There is no way to sugar coat this one, it is time for the Washington Capitals to show up and take charge in a critical game four at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night at 7 pm against the New York Rangers. The Caps had a golden opportunity to take a commanding lead in this best of seven series on Sunday afternoon and they blew it, getting outworked by a team with less skill and talent, to lose 3-2 in the last two minutes. It was flat out an unacceptable performance.
The Capitals didn’t put forth the effort necessary to win on Sunday, but now they don’t have much choice or they risk yielding a massive amount of momentum to the Rangers, who would knot this matchup at two games a piece with a win on their home ice. There are no more excuses for the Caps to not deliver a monster effort in this contest. In three games so far, they have not put together a total 60 minutes despite leading the series, so they should be due to bring their “A” game. There can be no more defensive breakdowns and the Caps must start connecting on the multiple odd man rushes they have been generating. If the Capitals play hard and stick to Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau’s system, there should be no stopping them, they are the better team. But we haven’t seen that so far in the series, we saw a lackluster effort on Sunday which included far too many penalties, most of which were of the lazy variety. If the Capitals want to draw more power plays, one way to do it is to work harder by constantly moving their feet and driving to the net.
Another way is for the referees to start calling some of the extra curricular tactics by New York. After Boudreau went on the verbal offensive yesterday, Rangers Coach John Tortorella responded today by saying his team is not worried about the “whining” influencing the game four officiating crew, which will be Paul Devorski and Steve Kozari. Maybe he knew Devo was one of the referees before he said that? The Caps are 1-2 in the last three post seasons with #10 as one of the zebras, with a game seven OT loss against the Flyers in 2008 very much still etched in everyone’s mind.
A win tomorrow and the Caps are in the driver seat but a loss keeps the Rangers hanging around and makes them very dangerous in what would become a three game series. However, if the Caps bring one of their better efforts, it won’t matter what the Rangers do or who the officials are, because their play will take care of itself. Everyone knows the Capitals have the ability to take their game to the next level and put the Rangers on the brink of elimination. The question is do they have the resolve to give it everything they have on each shift while sticking to their system, because that is the recipe for success?
Notes: Mike Knuble missed practice for a second straight day. There is talk that #22 got nicked up in game three but I will be surprised if he doesn’t play…Eric Fehr would be the logical addition to the lineup if #22 is out or if Boudreau opts to scratch another forward…down on the farm the Hershey Bears raced to a 3-0 first period lead and held on to a 3-2 victory behind 28 saves by Braden Holtby to win game three of their best of seven series with the Checkers in Charlotte. Hershey has a 2-1 advantage with games four and five slated for Charlotte on Wednesday and Friday, respectively.