Adjusting to the Playoffs

The beauty of the playoffs is that teams see each other over a series, allowing each to adjust.

This is key as last night’s Ranger win over the Capitals was a bit of an upset. The Rangers want to do it again. The Capitals are looking to put themselves back on track.

Washington goalie Jose Theodore was the game’s most influential factor. His inability to make two routine saves is what handed the Rangers the game. Unfortunately, you can’t just tell him to play better. There are issues beyond coach Bruce Boudreau’s control. Sure, he can start rookie Simeon Varlamov, but then your entire playoff run is pretty much on the rookie’s shoulders, since it’s tough to bench a starting goalie and then bring him back. Although it has been done before, during Carolina’s Stanley Cup-winning run.

Boudreau does have other options. He can play up his team’s speed, and make sure they’re moving constantly. That should force the slower Rangers into a few more penalties. He can also get more traffic in front of Ranger goalie Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist had a great game against Washington, but a big part of that was his decent look at everything shot toward him.

The Rangers will need to adjust, too. Two of their goals were basically flukes. Scott Gomez scored in the second on two picks set in two different zones. Brandon Dubinsky’s game-winner was entirely stoppable. So the Rangers can’t depend on missed calls and poor Washington goaltending the entire series. If they can get more of a down-low game going, that’s a lot of pressure on whoever is in goal, and it keeps the puck further away from the Capital zone.

Speaking of adjustments, kudos to New Jersey coach Brent Sutter, who basically spent the entire season taking the team away from match-ups and a dedicated checking line. Carolina coach Paul Maurice must have been shocked to see the John Madden line out constantly against the Staal line. Sutter will probably wait for Maurice to start avoiding the match-up and use that to get his top line out as much as possible. Unless he thinks that’s what Maurice is thinking. Then, it could get even trickier. Maybe even something involving disguises and fake voices.

Trust no one, Paul Maurice.