In almost seven periods of playoff hockey* against the New York Rangers, Michal Neuvirth has allowed one measly goal, including a 22-save shutout tonight. The rookie netminder stopped all but one of the 47 shots he’s faced in his first two career playoff games as the Washington Capitals ground their way to a 2-0 series lead.
Neuvirth’s performance can mean a few things. To some, it reveals that the young netminder is cool as a cucumber in the Capitals net, showing that his AHL playoff successes might point toward victories at the highest level. Others will gravitate toward Washington’s resounding metamorphosis from a free-wheeling offensive juggernaut to a defense-first team with a handful of game-breaking scorers. Meanwhile, depressed Rangers fans might argue that the spotlight should be shined upon their impotent offense.
All three factions have a point, but either way, the Caps are up 2-0 in this first round series.
Washington 2, NY Rangers 0; Capitals lead series 2-0.
Two was the magic number of this game, as Washington won 2-0 to take a 2-0 series lead thanks to two goals scored in about two minutes during period No. 2.
Jason Chimera scored the game-winner at even strength while much-ballyhooed veteran Jason Arnott gave his team an insurance marker on the man advantage. Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green notched assists on Arnott’s power-play goal.
Neuvirth didn’t have to do a ton in his 22-save shutout, but Henrik Lundqvist might have some regrets – at least from a statistical standpoint – as he allowed those two tallies on only 18 shots.
The Capitals continue to play the tight-checking, defensive minded game that many found lacking from their playbook in previous seasons. Before they get too cocky, it’s important to note that Game 3 will take place away from home, so Washington technically only managed to “hold serve” at this point.
As happy as Washington must be right now, it’s important to note that they’ve only managed to score four goals in seven periods of hockey. Obviously, allowing a single tally in that span shows they’re playing the kind of inelegant style that can get things done, but they shouldn’t let these tough wins get to their heads.
Instead, they should be like Arnott, who avoided celebrating in the team’s post-game huddle. Sure, he did so because he once suffered a concussion in that situation when he was with Nashville, but he should spin it as yet another savvy veteran move. After all, the Capitals hope to celebrate much bigger accomplishments during the next two months, don’t they?
* Counting a near-complete period of overtime hockey in Game 1.