Thursday, April 14, 2011

Playoff Round 1 Game #1 Recap: Caps 2 New York 1

The Washington Capitals are the #1 seed in the East for the second consecutive year. After the disappointment in the first round of last year's playoffs the coaching staff knew they needed to make a change in tactics. This year they instituted a much more defensively responsible system that the players bought into really started to excel at late in the season. Last night's overtime victory in Game 1 shows just how far the team has come. The Caps allowed just 25 shots on goal in over 78 minutes of play and blocked another 32 shots. Rookie goaltender  Michal Neuvirth looked comfortable and confident in his Stanley Cup playoffs debut. He made several outstanding saves early and stopped 24 of the 25 shots he faced in the game. The Capitals were able to get scoring chances but were unable to to the score as Jason Arnott and Alexander Semin rang the iron behind Henrik Lundqvist while Mike Knuble and Nicklas Backstrom failed to connect on several other good chances. The game was scoreless through 2 periods but that would change early in the third. New York defenseman Matt Gilroy scored the opening goal of the series when he crept down into the backside circle and beat Neuvirth with a snap shot. Undaunted, the Capitals went to work and tied the game with just over 6 minutes remaining when Alex Ovechkin jammed a puck through Lundqvist on the left side of the crease. The goal was reviewed in Toronto but stood and the 1-1 game went to overtime. Neuvirth had to be alert early when Ranger sniper Marion Gaborik had a chance in front but the young Czech native denied him and play continued. The game looked to be going to a second overtime intermission with both teams not allowing a whole lot of offense but the Rangers turned the puck over in their own zone with less than 2 minutes to play. Arnott picked up the puck at the right point and feed Semin in the high slot. Semin let go a laser of a shot that was in and out of the net before Lundqvist could react. The place erupted and the Capitals took Game 1 with the defensive grinding system they put in place for just this reason.

Of Note:
  • Alexander Semin was the game's #1 Star with the overtime game-winning goal, 1 assist and hopefully has put last year's goalless performance out of his mind. I believe he will be the key to victory in this series.
  • Michal Neuvirth's play off debut was a good one. He stopped 24 of the 25 shots he faced including 6 in the overtime period. His good early saves really sparked the Capitals game. Look for him to build more confidence off of this victory.
  • Both teams had 2 power play attempts and both teams came up empty. Overall the game was physical but cleanly played and their were no egregiously missed calls.
  • The tandem of John Carlson and Karl Alzner played well with Alzner blocking a game high 8 shots and Carlson picking up 4 hits and 2 shots on goal.
  • Scott Hannan is quietly making his presents felt. He blocked 4 shots and absolutely abused players looking to get down the boards on him. I really like the way he plays, tough hard-nosed hockey.
  • Mike Green played 26:30 in his return from injury and looked real steady out there. His puck handling abilities are a definite plus to the team. He finished the night with an assist on the Ovechkin goal, 4 shots on goal, 1 hit, 1 takeaway and 4 blocked shots.
  • The Rangers led the league in blocked shots this year but not to be outdone the Caps blocked 32 to the Rangers 28 in Game 1.
  • Alex Ovechkin scored the game tying goal and had 6 shots on goal, 6 hits and 1 blocked shot. He now has 21 goals in 29 career playoff games.
Official Recap
Game Summary
Event Summary

Game Highlights:

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