The big questions for Game 1 were weather the skaters could play better than they had the last 3 games of the season, and weather Jose Theodore would be able to play at his highest level in the playoffs. One of those happened, the other did not. From where I sat (section 431) I felt that the Capitals skaters played one of the best all around games I had seen in a long time. I felt the intensity was high right from the first face off. On his first shift even Federov was throwing his body around unlike I had seen him do all regular season. Every Capital was being agressive, hitting hard, and winning the puck battle. Unfortunately, Theodore did not feed off of the play happening right in front of him. The biggest question mark for the Capitals fell apart, allowing four goals over all, three of which, including the game winner, were terrible.
One of those unwritten rules in hockey is that you never talk bad about the goaltender. It's just not done. The goalie has the hardest job on the ice and it's up to you, the skater, to make his life easier. If he has a bad game then you had a bad game. That's how your taught to view it from mites though the collegiate level. It's so ingrained, that skaters will always look for what could have been done between the end lines before ever looking at the net for answers. This illustrates how bad of a game Theodore actually had. His own coach couldn't even paint the, "well if we would have skated better" picture for the media. What happend Game 1? Theodore lost it, plain and simple.
Down a game, the Capitals turned to their 20 year old goalie of the future to stand between the pipes. All eyes were glued to see how Simeon Varlamov would respond having only 5 regular season games in the NHL under his skates. He gave up 1 goal, unfortunately, that goal was the game winner. Unlike Theodore however, it would have had to be a highlight reel stop to prevent that 1 goal. In one of the worst defensive breakdowns, no one stepped back for a charging Mike Green. Ovechkin's pass back to the blue line was weak, and the Rangers jumped on the opportunity. Markus Naslund deked around Poti, then gave the puck to Callahan who only had Varlamov to beat. There would be over 52 minutes of hockey to play, but that would be the only goal. Why?
Something happend when that goal was scored. The Capitals were no longer playing with that hit first ask questions later attitued. They didn't crash the net like we were used to seeing. They started playing one on one hockey. It felt like they were so afraid of letting up another odd man break they completely lost their edge. To make matters worse, the Rangers were content with a 1 goal advantage and proceeded to plant 5 skaters around Henrik Lundqvist, who had an outstanding game, even stopping a puck while using a skaters stick in place of his own durning one of the melees in front of his net. The Rangers were going to let any and all shots come from the outside. The Capitals on the other hand kept trying to skate the puck down the Rangers throat, getting stopped every time. Instead of using the points and creating traffic, Capitals forwards kept trying to move the puck to the front of the net. Blocked shot after blocked shot ensued as it became painful to watch Capitals try to skate the puck end to end only to be forced to take a wrist shot from the just inside the blue line. Almost no pucks were dumped into the zone, and cycling the puck was non-existent. During the last 52 minutes of Game 2, he Capitals were out hit, out hustled, and for one of the few times under Boudreau, out coached.
It 'aint over
With all of that said, the Capitals have only lost 2 games by a combined 2 points. If any team can overcome an 0-2 hole, they can. What do they need to do? First, Simeon Varlamov, needs to be the starting goalie. Every time he has been between the pipes he's played well and if he has a hole in his game the Rangers don't know about it yet. Unlike Theodore's slow glove and inability to cover the short side post. Secondly, score first. The Capitals can't let the Rangers fall back into putting 5 skaters around the net. Ovechkin, Semin, Laich, and the other forwards need room to move the puck. Scoring first forces the Rangers to attack the puck from end line to end line, which in turn opens up the game. As soon as the Rangers get a one goal advantage they will undoubtedly collapse most of their play to defending their half of the ice. Lastly, hit, and hit hard. Dump the puck and win it on the boards, set up a cycle, and create traffic in front of Lundqvist, the goals will come. Like 'Bluto' says... "It's not over 'till we say it is!"