Rangers-Capitals Game 1 Thoughts: Feels Like 2010-11 Again

I spent the entire NHL season up until Game 47 of 48 worrying about the Rangers getting into the playoffs in a season in which they were supposed to build off an Eastern Conference finals appearance. If I knew the first game of the playoffs would go the way Game 1 did on Thursday night, I could have saved a lot of time during the regular season by learning how to cook or by finally watching The Wire or by finally reading all of the classic books I used SparkNotes on in high school instead of watching Rangers games.

Is that a little dramatic following one playoff loss? Of course. But I’m not worried about the Rangers being down 1-0 in a seven-game series to a team they were equal to during the regular season. I’m worried about the Rangers because of the effort in Game 1 and the way they played and were outplayed by a Capitals team that looks much different than they did when they last met the Rangers on March 24.

Thursday night’s Game 1 was the 20th playoff game between the Rangers and Capitals since the 2008-09 quarterfinals. It was the ninth time in the 20 games that the Rangers scored one goal or less and their inability to score goals has become an annual problem that not even Rick Nash being the scoring machine he is could fix thanks to minimal secondary scoring help.

So despite it being a new Rangers team, the franchise still has the same scoring problem. How much of a problem is it? Let’s take a look. Here are the scores of all the Rangers-Capitals playoff games since the 2008-09 quarterfinals.

2012-13 Quarterfinals
Game 1: WSH 3, NYR 1

2011-12 Semifinals
Game 1: NYR 3, WSH 1
Game 2: WSH 3, NYR 2
Game 3: NYR 2, WSH 1 (OT)
Game 4: WSH 3, NYR 2
Game 5: NYR 3, WSH 2 (OT)
Game 6: WSH 2, NYR 1
Game 7: NYR 2, WSH 1

2010-11 Quarterfinals
Game 1: WSH 2, NYR 1 (OT)
Game 2: WSH 2, NYR 0
Game 3: NYR 3, WSH 2
Game 4: WSH 4, NYR 3 (OT)
Game 5: WSH 3, NYR 1

2008-09 Quarterfinals
Game 1: NYR 4, WSH 3
Game 2: NYR 1, WSH 0
Game 3: WSH 4, NYR 0
Game 4: NYR 2, WSH 1
Game 5: WSH 4, NYR 0
Game 6: WSH 5, NYR 3
Game 7: WSH 2, NYR 1

The Rangers are 8-12 in the 20 games.

The Rangers have scored 35 goals in the 20 games (1.75 goals per game).

The Rangers have been shutout three times (15 percent).

The Rangers have scored one goal or less nine times (45 percent).

The Rangers have scored two goals or less 14 times (70 percent).

Do you see this as a problem? I do. Do you see this as the reason why they have only won one of the three previous series and needed two overtime wins to win that series? I do. Do you see this as a goaltending problem? I don’t. Because how could you?

It took one playoff game and one loss for the Henrik Lundqvist critics to come out of their holes like Punxsutawney Phil to recite Lundqvist’s playoff record and the Rangers’ lack of success in the playoffs during his tenure. These are claims made by unintelligent fans who aren’t aware that Lundqvist can’t score goals for the Rangers and that the team missed out on the playoffs for seven consecutive seasons before he became a Ranger after the lockout, and that the Rangers have been in the playoffs seven of the eight years since the lockout.

Game 1 was just another Rangers loss that had nothing to do with the way Lundqvist played and everything to do with the offense and the power play. If you’re someone who placed any blame for the 3-1 loss on Lundqvist then that means you’re someone who felt the Rangers should have won a playoff game 1-0 against the hottest team in the NHL with one of the best power plays in league history because the Rangers scored one goal.

– I’m really not sure what Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi were thinking or doing when they let Steven Oleksy complete a pass from the top of the Capitals circle to the Rangers blue line to Marcus Johansson, who inexplicably got behind them, to create a breakaway and give the Capitals a 2-1 lead. That’s supposed to be the Rangers’ best defensive pair. No big deal!

– What’s the percentage of Dan Girardi shot attempts that actually find the net and count as a shot on goal and don’t hit shin pads, chests, sticks, the boards or glass? I’m thinking it’s somewhere around 7 percent. As for Michael Del Zotto, I’m thinking his percentage is around 4 or 5.

– Physics and common sense dictate that John Moore scored at 15:57 of the third period of Game 1 to cut the Rangers’ deficit to one. Camera placement by the NHL and TV networks and the idea of “conclusive evidence” created by the NFL dictate that Braden Holtby kept John Moore’s shot out of the net at 15:57 of the third period to hold the Capitals’ lead at 3-1. And while it sucked and would have been a nice momentum shift and would have made the last 4:04 of the game dramatic, I understand why the officials made the call they did since given the rules it was the correct call. But the Rangers shouldn’t put themselves in a position where they would need the help of the officials and the off-ice officials in Toronto to determine whether or not a goal should or shouldn’t count.

– Tortorella’s postgame press conference didn’t last long, but he had one telling line when he said, “Hopefully we discipline ourselves in the next game.” If the way to beat the Capitals is to contain Alexander Ovechkin (which the Rangers didn’t do in Game 1) and to limit their power-play opportunities (which the Rangers didn’t do in Game 1) then why wouldn’t the Rangers have come into the series already disciplined? They have been an undisciplined team all season with untimely penalties at inopportune times and their two-many-men-on-the-ice penalty just 34 seconds into the game showed that they aren’t prepared to change their ways for the postseason. Discipline falls on the coaching staff and the penalty to open the game, while it didn’t come back to hurt them, was absolutely ridiculous.

– I’m tired of listening to Pierre McGuire talk about John Tortorella as a power-play specialist (which he has done several times this year to Mike Francesa on WFAN), who has run successful power plays in the past for other organizations. No Rangers fan cares about Tortorella’s prior power-play success to coming to New York the way no one cares about him winning the Cup nine years ago in Tampa Bay.

The Rangers power play is a disgrace. They finished the regular season 23rd in the league at 15.7 percent, which is actually sort of impressive when you think about where they were midseason. But in Game 1 they went an expected 0-for-4 on the power play and failed to score on a 5-on-3.

The Rangers power play isn’t good enough (it actually isn’t good at all) to be the difference in the series and the Capitals power play is too good to give any chances to (let alone five in one game). The Rangers need to use their supposed depth, defense and goaltending to win the series at even strength because if it comes down to special teams, this series is going to go the same way the 2010-11 quarterfinals went. After one game, it already feels like that series.

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