As has been and will be noted more in the days leading up to the start of the Capitals’ Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Rangers, Washington didn’t have the best regular season against New York.
The Capitals are 1-2-1 in the season series, with the lone win occurring back in the first meeting of the year in November at Madison Square Garden. Here’s a look back at the games between the two teams over the course of the 2010-11 season including links to the original game stories:
Nov. 9 at Madison Square Garden: Capitals 5, Rangers 3
This contest was part of the Capitals early surge. They weren’t playing perfectly at this point even though it was a fifth-consecutive win and resided in the top spot in the Eastern Conference at the time with 22 points.
Matt Hendricks was the hero, scoring the game-winner and recording the first two-point game of his career. But what stood out the most in this contest, according to notes scribbled during it, was the physicality between the two teams. Mike Green fought Brandon Dubinsky, Jason Chimera got tangled up with Michael Del Zotto and so on.
Dec. 12 at Madison Square Garden: Rangers 7, Capitals 0
If there truly was a turning point in the Capitals’ season this may have been it. This was rock bottom of Washington’s eight-game losing streak and the regular season, a game that Coach Bruce Boudreau would later call the low point of his life.
There was little to describe the eerie quiet in the Washington dressing room after the loss, and the public outcry for change may have reached its peak at that point.
More importantly, though, this was the game that made it clear in Boudreau’s mind that it was time to install a more defensive system. The Capitals were struggling mightily to score goals and if they couldn’t put pucks in the net they needed to make sure they allowed fewer in their own. As we all now know, the shift stuck and has helped Washington become a more responsible team overall and the only question that remains is if it did prepare them better for the playoffs.
Jan. 24 at Verizon Center: Rangers 2, Capitals 1 shootout
Washington’s offensive struggles had continued into January and an inability to challenge New York netminder Martin Biron would be its undoing on this particular day.
The Capitals mustered only 11 shots through the first two periods and afterward the players and Boudreau were frustrated by their selectiveness when attempting to put pucks on net. New York blocked 18 shots against Washington in this game and that proficiency for throwing bodies in front of rubber will likely continue into the playoffs.
Feb. 25 at Verizon Center: Rangers 6, Capitals 0
This game has since been proved an anomaly and one of only four losses that the Capitals had in the final 21 games of the regular season but in the immediate aftershock it reminded too many about the earlier route. It was also the contest that preceded Washington’s season-best, nine-game winning streak.
This was one of the final games before the Capitals added Jason Arnott, Dennis Wideman and Marco Sturm prior to the NHL’s trade deadline and the fact that they haven’t faced New York with the new lineup intact may help give them a boost.
While the defeat was shocking at the time, more damaging proved to be the hit Mike Green took in his second shift of the contest — the defenseman’s first game after missing six of seven following being struck in the head by a slap shot on Feb. 6.
Green was hit in the corner by the Rangers’ Derek Stepan, whose elbow and shoulder came into contact with the two-time Norris Trophy finalist’s head. Green hasn’t played since but is expected to return at some point in the playoffs.