While the Caps prepare for that, a long offseason is on the horizon for the Rangers. Truth be told, they battled till the final buzzer as Wojtek Wolski's shutout breaking goal displayed with some rough stuff against an old Patrick rival that's becoming a thorn in their side. I don't think it's over between these teams. But as newly extended John Tortorella duly noted in Saturday's postgame of another first round failure which didn't sit well with Henrik Lundqvist, the Caps are a better team who's further along. In the end, talent won out with Ovechkin, Alex Semin and Mike Green doing us in. As predicted, wildcard Marcus Johansson scored and set up big goals. Bruce Boudreau's new defensive approach allowed his more skilled team to match our work ethic. All you have to do is point to Game 1 when Ovechkin stuffed in their first goal before Jason Arnott fed Semin for the OT winner. That was one turning point with the other another heartbreaker with the Rangers blowing a three-goal lead and losing in excruciating fashion due to ghost Marian Gaborik's gaffe that allowed Jason Chimera the easiest goal of his career.
Sometimes, it's just not meant to be. If either doesn't happen, we could be talking instead of a deciding game tomorrow night. For as good as the high powered Caps were, they only outscored us by five (13-8). However, if you took away Wolski's goal in garbage time, the Blueshirts totaled only seven, putting too much pressure on Lundqvist, who aside from a couple of weird goals to Ovi and Semin was outstanding. The lack of finish along with a putrid 1-for-20 on the powerless play doomed this gritty club with the heart to make it back to the playoffs sans Tampa's gift to Tortorella. The way they competed made all of us except possibly one blogger proud. This was the most rootable team we've had in decades. The classic underdog that surprises you when you least expect it. So, they couldn't back up my guarantee. It doesn't matter. The Caps earned it and that bodes well for the franchise moving forward.
Even without future captain Ryan Callahan, who could get Chris Drury's 'C' if he's bought out this summer, there was no quit in Tortorella's club. Regarding Drury, credit must be given to him for how hard he played after coming back from a bad knee. Even in limited minutes, the captain busted his ass diving in front of point shots and winning plenty of faceoffs. If only that high labeler had hit the net on Michal
Of course, the Rangers missed Callahan, who would've done so much of the grinding in front that would've aided the power play and drove Neuvirth nuts. Probably a different series. But as the coach said, it's no use complaining. The playoffs have injuries. It's about guys stepping up. Derek Stepan didn't score but got better in each game. Artem Anisimov struggled despite his first career playoff tally. Gaborik was brutal even if his play picked up. The goat of the series who prior thought the Caps wanted no part of our team. Next time, back it up instead of the silly alibi about not having anyone to play with (line consistency). You're paid a lot ($7.5 million) to score goals. Something you did fine in Year 1. If the shoulder wasn't bothering him, then he needs a therapist pronto. Especially if Tortorella is sticking with him. He says he cares. We'll have wait to wait and see about that after too many lazy shifts where he didn't bother.
With the season done, now comes decision time for the organization. Here are several players who need to be re-signed:
1.Ryan Callahan-the glue of the team
2.Brandon Dubinsky-he wants it done ASAP
3.Artem Anisimov-made strides in second year with room for improvement
4.Mike Sauer-from injury prone forgotten part of Leetch deal to top 4 caliber
5.Brian Boyle-from question mark to a warrior who notched career bests
6.Ruslan Fedotenko-must be re-signed for how well he fit in
7.Matt Gilroy-gained coach's trust and obviously won't be picked up at pricey $2.1 M tag but try bringing back on cheap
With all that to get done, Glen Sather has his work cut out for him. He'll also need to make decisions on the aforementioned Drury, Vinny Prospal, Bryan McCabe, Wolski, Steve Eminger, Erik Christensen and even Sean Avery, who did enough to retain for his final year. We're probably saying bye to almost all except Avery. Then with whatever cap space they have left, they'll turn their attention to July 1. I'll have my thoughts on that in Part II tomorrow.