Dan Boyle dropped, Rangers lose late but there’s more to this loss (WSH 2 v NYR 1)
Call off the alarmists, this was game one of a best of seven. If you think this series is over, then you haven’t been paying close enough attention to this New York Rangers team under Alain Vigneault.
Last night, the Rangers dominated play from the early going and were basically thwarted by Braden Holtby. The Capitals turned the tide on the Power Play, which they ranked first on during the regular season. Who scored? Alex Ovechkin of course, but not from a set play in the offensive zone. Ovi streaked down the left side and used the defenseman as a screen. The victim was Dan Boyle, who is likely the 84,869 defenseman to have been burned by that exact shot in Ovi’s life.
For all you couch potato hockey players that think Boyle gave Ovi too much room, consider this – had he stepped up, Boyle runs the risk of Ovechkin blowing right by him for a breakaway. So, how about giving credit to an elite hockey player instead of looking for a scapegoat? I hate to break it to you, but Girardi, McDonagh and Staal have all been burned by Ovi on that move before.
The real issue last night can be seen in this shot chart from war on ice, in which I highlighted an area in red I call the “kill zone”. As you can see, the Caps did a much better job.
The Caps attempted 20 shots in that area, missed 7x, had 5 blocked and got 8 shots through, one being the game winner. The Rangers only had 16 attempts, missed 3x, had 7 blocked and only got 6 through with one deflecting in for their goal.
Why is this important? According to war on ice, that box area in front of the goal accounts for approximately 49.64% of goals scored this year. The entire dashed line area outside of it is an additional 31%, since I don’t have the stats for the triangles that complete my kill zone I will only take about 25% of the 31% which adds about 5 points for the area I’ve dubbed the kill zone. That means almost 55% of goals scored come from this zone. For the Rangers it would be just a tad higher.
The Rangers score more goals in that box area, 50.83% and 29.6% for that red shaded area (image far left). That means just a bit over 55% for the Blueshirts. So just looking at it that way, you can see that the Rangers have to be better than the Caps in the kill zone from here on out.
Jesper Fast got the only goal for the Rangers last night and he didn’t even shoot the puck. It went in off his foot because he was trying to screen the goalie. Hayes’ shot from the blueline was fortunate to find a lucky bounce or else we are looking at a shutout. The Rangers are going to have to pay the price and penetrate the kill zone for success.
I’m calling you out Rick Nash, Chris Kreider and J.T. Miller. All three have the size to get in front and cause chaos, so it is time to pay the price and I believe they will.
As for the game winning goal – well, let’s just say that it should have never happened. From the refs swallowing their whistles to the Rangers being completely asleep on the play. First off, it is a clear shoulder to head shot by Nicklas Backstrom to a prone defenseman. The NHL rules during the regular season penalize any player for hitting another player close to the boards in a prone position. That means players protecting the puck use that rule as a strategy and to their advantage.
A player conditions his mind and body for over 8 months of exhibition and regular season to use that play. Now, because it is the playoffs he has to rethink it overnight because the standards for calling penalties have changed? It’s complete bull.
Regardless, the Rangers didn’t play it out and got burned by Joel Ward with :01 second on the clock. Heartbreaking, yes. Devastating, no.
This Rangers team is now facing adversity for the first time this post season. They are down Mats Zuccarello and in a 1-0 hole to start the series. Champions respond when confronted by it, if the Rangers can’t…well then they don’t deserve to win this series.
This team is battle tested, and this series is far from over. Expect an even better Rangers team this Saturday for game two.
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