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.
Dave Farrish has probably gotten hoarse at points during his career preaching to his teams about playing to the whistle, never stopping, and putting in a full 60-minute effort.
The New York Rangers found out the hard way what happens when you don't do all of that Thursday night in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Second Round series against the Washington Capitals.
Forward Joel Ward scored with 1.3 seconds remaining because he was wide open in front of the net to receive a pass from Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin. Washington won the game 2-1 and took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 series that continues Saturday with Game 2 at Madison Square Garden (12:30 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports).
"That's a classic example of it's a full 60-minute game because you can't relax for a second in these situations," Farrish said. "With the quality of the players on the ice, a lot of them can score from a lot of places and make a lot of things happen out of nothing. That's one of those deals where you relax for a second and it costs you."
Farrish said he doesn't anticipate the Rangers losing in the same way twice. He thinks the Rangers will come out in Game 2 with a more aggressive, shot-first mentality, which he felt they were lacking in Game 1.
The Rangers had 32 shots on goal to Washington's 29, but Farrish still said he felt they were looking for the extra pass when shooting the puck would have been the right play.
"They're a little tentative," Farrish said. "I think they need to create a little more of a shot-mentality first. They're looking more for the second and third pass to try to make the nice play, but I think the mentality will change as you see this series go along. They're going to start taking shots from those first-pass opportunities and the rest of the people are going to understand that the puck is going to the net and they're going to have to go to the net, look for rebounds and obviously create traffic in front."
Farrish said he is looking for the Rangers' defensemen to jump into the rush more than they did in Game 1 and have the forward hit them with a pass to create a shot with net-front presence.
"That's one thing you can do when you drive deep like that, turn around and hit the late D-man, and that allows the offensive guys to get in position in front of the net and it should allow for some pretty good scoring opportunities and secondary chances as well," Farrish said. "I think that will be part of the ongoing movement of the series."
Farrish also said he thinks Rangers forward Rick Nash will get more engaged and involved as the series progresses. Nash had three shots on goal and six shot attempts in Game 1, but he was largely inconsequential in his 18:40 of ice time.
"One of the things that he does really well is because of his size he rolls off people in the corners and the half walls and he takes the puck to the net really strong and shoots and gets a lot of goals that way," Farrish said. "That's one of his strengths that I really haven't seen just yet, but I think that's going to be part of the progression of the series."
From Washington's perspective, Farrish said he felt the Capitals played a strong road game Thursday because they prevented the Rangers from getting inside into the high-danger scoring areas.
"The Rangers made a couple of plays, had a couple of real good cycles to where they were taking the puck to the front of the net to create pressure, but I thought Washington defensively didn't really allow a lot of those opportunities," Farrish said.
He also felt Capitals coach Barry Trotz did a good job of deploying Ovechkin, who had a power-play goal in the first period and an assist on the game-winner in 18:26 of ice time.
Farrish praised Trotz's usage of Ovechkin, particularly in finding some extra shifts for him.
"I thought Trotz did a real good job of getting Ovechkin some extra ice time with offensive zone faceoffs and double shifting occasionally," Farrish said. "One of the things that does is it creates a problem for the home team trying to match up the defensive pairings and a lot of times it gets your offense out of rhythm. Sometimes when you're worried so much about the defensive side it can take away from the offensive side of your game. That's a fine line in that situation and I thought the Washington staff did a good job of double-shifting Ovechkin and getting him some quality offensive zone time on icings. That causes problem for the home team and it's almost an advantage for the road team because you can dictate who is on the ice because you know the other team is going to match you. You can play to your strengths and let them worry about you more so than the other way around."
Farrish said he expects both teams will again try to play to their strengths in Game 2, but he wouldn't be surprised if it was a bit more an open-type of game because of the message from both coaches to get the defensemen involved more.
"Both teams have 'D' that can join the rush and I see that as more of a factor in the next game as the series may open up a bit," Farrish said. "I just see both teams' offensive 'D' chomping at the bit to get involved up the ice and it will be interesting to see which ones can show enough patience to pick the right times, and not get into a track meet."