NEW YORK - News, notes and a few quotes as the Capitals and Rangers prepare to butt helmets today in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at Madison Square Garden:
Where they stand: The Caps hold a 1-0 series lead on the Rangers after taking the series opener 2-1 on Joel Ward’s goal with 1.3 seconds remaining. Two years ago the Caps won the first two games against the Rangers on home ice, but lost four of the following five games to fall in seven.
Day of rest: Aside from some stretching, meetings and a team dinner, the Capitals’ players were given Friday off to roam the streets of New York City. Alex Ovechkin said he’d peruse the Nike store for shoes, while Brooks Orpik said he’d catch some playoff hockey on television.
The Caps went 4-5-1 in afternoon games during the regular season and lost both afternoon games against the Islanders in Round 1.
“I think it was important for us to get our rest,” Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said. “You’re going to see [the Rangers’] absolute best this afternoon, just because of the desperation factor.
“We went through that in Game 2 in our first series [a 4-3 win fueled by backup goalie Philipp Grubauer following a series-opening loss], so hopefully we understand that. We need to try to match that desperation and that commitment and that urgency. As I said before, let’s not go around this game; let’s make sure we’re going through it. And if we do, then with our best effort we’ll see where the chips fall after that.”
Trotz said he does want to dwell on the Caps’ afternoon struggles with his players, but …
“I don’t think we’re ignoring it,” he said. “I think we’re learning from it. The more you have them the more you get used to it.
“I think the tank wasn’t quite full [in Game 1]. Hopefully, with what we did yesterday our tanks are full again and we go from here.”
Swallow the whistles? On Friday, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said the “standards have been set” on what will be called and, more specifically, what will not, during the playoffs. He cited as examples Alex Ovechkin’s Game 7 hit on Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey and Nicklas Backstrom’s hit on Rangers defenseman Dan Boyle in the final seconds of Game 1 to set up Ward’s game-winner.
Trotz was asked Saturday if he thinks the standards of officiating change during the playoffs.
“No, not really,” Trotz said. “That’s one of the misconceptions of the whole thing. There’s more physicality in the playoffs but that doesn’t mean the standards change. It’s just more physical, that’s all.
“You see the number of hits increase in the playoffs. I think the referees have been really diligent in calling he game fairly. They’re human and they’re probably not going to get every play. We see things on monitors in slow motion 8 to 10 times and then we’re making judgment on a split-second decision. I have a lot of admiration for the officials.”
Boyle in or out? Boyle skated with the team on Friday but Vigneault did not say whether the 38-year-old defenseman, who missed seven games with a concussion during the 2013-14 season and had trouble sleeping for another couple months, would be in the lineup today.
“We’ll see soon,” Vigneault said of his lineup.
If Boyle cannot play, look for defenseman Matt Hunwick to take his place.
Praising Holtby: Vigneault was complimentary of Capitals goalie Braden Holtby, who stopped 31 of 32 shots in Game 1 and ranks first among playoff starting goalies in goals-against average [1.54] and first in save percentage [.947].
“He’s one of the best goalies in the league and he;s proven that,” Vigneault said. “He’s played a lot of hockey [80 games]. I could give you all the ‘we need to get more traffic, better presence in front of him,’ all the things we know. But without a doubt he’s one of the best in the league. Goalies are at the top of their game, especially in the Eastern Conference [where Carey Price and Ben Bishop have been tremendous] and we’re going to have to be real good.”
No O: The Rangers were the third-highest scoring team in the regular season at 3.02 goals per game, but are averaging just 2.00 goals per game in the playoffs.
Special teams: With a 1-for-2 performance in Game 1, the Caps’ power play is now at 20 percent [3-for-15], while the Rangers [0-for-2] are at 13.6 percent [3-for-22]. The Caps remain a perfect 16-for-16 on the penalty kill, while the Rangers are at 80 percent, allowing three goals on 15 man-advantages.
Here are projected lineups for Game 2:
Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – Joel Ward
Marcus Johnasson – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Jason Chimera
Andre Burakovsky – Jay Beagle – Troy Brouwer
Curtis Glencross – Brooks Laich – Tom Wilson
Brooks Orpik – John Carlson
Karl Alzner - Matt Niskanen
Tim Gleason – Mike Green
Braden Holtby – Justin Peters
Scratches: C Michael Latta, D Dmitry Orlov
Injuries: Eric Fehr [upper body, day-to-day]
Rick Nash – Derrick Brassard – Marty St. Louis
Chris Kreider – Derek Stepan – J.T. Miller
Carl Hagelin – Kevin Hayes – Jesper Fast
James Sheppard – Dominic Moore – Tanner Glass
Ryan McDonagh – Dan Girardi
Marc Staal – Dan Boyle
Keith Yandle – Kevin Klein
Henrik Lundqvist – Cam Talbot
Scratches: D Matt Hunwick, D Chris Summers
Injuries: Mats Zuccarello [head, indefinite]
MORE CAPITALS: How a long chat in Vegas changed Ovechkin