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

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

Don’t expect the New York Rangers to open up offensively and take a lot of chances when they host the Washington Capitals in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference First Round on Tuesday. What worked in their 4-1 victory in Game 1 on Sunday has largely been at the core of a Rangers team that won a franchise-record 55 games during the regular season.

So, yes, the Rangers would like to generate more scoring chances than they did in the opener of this best-of-7 series. But, no, they’re not going to deviate from their usual game plan just because the Capitals are a “low event” opponent, as coach Peter Laviolette called them after the Game 1 win.

“At the end of the day we do the scouting report … but when we’re successful, we keep to our game plan, being aggressive, use our speed,” Rangers center Alex Wennberg said Monday. “At the end of the day, I kind of feel that drives the success of this team.”

Patience and making smart decisions are big parts of their game plan, especially against this Capitals team that packs it in back in their end of the ice and is risk averse in all three zones. Washington plays this style because, even with Alex Ovechkin in their lineup, they are offensively challenged and cannot afford to open up too much.

“It’s no secret, we struggled all year (to score goals), but we’ve got to find ways to create more on the interior,” Capitals coach Spencer Carbery said postgame. “That’s our group, right? We’ve got to find a way to get a little bit more offensively, get to two (goals), maybe three, and then win a game 3-2. That’s our recipe for success.”

Related: Matt Rempe electrifies Rangers fans in Game 1, ‘I love them’

Rangers OK playing ‘tighter’ series against Capitals

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

What the Rangers showed in Game 1 was that they’re undeterred by the Capitals’ “low event” style of play. They didn’t open up and take needless risks out of frustration, especially in the first period when the Capitals blocked nine Rangers shots and managed only four shots of their own against Igor Shesterkin.

Instead, the Rangers set about outworking the Capitals. They owned the neutral zone for large swaths of the game and possessed the puck much more than the Capitals. Eventually, the damn broke when the Rangers scored three goals in a span of 2:06 early in the second period to put the Capitals in a major hole.

“We always talk about late in a game or when we’re going into the third period and we don’t have the lead yet, we talk about having the whole 20 minutes trying to execute, not to get outside of ourselves, not to push beyond boundaries that’s going to leave us vulnerable the other way,” Laviolette explained Monday. “I do think there’s got be some kind of, not restraint, but not trying to outdo yourself when it comes back hurting you coming back the other way.”

It’s something the Rangers managed extremely well in Game 1. It wasn’t sexy nor the most entertaining way to win. But it was a win, one of four the Rangers need to advance to the next round of these playoffs.

“I think it ‘s just one of those series that’s going to be a little bit tighter,” Laviolette said. “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.”

Laviolette added that the Rangers will look to make adjustments to generate a bit more offense in Game 2. And he expects the Capitals to do the same. But these adjustments will be tweaks more than any major changes.

Another key for New York will be its special teams play. The Rangers were a perfect 4-for-4 on the penalty kill in the opener, allowing only three shots on goal in eight shorthanded minutes. And Ovechkin was held without a shot on goal for only the fourth time in 148 career postseason games.

Those are recipes for Rangers success in this series.

Part of the recipe is playing a smart physical game, as well. The Rangers outhit the Capitals 31-20 in Game 1. Artemi Panarin scored the backbreaking 2-0 goal early in the second period after a massive Alexis Lafreniere hit caused a turnover deep in Capitals territory. And the fourth line won key puck battles to score two of New York’s four goals.

Look for more of the same on Tuesday.

“At the end of the day, you want to play fast, you want to play physical, you want to play the game the right way and like the work you did at the end of the night,” Laviolette said. “But if you’re undisciplined, there’s a good chance you’ll lose. So, you have to walk that line.”

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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