Well, it was going to be a truly, truly compelling final ten minutes or so of hockey until a pair of nonsense elbowing calls on the Caps gave a gift 2-man advantage to the Rangers. No, we’re not getting into blame-the-refs mode here, but rather looking at the positive results this negative action begat. Glen Hanlon yelling! Glen Hanlon turning red yelling! Glen Hanlon turning red yelling and waving his arms! Glen Hanlon, who usually handles himself with a Joe-Gibbs-like stoicism (rhymes with ‘tism), losing it just a little bit and showing some welcome healthy anger, letting the officials know of his disdain for the calls, while imploring his ever-improving penalty killers to get the job done. While the PK unit couldn’t quite overcome the injustice of a two-minute 5-on-3 disadvantage, they made a great effort, and did kill off the ensuing traditional power play.
The 4-minute Caps’ power play a few minutes later was a nice attempt by the officials making peace. It’s just too bad the one-goal deficit couldn’t be “restored”, thus bringing back the potential for late-third-period gripping, scrambling hockey.
Back to the positives. We’ve know how much ridiculous offensive talent the Rangers have bought. For the Caps to hold such Patriots-like talent to 28 shots and 2 goals (one on that aforementioned nonsense 2-man Rangers power play) is a big step up for a team whose defensive prowess was questioned before the season began. Addendum: questioned in the pre-season and positively savaged in some quarters (we’re looking at you, ESPN hockey power poll) after the October Shot Clearances in NYC and Buffalo. I mean, Drury and Gomez might as well be Brady and Moss, right? They’re supposed to catapult their team to unheard-of offensive levels, what with the great Jaromir Jagr and all, right?
Not exactly, of course, as the Rangers’ offense has largely languished this early season, despite the flashy and expensive additions (we all know what’s really missing of course). Still, considering what happened last time at MSG, when the Caps were down 3-1 in goals and 20-7 in shots after one period, tonight wasn’t all bad, even with the ultimate result of a shutout. Teams get shut out, even good ones. These powerful Rangers themselves have pulled it off three times already. The ever-mighty-or-seemingly-on-the-fringes-of-mighty Lightning were blanked this very day by the Islanders.
One other specific note: Brooks Laich made some ridiculous moves to power to the net late in the third period. He could very quietly put together a 15-goal season. There’s something about this guy; I just like him and his hybrid fourth-line-invisible-ness/nice-move-making-or-goal-scoring-ness.
Even looking past the usual positivity that naturally pervades and clouds this blog’s vision of every event in Washington sports, this was a pretty well-played game by the Caps, despite the fact they scored no goals. The 2-0 final score could really read 1.5-0, considering that ill-gotten PP goal the Rangers put in to double their lead. Sure they’ve now dropped to 5-7, but we really, really feel that things (ie, defense) are falling into place, and with Clark, Semin, and Poti on the mend, the offense (particularly the power play) will follow suit.