For additional insight into the Eastern Conference Second Round series between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers, NHL.com has enlisted the help of Dave Farrish to break down the action. Farrish will be checking in throughout the series.
Farrish was an assistant coach for the Anaheim Ducks and Toronto Maple Leafs from 2005-14. He won the Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007. He also coached 1,027 games in the minor leagues, including the American Hockey League. In addition, Farrish, a former defenseman, played 430 games over seven seasons in the NHL.
After finishing third in the NHL with 3.02 goals per game, the New York Rangers are averaging 1.88 goals in eight Stanley Cup Playoff games, one reason why they trail the Washington Capitals 2-1 in the Eastern Conference Second Round, and the League's best road team was shut out away from Madison Square Garden for the second time all season in a 1-0 loss in Game 3.
The theme of each game in the series has been the Capitals weathering the Rangers' aggressive start before pushing back behind Braden Holtby's superlative goaltending. At this time of year it's a matter of will, and for the Rangers to win Game 4 of the best-of-7 series Wednesday at Verizon Center (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports 2), they will have to be the ones creating screens in front of the Capitals' net and getting secondary scoring chances.
Either the Rangers figure it out offensively or it could be curtains for the Presidents' Trophy winners and defending Eastern Conference champions.
"Those are the things you have to do," Dave Farrish said. "Those are the differences in the hockey game. You can't just rely on your skill. Playoffs are more about will. It's going to be part of [the Rangers'] game; you know it's going to come. They had a great start to the last game; they had some good momentum and Washington took it away. There's going to be a couple of breaks possibly involved in the next game or two. You have to be lucky, you have to be healthy and you have to be good. So the next game is going to be an interesting game.
"You can talk about regular season all you want but it's a different season in the playoffs, when people that never blocked shots come up big in the playoffs."
The Capitals received contributions from virtually everyone in blocking 27 of the Rangers' 69 shot attempts -- 18 of the blocks by defensemen -- and keeping the Rangers to the outside of the offensive zone. They're winning the series because of a little puck luck but they also have created their own breaks. Forward Jay Beagle's goal at 7:31 of the second period bounced off the skates of Rangers defenseman Keith Yandle and goalie Henrik Lundqvist before sliding across the goal line. But the sequence began with some hard work from the Capitals.
"That was another example of a good dump-in and puck placement," Farrish said. "It's so critical in those situations. So many players just throw the puck in and try to make a change and the goaltender ends up nullifying an opportunity. These guys have really shown that they're thinking about that and that creates a lot of offense as well."
The Capitals also received strong games from their third and fourth lines, heeding coach Barry Trotz's call for his bottom-six forwards to step up after being held without a point in the first two games. Beagle's linemates, Andre Burakovsky and Troy Brouwer, assisted on his goal. The fourth line of Curtis Glencross, Brooks Laich and Tom Wilson used the forecheck to generate offensive chances and were strong in blocking shots in the game's frantic final minutes.
"Your good players have to be your best players, but it's the support cast that really does make a lot of difference in the playoffs," Farrish said. "Both teams have had success doing that as well, but it's noticeable more so by Washington [in Game 3]. Their fourth line was a little stronger of the two teams to create that energy off physical play. The third line scores a goal off a great hustle and second effort from the wraparound and it was just a great goal. Obviously one goal can make the difference in this series. There's not much room for error in this series, that's for sure."
Even with the Rangers 4-11 in 15 playoff games at Verizon Center since 2009 and facing a potential 3-1 series deficit, Farrish said he's bracing for a long series. The key for the Rangers is breaking through on their power play, which is 1-for-8 in the second round and 4-for-28 in the playoffs.
"They're working hard, they're getting some opportunities. But as we know special teams always play a factor in the playoffs, big time," Farrish said. "It's not easy. Washington has a great penalty-killing unit and they all seem to be in sync and reading off each other very well. It's going to be a tough grind for both teams. I don't think Washington is sitting back and thinking we're in control of the series because we're up 2-1."