Coaches Clipboard: Game 4

[Note by jrs1940, 04/23/09 2:17 PM EDT ] As of today, The Schwab will be joining the team at Blueshirt Banter. He brings to us a great ability to break down the games, as well as provide some keen insight on the business side of hockey, which he tackles on his own website Puck Money. We are glad to have The Schwab on the team, and look forward to his contributions. Take it away Schwabbie!

Everyone knows an old saying that goes something like this; "Offense sells tickets, but Defense wins championships." Well so far in this series between the Capitals and the Rangers, and especially in Game 4, that statement has rang true for the most part. The Blueshirts kept the visitors at bay to the point where they made the Capitals Ovechkin go end to end and unleash an unfair shot to bring the Caps within one (which was defended well, I might add). But most importantly, the Rangers as a team showed up for 60 minutes, frustrating the Capitals with solid defensive play for three periods and essentially redeeming themselves for their sloppy play in their Game 3 loss.

The good part to this Ranger win was that they kept it simple and played their game. Sure, they only had 10 shots in the last two periods, but most of them were effective and good chances. The Capitals meanwhile controlled the play past the first period, firing 30 of their 39 total shots in the second and third periods. This is not cause for concern though, my friends. Throughout the season when the Rangers get outshot they have a winning percentage of nearly .600 (19-9-4). When the Rangers outshoot someone on the other hand, they actually might be worse off, yielding a winning percentage of .468 at 22-20-5.

What does this really mean? Well, a couple of things. First off, the Rangers are comfortable in their own zone, which is a great thing to be especially in the playoffs. Trust me, I wish the Rangers could control the puck more just as much as the next Blueshirt fan, but the fact of the matter is that this team is built from the goal-mouth out. Our defensemen are not offensive; they are stay-at-home guys who will do whatever they can to help the God King that is Henrik Lundqvist. Another thing the Rangers did well last night was they came out flying. Again, over the season when the Rangers scored first, they had a winning percentage of .667 (28-9-5). But when they gave up the first goal the Rangers had a record of 15-21-4 with a winning percentage of .375. Paul Mara's goal was one of the luckiest I've seen in a while, but it set the tone for the rest of the game and allowed them to get through the first period unscathed, which will be key again in Game 5.

But for all the accolades, the Rangers need to work on two key parts of their games:

First and foremost, the penalties. Some were unnecessary (you know what I'm talking about), and others were legitimate, but either way the Rangers need to focus even more on staying out of the box. They did well in the third (besides you-know-who), but the key to finishing this series will be to finish a game with four or less penalties.

The second part of their game that needs work on is the breakout and their decisions at the Capitals blue line. The Rangers breakout of their own zone has been an issue all season, but I know they can do it because they did a great job in Game 1 (Only 2 giveaways, 7 in Games 2 and 4). There is no magic fix for this, just hard work and concentration on doing the little things right that make a breakout run smooth and win hockey games. The opposing teams blue line has also been a problem all season, but for god sakes I cannot stand all the passing in the grey zone. The grey zone is five feet inside and outside of the opponents blue line. As a hockey player, you do not pass in this zone. It's either in deep, or you skate it in and then make a decision. Sometimes this saves the Rangers from giving up an offensive rush, but for every time that happens, two odd-men Ranger rushes go down the drain because of a poor decision. The Power-Play seems all to ready to dump and chase, but when it comes to 5 on 5 the Blueshirts are getting too pretty. Skate or dump it in, (I'm talking to you, Scott Gomez) please.

Now the last two issues are pretty minor ones, but at the same time I feel that's what made the Blueshirts effective in Game 1 and allowed them to score four goals. But the bottom line is that the Rangers found a way to win last night, which would be the key to surviving in the ever so precious times of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.