Few, if any, goalies have seen Alex Ovechkin in playoff form as often as Henrik Lundqvist. One can guess that the New York Rangers’ star netminder is probably all too familiar with seeing scary shots from the Washington Capitals’ key winger.
Ovechkin seems to be at his trigger-happy best in Game 1, and not just on that laser shot that currently stands as the only goal. It’s possible that he’s always yapping, really, but you get the impression that his trash talk gets a little louder when his game is on.
Microphones caught a great moment between the two, as Ovechkin taunted Lundqvist with “All series long baby, all series long” shortly after that goal:
That can’t be music to Lundqvist’s (or Rangers fans’) ears …
Here’s the goal that maybe left Ovechkin feeling extra bold:
The Washington Capitals remain up 1-0 against the New York Rangers heading into the third period, yet both sides have enjoyed their fair share of chances.
In fact, players on both sides – maybe Derick Brassard (pictured) especially – may rue some missed opportunities during an entertaining and hectic stretch during the middle frame:
That could be losing-sleep material if this one ends up as close as it’s been so far.
The New York Rangers looked great during much of the first period of Game 1, but Alex Ovechkin’s one of those rare snipers who can change things with the flick of a wrist.
New York managed a 12-7 shot advantage in the opening frame, yet Ovechkin’s attempt was the only one to hit a net, giving the Washington Capitals an early 1-0 lead. Should Henrik Lundqvist have stopped this laser?
(Easier said than done, obviously.)
Even without Mats Zuccarello, the New York Rangers will still pose a speedy challenge for the Washington Capitals when the two teams kick off their second-round series tonight at MSG.
“I think [Carl] Hagelin and [Chris] Kreider jump out as probably their top speed guys,” Caps d-man Brooks Orpik said, per NHL.com. “I think from video we have watched it’s more the way they play than the individual speed. If you turn the puck over, the transition from their defense to the forwards with those stretch passes is good. It forces teams to play fast so that’ll be really important. We need to manage the puck well so they don’t hit us with that transition speed.”
It’s that quick-strike potential on offense that made the Rangers one of the top-scoring teams during the regular season, despite not boasting the best possession numbers.
As Orpik noted, not only can some of the Rangers really skate, their coach, Alain Vigneault, demands his players move the puck quickly.
“It’s about making good, clean passes to our forwards to help them get up the ice,” d-man Keith Yandle learned upon joining the Rangers from Arizona, per NHL.com.
But remember, these are Barry Trotz’s Capitals now. Washington plays with the kind of patience and structure that can stifle a good offense, as we saw Monday when John Tavares and the New York Islanders were held to just 11 shots.
“They really respect the way their coach wants them to play,” said Rangers center Derrick Brassard, per CBS New York. “They have a really good structure now. Their players are willing to pay the price. They’re competing real hard. That’s why they’re having a lot of success this year.”
Related: Here’s the second-round schedule
The latest Stanley Cup odds, per Bovada:
New York Rangers — 13/4
Chicago Blackhawks — 4/1
Anaheim Ducks — 9/2
Minnesota Wild — 11/2
Montreal Canadiens — 13/2
Tampa Bay Lightning — 15/2
Washington Capitals — 9/1
Calgary Flames — 12/1
Gotta be honest, nothing looks too tempting there. I picked the Lightning to win it all, and I guess 15/2 isn’t a terrible payout. But did anyone think Tampa Bay looked great against Detroit? I didn’t.
If I absolutely had to make a bet — taking into consideration both the team and potential winnings — I’d go with Washington at 9/1. Heading into the playoffs I wasn’t sure how Evgeny Kuznetsov would fare as a second-line center. Well, we all know what he did against the Isles. To be sure, the Rangers will be a really tough out, but I think they’ll miss the speed and play-making ability of Mats Zuccarello.
Related: PHT’s Round 2 picks, once again featuring The Coin