New York Hockey: Mike Green

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 4, Caps 3

May, 6, 2013
5/06/13
10:14
PM ET
With the help of Derek Stepan's deciding goal in the third period, the New York Rangers prevented the Washington Capitals from taking what would've been a commanding three-game lead to the series while holding court at Madison Square Garden with a 4-3 victory. The Blueshirts now have a chance to even the best-of-seven series on Wednesday in Game 4 at home.

With the game tied at 3-3, Stepan tallied his first goal of the playoffs with an expert tip at the right post to reclaim the lead for the Rangers with 6:25 to play. Earlier in the frame, the Caps and Rangers traded goals, with fourth-liner Arron Asham's goal from the doorstep in the opening minutes and Jay Beagle's deflection of Jack Hillen's shot for the equalizer at 7:19.

Derick Brassard finished the game with one goal and two assists to lead the Rangers with three points.

Grass is always Green-er: With his second score in as many games, Capitals defenseman Mike Green beat Henrik Lundqvist from the right circle for a game-tying goal with 2:41 remaining in the second. Green’s goal was the result of a Rangers gaffe earlier in the play when defenseman Michael Del Zotto failed to play the puck behind the net, allowing Washington to keep it in zone. Green, who knotted the score at 2-2, also notched the game-winner for Washington on Saturday in the Capitals' 1-0 overtime win in Game 2.

Penalty parade: The Capitals had trouble staying out of the box through the first two periods, taking six penalties in the opening 27 minutes. Even though the Rangers tallied only once on the man-advantage -- Brian Boyle’s first goal of the playoffs came just as a Washington penalty expired -- the power play appeared infinitely more active than in the previous two games of the series.

First strike: The Capitals took the crowd out of the game early, zapping the building’s energy with a goal just 4:06 into play. Nicklas Backstrom deflected John Carlson’s deep wrist shot for a 1-0 lead, a goal that was reviewed for a potential high stick but ultimately upheld.

Just barely: After eight straight failed power-play attempts, the Rangers cashed in just as their second man-up opportunity of the game expired, with Washington’s Joel Ward emerging from the box for high-sticking. Boyle drove to the net and ripped a shot off between the legs of Green to beat Braden Holtby and tie the game at 12:50 of the first period.

Staal returns: No Ranger on the ice received a more thunderous welcome than Marc Staal in his return to the lineup after missing two months with an injured right eye. The 26-year-old Staal played for the first time since being struck in the eye with a puck on March 5. Staal, who now wears a visor, was paired with Anton Stralman on defense.

Powe!: Rangers fourth-line forward Darroll Powe was forced from the game after initiating a hard hit on Ward along the boards in the first period. Though it was Powe who laid the hit on Ward, he appeared to catch an elbow that left him woozy while getting up and skating off to the bench. Powe missed time earlier this season with a concussion.

Up next: Rangers vs. Caps, Game 4, Wednesday at 7:30.
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- John Tortorella responded on Tuesday to Washington coach Bruce Boudreau’s claim that the Rangers are targeting Mike Green’s head, saying that there is some whining going on as the two teams head into Game 4.

“We have confidence in the league. We have confidence in the officials that they won’t be influenced by all the whining going on here right now,” Tortorella said. “We’re staying away from it. And we’re focused on what we need to do. We have confidence in the league that this doesn’t affect the series. This is a pretty good series, two pretty good teams going at it pretty hard.”

Boudreau made his comments Monday, just one day after the Rangers sliced the Capitals' lead in the series to 2-1. Boudreau’s comments seemed to stem from Rangers defenseman Marc Staal hitting Green in the back of the head during a collision in the second period of Game 3. Boudreau said it was a blindsided and "dirty" hit and he hopes the league looks at it. He said Green, who missed a month and a half with a concussion during the regular season, is fine.

“Staal comes in, there’s no puck, he takes his arm, he swings it at his head, but it’s all forgotten because we score a goal to tie the game up, but it shouldn’t be forgotten and it wasn’t the only time they’ve targeted Mike’s head,” Boudreau said.

He later added: “[Green] took a high hit, they’re coming after him. [Brandon] Prust left his feet in the first period and went at the head as well. And Mike threw a punch back at him when he was gone. But this is stuff, I have no problem with hitting, let’s hit as hard as we can, that’s what this game is all about, but you cannot target the head.”

When asked about the hit on Monday, Staal said: “I remember the play, I came across, he was cutting in the middle, and I tried to finish him, but I haven’t seen it again,” Staal said.

In addition to his headhunting comments, Boudreau also ripped MSG Monday, saying to a radio station that the arena’s reputation exceeds its experience, ripped the locker rooms and team benches and said the fans don’t get that loud during the game.

Words take over as Game 4 wait continues

April, 19, 2011
4/19/11
9:03
AM ET
Washington Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau bad-mouthed the Garden. He also insinuated the Rangers and Marc Staal were head hunting against Mike Green. Meanwhile John Tortorella recounted an instance of mistaken identity with Dan Girardi, who may have an odd case of elephantiasis according to his coach (sorta ... ).

And that’s what you missed on yesterday’s episode of “The Garden Light.”

Yes, Monday’s storylines certainly took on some soap opera-like themes. I suppose that’s not all that uncommon with some extra time off. (See also: the week before the Super Bowl.) But aside from some fun reading and fan-sign fodder for Wednesday night, it doesn’t look like much will linger from yesterday’s words. Except perhaps for the metaphorical size of Dan Girardi’s man parts.

None of the Rangers bit on Boudreau's barb, so the shots were decidedly one-sided. As for Boudreau's request that the league look into the Staal hit on Green, it's already been denied. If you want to check out the Staal hit for yourself, you can check out the highlight from the Caps' second goal on NHL.com (which I can't seem to link to directly, but go to the highlights for April 17 and you'll see it).

You can see it's a bit of an odd hit. Staal does appear to make contact with Green's head and does extend his arms. Was it intentional? Apparently the NHL doesn't think so, and I'd say it's tough to build a case as well. Staal definitely had Green lined up for a body check and when the shifty Caps D moved to avoid the blow, Staal had to reach out to knock him down.

More substantively, it looks like Sean Avery will continue to get ice time in this series as Mats Zuccarello was sent down to Hartford yesterday.

Aside from that, the wait for Wednesday continues. And it can't seem to get here fast enough.

W2W4: Game 2, Rangers vs. Capitals

April, 15, 2011
4/15/11
9:14
AM ET
As the first-round series between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals resumes tonight, here are three factors to watch for when the puck drops in D.C.

The Rangers’ O

Lost in the noise of the Caps’ past playoff struggles and Lundqvist’s magnificent effort in Game 1 was the fact that Washington played an outstanding defensive hockey game. Rookie goalie Michal Neuvirth was quiet with his movements and for the most part didn’t give up a lot of bad rebounds. And in front of him, the Caps blocked a ton of shots, 32 for the game, including a game-high eight by Karl Alzner.

The one thing the Rangers will need to work on for Game 2 is finding the back of the net. (How's that for insight?) It seems obvious, but, despite the close score, the Caps dominated long stretches of the game, largely because the Rangers could mount little in the offensive end. The power play only posted one shot in its two appearances though it created some good chances on the second penalty, they just couldn’t convert. Just as Alex Semin erased some playoff demons with his OT goal, Marian Gaborik had a couple opportunities to wipe away disappointing memories of diminished scoring with a playoff marker, he just couldn’t connect on a few solid chances.

Matchups

Alex Ovechkin scored the Caps’ first goal and made his presence known with his physical play, but for the most part the Rangers did a nice job keeping one of the league’s top scoring threats in check. One thing Bruce Boudreau couldn’t do Wednesday night is get Ovechkin away from Marc Staal and Dan Girardi. If you take a look at this time on ice chart, you’ll notice that the only time Ovechkin really had any time away from the shutdown pair -- aside from the two power plays -- was by staying on the ice longer and extending his shifts. According to the data, oftentimes Staal and Girardi were already on the ice when Ovechkin went over the boards. It will be interesting to see if the Caps try to change up that plan tonight. Also, the Wolski-Boyle-Prust line saw a lot of time against the Caps’ pairing of Mike Green and John Erskine. That was arguably the Rangers’ best line Wednesday, accounting for their one and only goal. I’d expect the Rangers to try and encourage that matchup again, as the forechecking of that trio can, and has, given the Caps problems.

Short Memories

It’s strange to think that a pair of miscues by the Rangers’ top D pairing led to both Washington goals Wednesday. On the rush leading to the tying goal, Staal and Girardi collided in the neutral zone, allowing the two Alexes to set up an initial shot as well as the rebound opportunity that was ultimately pushed across the goal line. In OT, it was a Staal clearing attempt that was snagged by Jason Arnott and led to the game-winner. In the locker room afterward, Staal said he should have played the puck behind the net since Arnott was clearly blocking the boards. Was it a bad play? Probably. But it’s one he and the rest of the Rangers will have to forget about as they move on. If the Blueshirts can bounce back, as they often have after disappointing losses, and even the series, it will be a huge road win as the scene shifts back to New York on Sunday.

Rapid Reaction: Capitals 2, Rangers 1 (OT)

April, 13, 2011
4/13/11
11:09
PM ET


Recap | Box score | Photos

It was nearly the perfect win for the Rangers. With a 1-0 lead late in the third, New York was closing in one a 1-0 series lead and dredging up all sorts of sour memories for the Washington Capitals. Then a goal by Alex Ovechkin changed everything. Here's how it went down at Verizon Center on Wednesday night:

What It Means: The Rangers showed they can certainly stay with the East's No. 1 seed in the playoffs, but couldn't quite close the deal. Now they'll have to keep their focus and realize that a win in Game 2 is just as important as the one that slipped away late Wednesday.

Early Energy: I thought it would be key for the Rangers to come out flying. While the Blueshirts did control the puck for much of the first four minutes, the Caps gradually took over. Taking a page from the Rangers' book, midway through the second period the Caps started initiating some big hits, keyed first by a crushing blow by Ovechkin on Brandon Dubinsky. Midway through the second period, the Caps held a 21-11 advantage in the hits category. It ended with a 35-31 lean towards the Caps.

Living Dangerously: After enduring a pair of Caps' power plays (due to two silly penalties by the Rangers) and two crossbar strikes at even strength, the Rangers were probably content to take a 0-0 tie to the locker room after the first 20 minutes. Henrik Lundqvist came up huge with two key saves to stop tap-in Caps goals, the second of which showed some sensational awareness. When a Caps' shot took a funky bounce off the boards, Lundqvist began moving to the left but caught himself when he couldn’t see the puck. He snapped his head back to the right, raised his blocker and stoned Ovechkin at point-blank range. In all, they survived the first 20 minutes unscathed despite being outshot nearly 2-1. And keep in mind those didn't include the two crossbars. Those are the sort of fortuitous breaks opponents of the Caps have enjoyed in the playoffs and the kind that have come back to haunt Washington so often. But tonight the Caps were able to overcome them.

There’s That Man Again: Fortune wasn't the only thing that kept the puck out of the net. Lundqvist was stellar, stopping 31 shots through regulation and 18:24 of OT. In the second period, he halted the Caps’ best scoring chance when he turned aside Nicklas Backstrom on a cold breakaway. Backstrom slid the puck through Lundqvist’s five hole and had his fellow Swede beat, but -- whether it was a conscious act or instinct -- the goalie flipped his right calf back underneath him to send the puck wide of the cage. Simply put, he was one referee whistle away from stealing this game from the Caps.

One And Done: Two minutes into the third period, Matt Gilroy punctuated his first playoff game with his first playoff goal. Gilroy took a feed from Brandon Prust, who was stationed behind the net, and flung it past Michal Neuvirth to stake the Rangers to a 1-0 lead. The W2W4 for this series mentioned how the Blueshirts’ forecheck could give the Caps problems, particularly Mike Green, who is shaking off rust, and John Erskine, who is not particularly strong at moving the puck out of the zone. Guess which Washington D pairing was on the ice for the goal? If I'm, John Tortorella I'm hoping to roll the Brian Boyle-Prust line against that pairing all series long.

O So Close: The Rangers were pressing the Caps' backs to the boards late in regulation when Ovechkin literally powered his team to a tying goal with six minutes and change remaining. A loose puck sat at Lundqvist's skates at the left post of the net when Ovechkin went all "world's strongest Russian left wing" to push the puck and Lundqvist over the goal line ahead of the referee's whistle. There was some question about whether there was "intent" to blow the whistle before the puck crossed the goal line, which would have negated the goal. But after a brief review to see if the net was off its moorings, it was 1-1.

OT: Just when it seemed like this game was destined for a second overtime, Jason Arnott snagged a Rangers clearing attempt with his glove at the blueline against the right boards, dropped the puck to the ice and passed it between the circles to Alex Semin. The Russian sniper did the rest, firing a missile past a helpless Lundqvist for the win.

What’s Next: Perspective will be key. The Rangers missed a great chance to seize control of this series early and raise the specter of past playoff failures for the Caps. But if you look at the big picture, as a No. 8 seed, you took the No. 1 seed to overtime in its barn, and for that you have to feel pretty good. And if the Blueshirts can capture Game 2, they'll still have home-ice advantage heading back to MSG on Sunday. The loss will still be bitter, but if they can knot the series at 1, then the road trip to Washington is a net win for the Boys in Blue.

W2W4: Gm. 1 Rangers vs. Capitals

April, 13, 2011
4/13/11
7:45
AM ET
The 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs get underway tonight. Here's what to watch for when the Rangers clash with the Capitals at 7:30 p.m. in D.C. Preview link

A Fast Start

This is a multi-stage note. If the Rangers can get out of the gates quickly with a goal or two, they can help rekindle some memories of past playoff nightmares for the Caps. Claim Game 1 in a lopsided manor and the Blueshirts can not only steal home-ice advantage from the East's top seed, but they can plant the seeds of doubt in a team and fan base that has experienced nothing but playoff disappointment since the franchise returned to prominence. It could also trigger a goalie controversy considering the Caps are still slightly torn on which netminder -- Michal Neuvirth or Semyon Varlamov -- should get the start. But even after the first goal the Rangers can't let up. The Caps own the league's best winning percentage when trailing after the first period at .489.

Green and Blue lines

Caps top D-man Mike Green is expected to dress for the first time since suffering a concussion against the Rangers on Feb. 25. Despite his high skill level, he's likely to be a little rusty as he tries to get back to game speed. Couple that with his turnover tendencies and the Rangers may be able to force a few giveaways if they can apply some pressure to him. On the other end of the ice, the Blueshirts blueliners aren't exactly drowning in playoff experience. This will be the first postseason for Matt Gilroy and rookies Ryan McDonagh and Michael Sauer. New York will certainly need them to play with the poise they've shown during the regular season to contain the Caps' multiple weapons.

Captain Clutch

Remember that handle? Chris Drury rekindled memories of it with his oh-so-timely goal to tie the score at 1 vs. the Devils in Game 82. How will he carry over that play to the postseason? It will be interesting to see if his ice time increases at all as the series progresses. I'd imagine that the Rangers would send him out a little more often in faceoff situations anyway. Drury is the team's best faceoff man and the Caps rate as a top-five team in the circle. The Rangers? 25th overall. In tight games where every draw (and ensuing shot) can make a difference, just winning a few key faceoffs may be Drury's biggest contribution, but it's one that should not be overlooked or undervalued.
<a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/players/profile?playerId=3705">Michal Neuvirth</a>

Key factors vs. Capitals in Round 1

April, 11, 2011
4/11/11
9:17
AM ET
The playoffs start Wednesday for the New York Rangers when they take on the No. 1 seed in the East, the Washington Capitals at 7:30 p.m. in D.C. All told, the Rangers probably couldn’t have asked for a better first-round matchup. Here are several key factors to keep an eye on throughout the series.

Grind vs. Glitz

After the Caps spent the 2010-11 season remaking their image into that of a squad better suited for playoff success, the contrast between the playing styles of the two teams isn’t quite as stark. Still the Rangers’ grinding style presents a particular problem for a skill-based team like the Caps.

If the Rangers get into a shootout-style game with the Caps, the Blueshirts will likely be on the losing end. Washington’s offensive weapons simply outnumber New York’s. But, a blue-collar, hard-hitting game with little room to maneuver could be the ticket to a first-round upset.

Even more than the play of Henrik Lundqvist, I believe the make-or-break aspect of this series will be the Rangers’ forecheck. The Caps’ blueline has problems getting the puck out of its own end at times and with Dennis Wideman likely out for the first round (leg hematoma) and Mike Green not up to game speed (out with concussion since Feb. 25), Washington may need to rely on third-pairing D types John Erskine and Tyler Sloan more than they would like.

Also, keeping the puck deep in the Washington zone will require the Caps’ forwards to come back closer to their own net to help out, eliminating stretch passes and keeping one of the NHL’s best transition games grounded.

Hank the Tank

When these two teams met in the 2008-09 playoffs, Lundqvist nearly stole the first round from the Caps, pushing the series to seven games before a Sergei Fedorov blast from the glove-side faceoff circle provided the difference in a 2-1 game.

There was talk at the end of that series that Lundqvist’s glove wasn’t as quick as it normally was due to fatigue. And that year Lundqvist was only coming of seven consecutive starts. This season, he’s started three fewer games than 2008-09, but enters the playoffs having gotten the call in 26 straight since Feb. 11. That’s a career high for Lundqvist and even though he’s maintained that he wants to be playing and he doesn’t feel tired whenever he sits in front of his locker after games, you have to wonder if fatigue will be a factor.

The schedule could help though. The Rangers and Caps will get two days off between Games 3 and 4 and Games 4 and 5.

The Caps’ Kid Keepers

While the Rangers have no doubt who their netminder will be, for the Capitals’ it remains an open question. Washington’s trio of Michal Neuvirth, Semyon Varlamov and Braden Holtby has been very good for them this season. While Varlamov (.924) and Holtby (.934) have posted better save percentages, Neuvirth (.914) has seen more action this season and is expected to get the nod as the series opens. But I’m not sure how comfortable Bruce Boudreau is with that decision and the hook could be a quick one if Neuvirth gets torched early. Remember, Neuvirth was the goalie the Rangers burned for six goals on 28 shots the last time these clubs met. A few quick goals in Game 1 could create a crisis of confidence in the Caps’ crease, just like it did in 2008-09 when Jose Theodore got yanked for the series after giving up four goals in the first game.

Staal and Girardi vs. The Great 8

Bruce Boudreau will try to keep his top offensive threat away from the Rangers’ best blueline tandem, but frankly, he hasn’t done a very good job controlling matchups in the past. Oh, and Alex Ovechkin didn’t score a goal against the Rangers during the regular season. If Marc Staal and Dan Girardi can again keep him under wraps, the media will start talking, Ovechkin could start pressing and the pressure will start rising on a team that absolutely, positively cannot lose in the first round without major repercussions. More on that later.

Green Blue Liners

With Mike Green shelved for most of the season the Caps have had to rely on Karl Alzner and John Carlson as their top pairing this season. Never mind that they had just 237 games of combined experience. They have been very effective though, with Alzner sporting a plus-14 and Carlson at plus-21 despite seeing the opposition’s top scorers every night. They don’t fluster easily and they almost always make the simple play, which keeps them out of hot water. They don’t, however, clear the crease that well. If the Rangers can plant Brian Boyle or Brandon Prust in front of the cage to bother the Caps’ netminder, that could generate some chaos and lead to some dirty opportunities for the Blueshirts.

Pressure

Somebody cue Billy Joel. This is perhaps the single greatest advantage the Rangers will have this series. As I mentioned briefly after they clinched this berth, there are no more expectations for New York. They’re a young, improving team and against the top squad in the East there should be no expectations for an upset, particularly without Ryan Callahan. The Caps, on the other hand …

The scuttlebutt around the league is that it’s a Cup or a pink slip for Boudreau, so if his team should again falter in the first round he may not make it to the postgame press conference podium. If the Rangers can steal a game or two in D.C. they can trigger all sorts of mind games for their opponents, and when the opposition starts pressing against the Blueshirts, that’s when the Rangers are the most dangerous. Quick goals and early wins will go a long, long way in this series for both teams.

In closing, a few links for you:

Scott Burnside presents his series preview.

For ESPN Insiders, here's a scouting report on how to beat the Caps from former NHL scout and GM Craig Button.

The Washington Post chats with both teams about the upcoming series. It includes a bit about how the Rangers 7-0 pummeling of the Caps in December actually helped. (Apparently that's when the Caps learned how to grab their ... never mind.)

Blueshirt Banter provides a statistical preview.

Andrew Gross provides some quotes from a Chris Drury teleconference.

And here's another look at the series via Jesse Spector.

W2W4: Capitals vs. Devils

November, 22, 2010
11/22/10
1:40
PM ET
Well, there's nothing like taking on the league's top team to turn around your foundering fortunes, eh? The Washington Capitals skate into Prudential Center Monday night to take on the Devs, losers of their last three games and seven of their last nine. Here are three points to keep in mind Monday night.

Fast Start
The Caps have been known to start slowly, giving up the first goal in 13 of their 21 games. If Washington takes New Jersey lightly in the early going, the Devils may be able put a goal or two on the board against a less-than staunch defense (2.76 goals allowed per game). The Devils will have to keep the pressure on after that though, the Caps have a .692 winning percentage after yielding the first goal, by far the best mark in the league.

Say Hello to the New Guy ... Again
D Mark Fayne was called up from Albany for Monday's game, though it's not a certainty he'll play against the Caps. Fayne would be the ninth rookie to make his debut for the Devils this season. That's almost half a roster. That can't be a good thing.

Fayne rates as the No. 20 prospect in the Devils organization, according to Hockey's Future. His profile there notes a powerful shot, which the Devs could certainly use to help their struggling attack. The Devils have but six goals from their blueliners this season, with Matt Taormina supplying half of them. That's one more than the Caps' John Erskine, who scores about once every leap year. If you're curious, D-men have supplied 12 games for the Caps, five of them by Mike Green.

The Power Play
The two PP units should provide an interesting contrast tonight. While the Caps are cruising at their usual 20-percent-plus clip, the Devils flaunt the second-worst conversion rate in the league (10.2 percent). Watch how the Caps keep it simple, move the puck quickly, find a shooter with an open lane, put the puck on net and crash for the rebound.

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