate. He put on a clinic of exploiting good angles on shooters. The energy led to 2 power plays late in the second (one drawn by Avery on John Erskine) and both times the Rangers converted.

The first goal was scored by Antropov on a neat wrist shot. Then 30 seconds later Sergei Fedorov shot the puck out of the arena for a delay of game penalty and the Rangers went back to work. Gomez, showing some great hockey sense, saw that the Caps were in the midst of a change and worked the puck up to the blue line, took possession of the offensive zone and left a nice drop pass for Naslund who beat Theodore. That was a signature goal by Gomez as a playmaker and reminiscent of the give-and-go with Avery that led to to the tying goal against Philly on Sunday. But the Rangers proceeded to give up the lead with a late goal to end the 2nd period and an early PPG to start the 3rd. Again, I thought to myself "Oh-oh".

Midway through the final period, the pivotal stretch of the game occurred. The Caps, thanks to Naslund's 2nd penalty, had their power play unit on the ice with a chance to take the lead. Unfortunately for them, they decided to play like the Rangers' power play -- no passing, players static while the Rangers scrambled around them to keep them from developing any rhythm. As they usually do, the Ovechkin PP unit stayed out for nearly the entire 2 minutes. But with a few seconds left, Ovechkin and others decided to abandon the PP and move for a change. At that moment, Antropov picked up the puck in front of Lundqvist, shot a pass up the center to Naslund emerging from the penalty box who then sent Brandon Dubinsky in on the left side. Dubi made a sick move that turned defenseman Jeff Schultz inside out. And as Schultz fell down (the Caps 3rd d-man to do that), he had a clear path to the net and converted a perfect shot beyond Theodore. As in the Flyers game, Dubi (on a recent scoring tear) and Antropov hooked up for a critical goal.

Dubi's game winner stuns Theo, the Caps and D.C. and perhaps even Ranger fans.

Of course, the Rangers did hold on even though they were under siege when Naslund took a brutally bad penalty (his 3rd of the game) with 5 minutes to go that could have been a killer. But the Rangers special teams and goalie combined to thwart the Caps. Ovechkin had 10 shots during the game; the Caps outshot the Rangers 35-21. To the Rangers credit, many of those shots came with unobstructed viewing lanes for Henrik and many of Ovechkin's shots were outside or from bad angles -- the types that Lundqvist, when he is in the groove, can stop.

Overall, the Ranger defense outplayed the Caps defense -- even Roszival and Redden. (BTW, little known fact -- Redden is a +5 since the trading deadline and +1 in this game.) Meanwhile, Mike Green was a -2.
The Caps defensemen won't be mistaken
for Mikhail Baryshnikov anytime soon.
Here are the troubling parts -- the Rangers took numerous penalties -- 7 of them (5 by Girardi and Naslund combined). That has to be curtailed. The Caps had 2 PPGs. Betts, Sjostrom and several others blocked numerous shots during the game especially on the penalty kill.

Also, the Rangers were lucky that they did not need stretchers to remove their players. Bradley leveled Mara behind the net. Girardi sent a pass to Korpikoski that left Lauri exposed for a brutal hit by Ovechkin. Sjostrom at one point was pounded into the ice and was slow to get up. These kinds of hits and the blocked shots have a cumulative effect over the course of a series and it is lucky for the Rangers that the schedule gives them a 2 day break before Game 2.



  1. Tony- great post. I especially appreciate your visualization of the caps defensive corp.

    Whereas Marcus Naslund should know better for taking so many penalties (hardly redeemed for scoring a goal), we did deliver on the three things that win you playoff games (and dreamingly The Cup) and that is

    1. Goalkeeping
    2. Penalty Killing
    3. Power Play scoring

    Wednesday we had all of the above, even with what appeared to be some pretty shitty moments for our Blueshirts.

    So hopefully, tomorrow we can improve on our seasonal habits and deliver another round of 1,2,3 plus some improvements.

    Scary ahead...


  2. It is so refreshing to see Tortorella smiling for once. I hope he keeps smiling after tomorrow. I agree that the Blueshirts were knocked around like a Mexican jumping bean, no offense to Scott Gomez but the jumping bean might have a better shot on goal. ;)

  3. Having 2 days off is like buying 20 Lazy-boy chairs for every Ranger player on the roster and telling them saturday morning that they have ot play again. there is no way they can correct the unleashing storm that Washington is going to unload on the Rags. Ovechkin gets revenge and when Russians get mad, next thing you know there is a nuclear warhead waiting at your door ready to go pop.

    GO CAPS!


This site/blog is not affiliated with the New York Rangers or The National Hockey League in any manner whatsoever. Some photos on this site are used w/out permission but are hosted on the blogger server, therefore not interfering with the profit or bandwidth of the original owner. If you are the owner of a specific image that we have used in our blog , please email me at to have it removed - we will gladly remove it immediately.

If you have a hockey blog/website and would like to place a link on our site, please contact me & we can do a link exchange (the best way to get more traffic to our blogs).

Any offer of 'tickets at cost' is exactly that -- I have season tickets and will sell them for what I paid --- so no mark-ups.

The Dark Ranger is a not-for-profit site, not officially, but we derive no income at all from anything on this site; in fact, DARK at his own expense enjoys the freedom of having no sponsors and speaking his f*cking mind.