NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 28: Marc Staal #18 of the New York Rangers controls the puck against Matt Hendricks #26 and Jay Beagle #83 of the Washington Capitals in the first period of Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on April 28, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
In the first round of the chess match between the Rangers and Capitals, much will be made of Mike Green's mistakes, but Marc Staal's performance may be a sign of future trouble for the Rangers in this series.
Though some will complain about the pace of the first game of the Eastern Conference Semifinals between the Rangers and Capitals, perhaps it's best to call it something of a chess match. In a defensive struggle, both John Tortorella and Dale Hunter attempted to take the measure of their opponent, with each team looking for an edge to bring them one step closer to their ultimate goal.
Much will be made of Mike Green's missteps, particularly his incredibly ineffective attempt to wrap up Artem Anisimov as the forward dragged himself to the opening goal in the second period and the busted coverage on Chris Kreider's eventual game winning goal.
He was not the only blueliner who put his team in a bad position, however.
The Rangers' Marc Staal took two of the blueshirt's four minor penalties on the afternoon, both while the game was still scoreless and the Capitals applying the larger portion of what little offensive pressure was to be found. Whistled in the first period for interfering with Matt Hendricks, the Capitals generated four shots on the man advantage, three of them by Troy Brouwer, Niklas Backstrom, and Alexander Semin in high percentage scoring chance areas.
Staal can thank the pure skill and athletic ability of Henrik Lundqvist for bailing him out there, but he was guilty of handing the game right back to the Capitals early in the second period while both sides continued to look for the first goal. Whistled for a hook on Brouwer, it was the willingness of the penalty killers to block shots -- including a series of sacrifices by Dan Girardi aganst both Dennis Wideman and Alex Ovechkin -- that kept things from getting worse for New York.
Both made mistakes which lead directly to goals. The only difference is that the Capitals' offense was unable to cover Green's errors while Staal's transgressions will mostly be glossed over in the wake of the 3-1 victory.
Don't be so surprised, however, if Dale Hunter and his coaching staff took careful note, and if the Capitals start keying on the 25-year-old defenseman, looking either to lure him into more penalties or to expose him with more quick transition passes.