I wanted to write about each of the last three Caps game individually, but right now I'm too irate to come close to doing justice to the first two.
The things that jump right out at me are 13-4 (power plays for Rangers vs Caps in the three games) and 2-0 (5-3 power plays in that span). If they were calling the fouls the same way, I really don't much care if they're tight or loose, as long as they're fair, and as long as they keep the game safe for the players.
A less important note is 6-1. That would be the number of times the refs/linesmen have gotten in the way of the puck in ways that benefit Rangers vs benefiting Caps. I really wouldn't think there was anything about that, but the foul calling has been so out of whack, that it makes me wonder.
Frankly, I think it's amazing that the Caps are still alive, given all that. The turning point in the game on the eighth was late in the first, when Stepan broke into the Caps zone with a step on Erat. OV came flying in from behind, towards the center of the ice, got his shoulder under Stepan, and ended up throwing both Stepan and Erat to the ice. I'll give you that it's quite likely that Erat hooked Stepan; I couldn't see it, but the angles weren't great, and it would hardly be surprising. But the charging call on OV was absurd.
Not only was it pretty ridiculous to call two fouls on the same play, but I have no idea how you call charging when two players are going almost the same direction, and when it's an open-ice hit. To add injury to insult, Erat was hurt on the play (and this was actually the bigger effect, as it left the lines all jumbled up for the rest of the game) and hasn't played since. My knee-jerk reaction was to hope it wasn't a broken wrist. (And no, I'm not trying to imply somehow that the play was dirty, leading to the injury. It was just a freak, unfortunate thing.)
But it gave the Caps a 5-on-3 to kill (well, technically it ended the Caps power play early, giving thirteen seconds of 4-on-3, then 5-on-3.) when they were already down a goal.
I was feeling pretty upset about that game, thinking there were no positives to be taken from it, but that's not true. The Caps actually were the better team at 5-on-5 again. I can't say as it felt like it at the time, but the Caps, despite the power play disparity (especially accounting for how much of that was 5-on-3), were only four behind in shots. And they had thirteen more blocked, which means they took a lot more shots. So they were, again, the better team at even strength.
But while they came back from two goals down once, they were only able to get one back the second time they went down by two.
Friday's game got off to a terrible start, as the biggest guy on the ice (Rangers' Boyle) was left alone in the slot in the first minute, and the pass from behind the net found him. Can't blame Holtby for that one; atrocious defense. But despite the continuing huge disparity in power plays, the Caps managed to get the only power play goal to tie the game up.
I wasn't quite as upset about the power play disparity in this game, as today's game, but it did tick me off in a number of uncalled penalties that were almost identical to penalties called on Washington. The first penalty to Washington was a boarding penalty on Chimmer. I thought it was a fairly weak, but not indefensible, call when it was made. When an identical hit by the Rangers, much later in the game, went uncalled, I was angry.
Holtby also got called for tripping in an earlier game. Lundqvist tripped three different Caps in this game, with no calls.
Again, the Caps dominated at even strength, plus ten in overall shots, three fewer on the power play, with almost identical blocks. So the Caps were up a bunch.
They definitely deserved to get the overtime winning goal when it came (Ribeiro getting the rebound of Brouwer's stopped shot).
But today's game just had me furious. I was already a bit upset about the call disparity in the previous game (I had forgotten that it was TWO previous games). In addition, I was watching the game on DVR, and suspected the Caps had lost due to some people I'd seen with Caps jerseys on, walking around, at about the time when the game would have ended. They didn't look terribly upset, but didn't look happy either.
So when Hendricks' (I think) stick got knocked out of his hands in the first minute, with no call, I was building towards some serious dudgeon. There was another pretty obvious call missed shortly thereafter, and several blown offsides calls, so I was definitely not feeling good.
And it didn't take long for things to come home to roost, as New York was given three power plays in the first (one of which happened off-camera, but was described as retaliation penalty). The third of those made me especially upset, as Fehr was called for elbowing while already on the PK. Live, I thought that was a good call, but on replay, it looked like the elbow was down when they hit, and came up as follow-through. Again, not pleased.
Happily, the Caps killed all those penalties and escaped the period scoreless. Heck, they were only down four on shots, despite 3-0 power play difference. I'd say they outplayed New York again.
The second period was not so kind. Power plays were even (nobody got one), but New York did outplay Washington on the period, and got the only goal as Brassard's point shot was deflected by one of the Caps defenders.
The third period had the Caps coming up big, winning on shots despite 2-0 against on power plays (one of those was a cross-checking call on Ward that resulted in a Ranger flying feet-first into his own goal. The penalty was off-camera, but I can't think of a way to cross-check someone into sliding feet-first. Every cross-check I've seen that resulted in someone losing their balance had them going head-first). The Caps had a number of great chances, but Lundqvist kept coming up big. Very frustrating to watch, although the PK was fantastic. Definitely one of those power plays was killed without a shot (I think both were, but I'm not positive). They Caps really put some pressure on at the end, when they pulled Holtby, but Hank still stood tall.
All in all, an extremely frustrating game to watch. But overall, the Caps were the better team. Only two shots behind (four, if you count blocked ones), but again, five fewer power plays. I thought the Caps would be behind in 5-on-5 play throughout this series, but they've been ahead almost every game. Hard to argue with that.
And it definitely doesn't make me feel good about game seven, tomorrow. The Caps have never won a game seven at home after winning the first two games of a series. And if the penalty calling doesn't even out, they might as well not even play.
The penalty kill, their Achilles heel all season, has actually been fantastic. They've allowed only two goals on 25 power plays (by my count). If they had matched their regular season performance, they'd have been eliminated already.
And the power play has also been excellent, with three goals in fifteen chances (several of those cut short, too, when they took penalties). A bit worse than their regular season numbers, but you certainly don't complain about 20% conversion.
Let's just hope that they're given a chance tomorrow. Like I said, I'm not feeling optimistic.
Update: Forgot to mention two things. One, Erat's injury (combined with Hershey's elimination from the AHL playoffs) has given an excuse for calling up Tom Wilson, who has looked quite good (well, for a 19-yo in his first NHL action. His contributions, while positive, have been fairly minimal). Anyway, just not looking like he's in over his head is quite good for someone as young as he is.
Two, I did think of a way for Ward to have crosschecked someone with the result that he had. It would have required him to be skating away from the goal with the defender skating towards the goal, and for the defender to have not flipped around to land on his face. The first of those was certainly not the case, and the second seems awfully unlikely.