When youre watching Game 4 between the Capitals and Rangers on Saturday afternoon keep an eye on No. 27 for the Rangers. For that matter, keep an eye on the guys in white wearing No. 4, No. 5 and No. 18.
You may not see a bulls eye on those jerseys but the Capitals do.
Rangers coach John Tortorella has made the decision to play the life out his top four defensemen and the Capitals are hoping they can take a physical advantage by drilling them every chance they get.
Its taxing on those guys, said Capitals forward Brooks Laich, who is expected to center a second lone with wingers Jason Chimera and Alex Semin. You just get into survival mode and its tough to thrive that way. We want to keep making it difficult on them. Make them turn, make them go back and get pucks, make it difficult every time theyre on the ice.
The NHL keeps record of how many hits are given in a game, but not how many are absorbed. Through the first three games of the series, the Caps have delivered 122 hits on the Rangers and its safe to say more than half have come against Ryan McDonagh No. 27, Dan Girardi No. 5, Michael Del Zotto No. 4 and Marc Staal No.18.
You can only hope it benefits us, said Capitals left wing Matt Hendricks, who was relentless in Game 3, delivering 11 of his series-high 19 hits against the Rangers. Those four are doing a good job against us so far. But as the series progresses it could end up affecting them.
In Wednesday nights marathon, McDonagh took 60 shifts, logged a game-high 53:21 and blocked eight shots. His partner, Girardi, logged 44:22 of ice time on 50 shifts and blocked six shots.
The Rangers second defense pair of Del Zotto 43:37 and Staal 49:30 combined for five blocks and seven hits.
It can wear on you, said Capitals defenseman Dennis Wideman, who led the Caps with 41:40 of ice time in Game 3. But Im sure those guys have been getting hit, have been blocking shots and have been playing those kinds of minutes all season.
The Capitals took a similar approach against Bruins defensemen Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg and Johnny Boychuk and after Game 7 Boychuk acknowledged the Caps were harder to play against than he ever imagined.
Right wing Mike Knuble said the Capitals need to extend the series to six or more games if they want their strategy to work. Troy Brouwer said the Chicago Blackhawks employed the same strategy in the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals against the Flyers, who shortened their defensive bench to Chris Pronger, Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn and Matt Carle.
We have to make sure those guys have no free passes, Brouwer said. Its just no fun when you have to turn around and get the puck and youre getting hit all the time.