Practice makes perfect.
It's back to the basics after the
Big "O"vechkin went 0 for 9 to stop his scoring streak.
The Caps with their high-powered offense hosted the Rangers who had also found an early-season scoring touch. In a back and forth nail biting game, the Rangers prevailed 4-3 thanks to 2 outrageous goals by Marian Gaborik in the 3rd.
There's not enough space to review in depth the scoring plays and highlights. You can find the official recap here. It was a great game primarily because the Rangers persevered despite being penalized 9 times including playing 2 men down for more than a minute at a time twice.
It's early -- 4 games in but I think we can make some observations:
- The Rangers have no fear right now playing on the road. They gave the Pens trouble on opening night and have won in New Jersey and Washington (the first regular season win in nearly 2 years in D.C.)
- If anyone doubted how the offseason acquisitions have changed this team, doubt no more. The Blueshirts have a legitimate score-at-any-time-from-anywhere threat in Gaborik. His 2 goals in the 3rd period, a tying goal 18 seconds after the Caps had gone ahead, and the winning goal on a power play stunned viewers, stunned the Caps, stunned the fans and most of all stunned Jose Theodore in the goal. What I enjoyed the most was that Gaborik does not celebrate the goals like he won the Stanley Cup. Business-like and cold-blooded like a silent assassin.
- Henrik gave up a bad goal on a shot that was near the outfield wall of the Nationals stadium by Niklas Backstrom that tied the score at 2 and changed the momentum. For a change, the rest of the team eventually pulled together after Backstrom scored his 2nd goal of the period (the Caps' only successful power play) to make it 3-2. They pushed forward, regained the ice and scored twice before shutting down the Caps. You did not see that much at all last season.
- The 3rd period is the Rangers' strong period so far with scoring and shutdown defense. Perhaps that conditioning really works.
- The Rangers are putting the puck on net a lot more -- from the point especially. Last night, numerous shots rebounded off Theodore leaving prime opportunities for goals. Gaborik overskated a tempting rebound. Overall, you have to like the increased shooting accuracy which is wreaking havoc in front of the net and putting pressure on defense. Also, these shots keep the puck in the enemy zone which enables the Rangers to continue their pressure. Vastly different play (and results) from last season.
- The penalty kill unit was a fabulous 8 for 9 and scored a shorthanded goal. And quite a goal it was. Callahan was on the kill for more than a minute and deflected a pass that led to a 2 on 1 with Dubinsky. That pass was broken up. Callay, instead of heading off ice, went back to the defensive zone, swatted another puck away and went up ice on a breakaway that he converted with a nifty backhander. Skill, perseverance and conditioning -- you can see Tortorella's fingerprints on this team.
- Vinny Prospal -- he was all over the ice -- offensively and defensively. I understand why he is here because he knows Tortorella's system and leads by example. And the coach trusts him.
- Ales Kotalik -- I saw him muscling people behind the net. I saw him put a strong move on a pass from Anisimov that led to the goal in the picture here. Nice.
Knock, knock. Two on the doorstep lead to success.
- Veteran defensemen. I did not see Roszival for the last half of the game. I think there is a reason why. He made his usual cover your eyes giveaway to lead to the Caps first goal. Then he lost his stick and held a player for a penalty. He then lost his slot on the ice. The Coach in his postgame commented ominously that players who earned ice time played. Meanwhile, Wade Redden, after a couple of bad plays, got stronger as the game wore on and was on the ice for many pivotal moments. Girardi and Staal also got stronger as the game wore on with some shot deflections, blocked passes and stronger defensive play. The vets' defense is not there yet.
- Forechecking -- a team effort that successfully bottled up the Caps for minutes at a time. The energy the Caps had to expend helped to deflate them on their numerous power play opportunities. Even the fans sensed especially with their final power play in the last 5 minutes of the game that the Caps were out of sync. The MSG announcers said that the Caps had a bad game. I disagree. The Rangers' aggressive play on enemy ice did that. The 4th line, despite its bad penalties in the 3rd period, acquitted itself well. I totally respect Tortorella for letting them play so he can evaluate how they respond. He also did not punish (except verbally) Voros for his penalty that led to the Caps go ahead goal and sent him right back out. It's early, folks -- the coach has to test the mettle of the team.
- Continued domination of Ovechkin -- 0 for 9 on shots. He has trouble scoring goals against the Rangers. They effectively get after him but he cannot be totally denied. Fortunately, Henrik was able to stop the shots that got through including a laser beam that he was able to stick away.
--- The Mantis.