The Capitals entered this first-round series against the New York Rangers with the mantra of crash the net to solve all-star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
With the exception of the game-tying goal Alex Ovechkin scored in the third period of Game 1, though, Washington didn’t necessarily have that much trafffic or second chances around Lundqvist. Check out the shot chart from the Capitals’ 2-1 overtime win on Wednesday.
To be sure, the Rangers are particularly adept at working to prevent opponents from creating that disruptive traffic, but more goals and chances like the one Ovechkin scored on are — as players have said since the series matchup was set — the Capitals’ ticket to putting more pucks behind the Swedish netminder.
“My goal was kind of a work hard goal because I think we have lots of opportunities to score and he keep Rangers in the game,” Ovechkin said. “That was last game, today is going to be a different game and a more intense game I think.
“I think in playoffs everybody play more defensive style hockey and ugly goal is right now most beautiful goal,” Ovechkin continued. “You can see last night when [Buffalo’s Patrick] Kaleta score a goal [in the Sabres’ 1-0 win over Philadelphia]. It’s that kind goals that is playoff goals. It’s about hard work.”
Now obviously the Capitals did win Game 1, and they still had plenty of open shots and good looks at the net — as evidenced by the numerous chances that clanked off the crossbar and goal post. But it might be a safe assumption that the Rangers will try to take away some of those wide-open opportunities from the slot.
Trying to either block Lundqvist’s view or fish for loose pucks in the blue paint and around his skates, where it’s hard for a goaltender to tell for certain if the puck is secure, will be crucial moving forward.
“I think that’s the whole thing we have to do more of starting now,” Nicklas Backstrom said. “We have to move in front of him a little more so he can’t see the puck. Otherwise, if he sees the shot he’s going to stop most of them.”
The familiar instruction is something that all teams understand and easier said that done, Coach Bruce Boudreau points out, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t like to see a little more net crashing.
“I don’t think you can ever get enough of that,” Boudreau said. “It’s not as easy to do as you’d like. Their defense is really good at blocking out, sometimes the opportunity is not there. To get traffic the point man’s got to have time to shoot the puck and you’ve got to have time to get from the corner from getting the puck to get to the front of the net. We did as much as we could, we’d like to do more, but every team would like to do more.”