Yesterday, the Rangers forced what is now the third Game 7 of this year's playoffs by defeating the Caps 1-0. Washington may have a new coach, but last night's game had a very similar vibe to the series these two teams played in the second round last season. Aside from the second period, neither team managed to produce much offense and the Rangers were playing a very conservative style in the third period when they had a 1-0 lead. IT didn't make for the most exciting hockey, but I'm sure the Rangers won't have many complaints about that since they got the job done and kept their post-season hopes alive.
All that stands in their way of advancing is winning one game on the road and unfortunately for them, they have been pretty bad when playing at Verizon Center this post-season. They've been outchanced in two out of three games and haven't been bailed out by goaltending because they've only given Lundqvist two total goals during that time. It's really been a case for Murphy's Law for the Rangers when they've played away from Madison Square Garden, but fans can at least be comforted by the fact that Game 7's are a coin flip and any result is possible.
New York Rangers vs. Washington Capitals Game 6
The Rangers ended up with a slight edge in scoring chances but had a much larger lead over Washington before the third period and drifted into a defensive shell. Once they did that, the Caps climbed back into the game and evened things up in the shot and scoring chance department. Doing this with only a one-goal lead isn't a strategy I condone, even with a goalie like Lundqvist, because the game would be tied after one slip-up but the Rangers managed to get it done. They haven't had much of an issue in outplaying the Caps on home ice since they've been able to do that, but it's been a different landscape on the road and I'm interested to see how Game 7 turns out.
A major red flag for New York here is that they only outchanced Washington by one despite getting five power play opportunities while Washington got none. The futility of the Rangers power play is something that was likely going to make or break this series and they are very lucky it didn't cost them this game because they had plenty of opportunities to build on their lead. They are also a bit lucky that Washington's potent power play didn't even get an opportunity but I'm struggling to think what the Rangers could have been called for other than Michael Del Zotto's late hit on Matheiu Perreault in the first period.
Rangers Individual Scoring Chances
|4||Michael Del Zotto||17:36||5||3||3:59||2||0||0:00||0||0|
Best EV Forward: Rick Nash +3
Worst EV Forward: Carl Hagelin -4
Best EV Defensemen: John Moore & Steve Eminger +3
Worst EV Defenseman: Dan Girardi -5
There were a few line shake-ups for Tortorella nad the Rangers and the biggest one was placing Derick Brassard on Rick Nash's line while moving Brad Richards to the fourth line. Nash ended up having one of his best games of the series, showing a lot of chemistry with Brassard and Mats Zuccarello was a nice addition to this line as he was very active offensively. Richards also proved to be useful on the fourth line, even if him playing there is kind of hilarious.
The Rangers got good contributions from most of their depth players, but a lot of their top-guys struggled. Girardi & McDonagh were beaten down at even strength and had issues with keeping Ovechkin's line under wraps. It's something they've excelled at when playing at home but it wasn't the case last night. The Stepan line was also held quiet for most of the night and this is normally the Rangers best offensive unit.
Capitals Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Marcus Johansson +3
Worst EV Forward: Matt Hendricks -3
Best EV Defenseman: John Carlson +4
Worst EV Defenseman: Mike Green -4
The Caps numbers are the opposite of the Rangers in the sense that their top line played very well but many of their depth players had issues. Their fourth line in particular got crushed and I'm assuming this is because the Rangers had Richards as their 4C, so that's going to cause some matchup issues. Mike Green also had a rough game and was used with multiple defense partners. I suspect that Oates did this because the Caps were starving for offense by the time the third period came around and he wanted to get Green in the game more since he wasn't used on the PK and the Caps didn't get any power play opportunities. Regardless, this didn't end well for Green since he was hit hard defensively, as was Jack Hillen.
As I said earlier, the Caps top line had a very good game and I thought Ovechkin did just about everything but score. He played a solid game in all three zones, created five scoring chances and was the Caps driving force on offense. He just didn't get rewarded for it. The Ribeiro line also did some good things and were one of Washington's better territorial units. Unfortunately, territorial play doesn't always lead to scoring chances and that was the case here.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
There are a few things that happened in yesterday's game that probably won't happen tonight. For instance, I doubt Oates is going to leave his fourth line out against Rick Nash and the chances of him using Hillen against that unit are also pretty low. The Caps actually got the better of most of the big matchups last night but I'm not sure how much of this came in the third period when the Rangers were sitting back. Either way, the Caps appear to be in good shape for Game 7 if Oates can protect his depth players and continue to play strong at home but like I said earlier, anything can happen in a one-game sample.