Before Game 5, John Tortorella was quoted as saying that he had a good feeling about the club and that the team would be ready to play. It's quite possible they came ready to play -- that's still up for debate -- but one thing is for sure: the Washington Capitals came with a killer instinct and they came ready to prove why they were the East's best team this year. The Blueshirts season is over after their 3-1 loss to the Capitals, in a game that the Rangers really had no chance of winning from the get-go.
If all you caught was the first shift of the game, then you might've thought it was going to be a good one for the Rangers. The Brandon Prust-Brian Boyle-Sean Avery line came out with energy and created a scoring chance right off the bat. After that, though, the Caps, along with their fans chanting "We are louder!" took it to the Rangers. Mike Green scored a power-play goal six minutes into the game. The first period basically seemed like a continuation of Game 4's third period in which the Rangers choked away a three-goal lead. The Rangers couldn't win a single puck battle and they rarely were able to start their forecheck which they need to be successful. The Caps outshot the Rangers, 13-6, in the first period and took nearly 30 shots on goal that were either blocked or missed the net. It was a miracle that this period ended with the away team only one goal down.
So many times this season you saw the Rangers play a bad period and bounce back with a heightened effort the next period. The Caps were too good in this one, however. Despite the Rangers holding a 10-6 shot advantage in the period, the Caps blanketed the Rangers' forwards, not giving them a chance to really generate anything high quality and flustering their cycle down low. Alex Ovechkin lit the lamp seven minutes in on a partial breakaway when he caught Marc Staal pinching and it seemed like an impossible deficit to overcome.
As the third period began, the Rangers had 20 minutes left in their season and while we've seen them so many times come out with a vengeance, it wasn't the case this time. When they did get chances, Michal Neuvirth made some key saves. The problem was that for the majority of the game any shots the Rangers had were from far out, with nobody in front and in clear view for Neuvrith. Alexander Semin scored in the third (16:23) when the Rangers were trying to throw everyone up in the offensive zone and Wojtek Wolski scored a garbage goal with the Henrik Lundqvist pulled and 32 seconds remaining in the game.
While this is not the outcome any Blueshirts fan wanted to see, let's be completely honest with ourselves. When this season started, what were your expectations? Nobody really expected the Rangers to even make the playoffs (I know they barely got in) and with all the injuries they had to endure this year, they did prove one thing: for once, their youth prevails. The Rangers have a great core of young, blossoming players and a nucleus that should be around for quite some time. The front office needs to find a top-line center, but cannot overpay for Brad Richards, or sign him to crippling long-term contract. The top four defenders are set (and promising) -- maybe a veteran could be brought in to aid the third pairing, but the Rangers have enough youth in the back end to bring a few guys up next year as well.
For the first time in quite some time, despite the disappointment, Rangers fans can say that this 2010-2011 New York Rangers teams was a team to be proud of and that their team is on the right track.
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