Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby was surrounded by reporters Saturday afternoon discussing his first career playoff shutout when he summed things up by saying that he really did not have to work all that hard to earn it because the Rangers did not provide that much offensive pressure on him.
And following Rangers practice on Sunday, defenseman Ryan McDonagh did not disagree with the Caps goalie, who has allowed only one goal on 60 shots over 128 minutes in this series, so far--including his 1-0, 24-save overtime shutout on Saturday.
"Yeah, absolutely, we have to better at going to the dirty areas, make it so that (Holtby) can not get out of his crease," explained McDonagh---who has put his Hame Two overtime penalty quickly behind him and is focused squarely on Monday's Game Three at The Garden. "That's really one area we can focus on that might help us. You can see in this series it's tough for both teams to score goals, so maybe we just need to put more bodies around their net."
Brian Boyle did not disagree with McDonagh, but he offered on Sunday that the Rangers need to do a lot more in all areas of their offensive game in order to get back into this best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series which they trail two games to none.
"I wouldn't say it's the only way (to beat Holtby), but it's a good way to start, trying to get traffic in front and getting momentum with shots while crowding the net," said Boyle, who played nearly 12 minutes on Saturday after missing the previous seven games with an undisclosed injury. "I think that's an important way to play, especially in the playoffs. But we want some (more) zone time because you can get a heckuva' lot more offensive chances by playing in their end. I just think we have to challenge Holtby more, make life more difficult for him."
Though he earned a shutout in Game Two, Holtby was forced into making more difficult saves in Washington's Game One 3-1 victory on Thursday, in particular ones on prime chances by Ryan Callahan, Carl Hagelin, and John Moore. In Game Two the Rangers two best chances---one by Anton Stralman early in the first period and one by Rick Nash late in the third---caught iron behind Holtby, proving that the puck luck so far has been on the side of Washington.
Nash had eight shots on goal in the opener, but only three on Saturday. Callahan has been shut out on seven shots through two games, while Derek Stepan has managed just four shots, Brad Richards five, and Mats Zuccarello only two. hagelin, the Rangers best player in the first game, managed only one shot on Saturday after scoring the Rangers only goal of the series so far in the first period of Game One.
Of course it is not only the amount of shots on goal, it is the quality and difficulty for the goaltender on those shots which count even more, as Holtby pointed out following Saturday's contest.
"We've got to get more chances, there's no question there," stated Callahan. "We have to get more time in their zone and create more opportunities off of that. Our special teams — we have to score some goals on the power play. That was the big thing last game: we lost the special teams battle and we end up losing the battle."
The Rangers power play, inconsistent all season, has struggled mightily in this series, so far. After creating little in four failed opportunities on Thursday, the Rangers were 0-for-3 on Saturday, including failed power play late in regulation and early in overtime in which they did not register a shot on goal either time.
"We get a bounce on the power play and it goes in, it could be a different game," Callahan said after practice Sunday. "We definitely need to get more shots on our power play, get some traffic in front of him, and if we do that, I think we'll be fine."
After scoring 28 goals in their final six games of the regular season, the Rangers are confident in their ability put the puck in the net. Now they just need to do it against a Capitals team growing in confidence by the day, and playing at the top of their collective game, having gone 17-2-2 in their last 21 games.
"At times I think we've had chances, but we just haven't capitalized," explained head coach John Tortorella. "We still have to develop more."