There’s one thing for certain. The Rangers don’t want to be heading back to D.C. with a 3-1 series deficit, and so they face another must-win game on home ice tonight. The Capitals hiccupped a little in Game 3, destroying their own momentum by taking too many penalties. It seems highly unlikely that things will continue in that vein tonight.
While home ice might give the Rangers a little advantage on the penalty front – officials certainly feel the pressure of the home crowd – the Rangers’ more game scheme that focuses on defense, can make them more prone to penalties, particularly if the Capitals come out hard again like they did in Game 1.
For their part, the Capitals will be looking to rebound from a loss in Game 3 that they initially lead before penalties got them into trouble. They will feel they have done enough otherwise to have come away with a different result, after all Brian Boyle‘s goal was just as the PP expired and Derick Brassard of course added his on the PP.
For the Rangers, it’s a case of continuing the physical theme, while remaining out of the penalty box themselves. With Darroll Powe out with a probable concussion, the Rangers already weak penalty kill will have to step up against their more potent opposition.
Defensively the Rangers have allowed the Capitals plenty of opportunities, and in Game 3 the shots from the defensemen particularly caused problems with traffic in front. The Rangers forwards need to adjust and put more pressure on the shooter if the Rangers hope to stay in the game.
The offense finally came unstuck in Game 3, but it was more a communal effort, and plenty of questions still linger for the likes of Brad Richards – no points – Rick Nash, Ryan Callahan – 1 assist each – and Derek Stepan – 1 goal. The move to put John Moore on the 1st unit PP over Michael Del Zotto may prove to be fruitful, but remains a work in progress.
In net the Rangers finally proved that Braden Holtby is fallible, and need to press their advantage. Holtby has outplayed Henrik Lundqvist – nominated for a fifth Vezina Trophy – thus far, but remains human.
As John Tortorella mentioned after Game 2, the series has been close despite the Capitals having the advantage. The scores have not been dominate for either side, and both have had their chances and failed to convert.
The Rangers have to go into Game 4 – and rightly so – believing they can win and start putting some doubts back into the minds of the Capitals. With the Isles taking Pittsburgh to at least 6 games, and Ottawa leading Montreal, the other series are shaping to the Rangers’ advantage…but they need to win tonight first.