Shots may have ended up even at 8-8 between the Rangers and Capitals in the first period, but that’s misleading. The Rangers picked up plenty of solid chances and controlled zone time for much of the first 20 minutes.
Why? It all stems back to the Rangers’ top line. Brad Richards, Carl Hagelin and Marian Gaborik wound up with eight-to-nine even-strength shifts in the first, and many of them were head-to-head against the Capitals' line of Alex Semin, Nicklas Backstrom and Jason Chimera.
It’s looked like a total mismatch early on, as the Rangers' top guys have controlled the puck and their opponents just look out of sorts. Will that continue for the latter 40 minutes? If it does, Washington is in trouble. They need Semin and Backstrom to produce for them, and they certainly can’t have them getting owned by the opposition.