Friday, April 17, 2009

Game 2 Looms Large for Caps

As NHL.com points out this morning, the odds of winning a series if you win Game 2 (71.8 percent) are better than if you take Game 1 (69.1 percent), so clearly Saturday's tilt will mean a lot for the Capitals.

In addition, teams that dropped Game 1 but won Game 2 win 52.9 percent of series played, meaning if you're going to split the first two contests, it's better to win the second and take the momentum into the change of venue for Game 3 than winning the opener.

But, as the story points out, teams who go down 0-2 only win 12.8 percent of the time, so Washington's hopes of looking to make an extended playoff run will take a big hit if they can't wrangle a split at Verizon Center.

So, with the pressure on in front of the home folks to even the series, the Caps will look to cash in on some of their opportunities in Game 2 that they couldn't quite bury on Wednesday, and likely will have to do it against a Rangers lineup that will get playoff specialist Chris Drury back.

Despite all the speculation (and Bruce Boudreau having a bit of fun with the press, apparently), Jose Theodore should be back in net to see if he can bounce back from a very flat performance and at least quell some of the critics who came out of the woodwork after making just 17 saves in Game 1. Theodore worked with goalie coach Dave Prior to work on some technique, as New York scored all their goals with high shots, and he is hoping to cut down the angles better Saturday.

The unusual scheduling - thanks to NBC wanting to televise the contest on Saturday afternoon - also will play an interesting role in this series, as while the other three conference quarterfinal series that began on Wednesday continue tonight, the Caps and Rangers will wait until tomorrow afternoon to skate. In addition, while those other series will continue Sunday, this series won't resume until Monday night at Madison Square Garden for Game 3.

The extra pauses in the schedule do tend to temper momentum, meaning the Caps should be a bit better off than having to play the game tonight.

The drawbacks for Washington with the extra 18 hours to prepare is having to dwell on their Game 1 performance a bit longer and allowing nerves to build a bit, as well as giving the older Rangers a bit more time to recouperate (and, in this case, a bit more likely to get Drury back in the lineup).

It's not to the degree of giving the Penguins three of the first four games, but likely won't be quite to the Caps' benefit overall, but having dropped Game 1, it does allow a bit more time for New York's momentum to slow.

One change for Washington will be Jeff Schultz, who got posterized in Game 1 on the game-winning goal, will miss Saturday due to injury and Brian Pothier will likely get a chance to play in his first playoff game since he was a member of the Senators in 2005-06.

But Saturday looms large for the Caps, as the odds won't be good heading north down 0-2 and needing at least one win at Madison Square Garden to ensure a return trip to Washington that doesn't involve cleaning out their lockers.

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