Photo credit: Frank Franklin II
At 12:40 p.m. on Saturday, Jay Beagle won the opening faceoff of game two of Metropolitan Division Final against the New York Rangers. Instead of controlling the puck, however, the Capitals allowed the Rangers to set up for a rush out their defensive zone. As the Rangers took the puck up the ice, Washington’s top forward and defensive lines jumped on the ice. Brooks Orpik didn’t do so fast enough. Jesper Fast fed the puck to Chris Kreider in front. Thirty-eight seconds into the game, Washington was down one-nil. By the end of the first period, New York had a two-goal lead. The Caps had been outshot 15-4, completely outmatched for the first 20 minutes of play.
“I think we had a great start,” defenseman Marc Staal told reporters at the team hotel on Sunday.
But instead of sitting on their lead as they did in game two, the Rangers only plan to press more on Monday.
“It’s one thing to stay patient,” Staal said. “I think it’s another thing to stay aggressive.”
Staal said the Rangers plan to forecheck hard in game three, regardless of the score or period.
Because New York let up, Washington was slowly able to claw their way back into the game when playoff sensation Evgeny Kuznetsov cut the lead to one with intelligently concocted goal off the end boards midway through the second. Heading into the final period, a comeback was within reach, though those hopes were crushed by Derick Brassard‘s weak goal on Braden Holtby. Though Alex Ovechkin helped the Caps rise from the dead with 10 minutes left, Washington had dug itself too big of a hole.
For the Rangers, dominating first periods is the norm. They outscored the opposition 91-56 in the opening frame during the regular season and have continued that trend by netting seven goals to their opponents two so far this postseason. After Saturday’s game, Capitals coach Barry Trotz insisted his team had to be better. According to Trotz and his players, the key is simple: be prepared from the drop of the puck.
“They play their first shift like they play their whole game,” Tom Wilson told me. “They just go.”
“We gotta be ready for it,” Wilson added.
Trotz said he was no stranger to this kind of play. According to the longtime coach, his team’s played a similar strike-first style to New York’s while he was in Nashville. (In fact, Trotz’s teams routinely got outscored by their opponents in the first period, but it sounded good at the time.) Trotz said the recipe for stopping the onslaught can’t be drawn up on a whiteboard. Instead, it’s something more elemental.
“They came with more urgency in their game in the first period,” Trotz said. “When you’re more urgent, you’re winning more battles, more races, and you have the puck more.”
“A lot of times you can’t win the game in the first 10 minutes of a game, but you can lose a game in the first 10,” the coach concluded. In game three, the Capitals hope to be on the other side of things.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
All original content on russianmachineneverbreaks.com is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)– unless otherwise stated or superseded by another license. You are free to share, copy, and remix this content so long as it is attributed, done for noncommercial purposes, and done so under a license similar to this one.