Perhaps one of the more demoralizing statistics from the Washington Capitals’ 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series Saturday was that they allowed three goals on a paltry 14 shots.
Yet, lost in that same stat is that those 14 shots set a postseason franchise record for fewest shots allowed in a road game, breaking the 27-year-old record of 15 set in April 1985 against the New York Islanders. While the Caps do not want to completely replicate Saturday’s performance, that is one trend that they want to continue.
“They were limited [in their scoring chances],” Joel Ward said Monday after the Caps’ morning skate at Madison Square Garden. “They pride themselves on turnovers and I thought we limited ourselves on not giving up too many chances on the turnovers.”
The Rangers’ three goals Saturday all came from the high slot down due to some defensive breakdowns, but other than that, a look at the shot chart shows that the Caps did a great job in holding most of the Rangers’ shots to areas above the circles.
“We were coming back,” Troy Brouwer said when asked what allowed the Caps to keep the Rangers to the outside. “We were making sure we were in shooting lanes. If we weren’t blocking shots, we were making them shoot wide. We were clearing out rebounds in front. As long as we continue to play solid defensively, I think we’re gonna limit as many shots as we can.”
Several Caps spoke of a “feeling out process” when describing the flow (or lack thereof) Saturday as both teams were trying to figure the other out. Once that finally happened, the Caps realized that the Rangers play a style of game very similar to their own – one where offense is created from defense – which helped them strategically.
“These guys, they’ve got some really good skill,” Karl Alzner said. “They like to make nice plays, they cycle. they hold onto the puck. They’re similar to us where they like to wait for their opportunity and then strike.”
In need of a win in Game 2 Monday, the Caps will look to get scoring chances of their own, but will also need to continue to focus on limiting the Rangers’ opportunities and learning from Saturday’s momentary defensive lapses.
“Coaches always want perfect,” head coach Dale Hunter said. “We worked hard. We made some mistakes, but hockey is a game of mistakes. It’s what you do after.”