Rangers 3 keys for Game 2 against Capitals

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Washington Capitals at New York Rangers
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers look to hold serve on home ice when they host Game 2 of their Eastern Conference First Round series against the Washington Capitals on Tuesday.

The Blueshirts skated to an efficient 4-1 win in the opener of the best-of-7 series Sunday, receiving a pair of goals from the fourth line to spark the victory. They pulled away with three goals during a span of 2:06 in the second period of a game that was long on defensive play and short on scoring chances for either side.

“I think it ‘s just one of those series that’s going to be a little bit tighter,” Rangers coach Peter Laviolette explained. “There’s some games you play and they move up and down the ice so fast and there’s so many chances and odd-man rushes. I just think this one’s a little bit closer to the vest.”

This may not lend itself to an exciting series. But this time of year, wins are far more important than entertainment value.

Here are three keys for the Rangers in Game 2 against the Capitals

Related: Rangers to stick with game plan in Game 2 against ‘low event’ Capitals

3. Remain disciplined

The Rangers did an excellent job not getting sucked into extracurriculars by the Capitals in the series opener. And they’re better off playing hard against Tom Wilson, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Dylan McIlrath without being drawn into penalties.

Matt Rempe, in particular, stood out by playing a smart game Sunday, since he’d appear to be the most likely Rangers player to be drawn into needless conflict. Fellow rookie Will Cuylle also played a smart, yet physical, game in the opener.

That needs to be the case again in Game 2. Washington’s best chance at winning the game or upsetting New York in the series is to get the Rangers to abandon the things they do so well. The Capitals want to cause chaos, if possible, and negate the Rangers’ huge talent advantage.

The Blueshirts must also remain disciplined by not getting frustrated with Washington’s “low event” style of play, where it tries to dummy the game down, limit scoring chances and find a way to somehow eek out a victory.

2. Generate more scoring chances

It’s one thing for the Rangers to acknowledge this will be a “tighter” series filled with “low event” games. But that doesn’t mean Laviolette and the coaches aren’t devising ways to exploit their massive advantage in offensive talent to generate more scoring chances.

The Rangers had the puck much more often than the Capitals in Game 1 and outshot the visitors 31-21 on Garden ice. Per Natural StatTrick, they out-attempted the Capitals 54-40, including 11-6 in high-danger scoring chances at even strength.

Considering the talent disparity, those numbers should be weighted even more so in the Rangers favor. So, look for the Rangers to try and get to their speed game more in Game 2. Speed through the neutral zone and upon entry in Washington’s end of the ice, and certainly in transition after turning the Capitals over. Defense to offense, quick transition, will be key for the Rangers in Game 2.

1. Keep Alex Ovechkin frustrated, in check again

Alex Ovechkin was held without a shot on goal in Game 1, only the fourth time in 148 career Stanley Cup Playoff games that’s happened. You can expect Ovechkin will have extra motivation because of that in Game 2. Not to mention that the offensively-challenged Capitals need Ovechkin to produce and be a force when they have the puck.

The Rangers did an excellent job tying Ovechkin up, not letting him get free or open in Game 1. On the power play, they shadowed him in the left circle, taking away his patented lethal one-timer. They’ll need to double down on that in Game 2 since Capitals coach Spencer Carbery is likely coming up with a strategy to counter the Rangers. Plus, it’s hard to imagine Ovechkin being completely shut down two games in a row.

Ovechkin had seven shot attempts in the opener and five were blocked. The other two simply missed the net. His line with Connor McMichael and T.J. Oshie was outchanced 9-5 at 5V5 in Game 1 and the Rangers had a 4-0 advantage in high-danger opportunities against that line.

Making Ovechkin and Co. defend instead of go to work in the offensive zone is key for the Rangers.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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