Game 1 of the 2012 NHL Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals concluded Saturday afternoon with the Rangers scoring the 3-1 victory. One noticeable aspect of both the Capitals and Rangers games was the continuation of their strong defense, and ability to keep pucks from getting to the net.
The game was tight from puck drop until the final horn, but in the end, the Rangers were able to take advantage of a couple Washington mistakes and pull out the victory. The Capitals need to find their offense soon in this series if they plan on advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals to face either Philadelphia Flyers or the New Jersey Devils this postseason.
Although the Capitals outshot the Rangers 18-14, they did not produce many prime scoring chances. In fact, most of their scoring chances don't even count as shots as they hit four posts throughout the game.
In order to score on this Rangers team, there are a few points of criteria the opposition must fulfill.
First, the Capitals must get the puck deep and keep possession down low. The Rangers love to bang bodies and their bruising defensemen will try to overpower the puck carrier every time and get the puck back on their sticks. The Capitals must sustain pressure and set up their offense when they are in the Rangers zone.
Secondly, the Caps must be able to spread the New York Rangers out so they can create shooting lanes. If we learned anything from the Rangers/Senators series, it was that they love to block shots and will sacrifice their bodies in any way possible to keep the puck from reaching goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. If they are able to produce more than 18 shots on goal in Game 2, they give themselves a much better opportunity to put the puck in the back of the net.
Lastly, the Capitals need to create more traffic in front of Henrik Lundqvist. Of the shots he saw in Game 1, Lundqvist had too much time and space to stop 17 of the 18 shots he faced. The Caps must utilize big bodies like Troy Brouwer and Jay Beagle to bump in front of the net and try to faze the ever so calm Lundqvist and get him off his game. If the Capitals can achieve all three of these aspects of their offense, they will have a much better opportunity to increase their offensive output throughout this series.
Of course, one would love to just say let Washington captain Alexander Ovechkin run loose and play his old style of game where he was putting up 50 and 60 goal seasons, but that kind of play opens up too many holes and will play into the Rangers favor should the Caps go this direction.
The Capitals must stick to their system, but also cheat a little bit to chip a few more goals in past Lundqvist if they want to win this series.
John Bain is a Bleacher Report Featured Columnist
Follow John on Twitter: @JohnBainSports
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