The best at containing Alex Ovechkin
While Rangers aren't slowing Caps' captain, data show trouble could loom in Rd. 2
For the New York Rangers, this means the defensive pairing of Dan Girardi and Marc Staal needs to be the difference between heading to the next round and scheduling an earlier-than-expected tee time. That fact will be particularly true on Saturday, when the Caps try to close out a series they lead 3-1.
On the surface, the regular-season success of Girardi and Staal against Ovechkin looks stellar: no even-strength goals allowed when the superstar winger was on the ice. Looking a bit deeper shows that the duo might have gotten lucky. Specifically, they don't do enough to limit the scoring chances by Ovechkin and his linemates.
When Washington coach Bruce Boudreau was asked whether he was concerned about the lack of shots in the Rangers' zone after the loss in Game 3, he explained, "Shots aren't important. Scoring chances are way more important than shots."
A scoring chance is defined as a clear play directed toward the opposing net from a dangerous scoring area -- loosely defined as the top of the circle in and inside the faceoff dots. A player is awarded a "chance for" if he is on the ice when someone on his team generates a chance to score and a "chance against" if the opposing team does.
Girardi and Staal lost the scoring=chance battle against Ovechkin and his linemates during the regular season, with the Rangers seeing only 38.5 percent of the even-strength scoring chances go in their favor. For comparison, Washington's young shutdown pair of John Carlson and Karl Alzner saw more than 51 percent go in their favor skating against the opposition's toughest competition.
Leaguewide, teams convert somewhere between 14 and 20 percent of their scoring chances, so you can see why the Ovechkin line is overdue against Girardi and Staal given the number of high-quality opportunities. During the playoffs, Girardi and Staal have surrendered nearly two-thirds of the even-strength scoring chances to Ovechkin when they are on the ice together, giving up two goals and four points to the Caps' top line in the series.
If Girardi and Staal can't get the job done, who can? Here's how the top shutdown defensive pairings in the East stack up against the Capitals' captain's line based on scoring-chance data.
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
MORE NHL HEADLINES
- Habs lose Pacioretty after hit into boards
- Pens' Crosby returns from mumps vs. Avs
- Howe progressing, able to 'shuffle' around
- Rangers AHL player being tested for mumps
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
NHL Insider Content
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
Prospectus: Rating B's, Canucks' depth
CapGeek: Bs, Canucks provide cap blueprints Conn Smythe Watch: Thomas takes the lead
Greenberg: Projecting Tyler Seguin
Greenberg: Lapierre is Canucks' MVP
Prospectus: Special teams aren't that key
Conn Smythe Watch: Kesler's charge
Joyce: Sharks stars lack 'it'
Greenberg: Best Gs vs. the best shots
Conn Smythe Watch: Thomas rises
Button: Philly's crisis of crease confidence
Greenberg: Can blocks carry Bolts to Cup?
Prospectus: Ranking Caps' playoff failure
Prospectus: Top playoff rooks since 1998
Conn Smythe Watch: Roloson No. 1
Prospectus: Datsyuk remains underrated
Conn Smythe Watch: Neuvirth shines
Greenberg: Best D pairs vs. Alex Ovechkin
Prospectus: Thomas doesn't give B's big edge
Prospectus: Playoff team depth rankings
Cooper: Preds try to ditch Rd. 1 jinx
Prospectus: Team-by-team odds to win the Cup
Prospectus: Ranking the first-round netminders
Prospectus: These Sharks built to last
Prospectus: Puck luck could pluck Ducks
Cooper: Why playoff hockey is so different
Team Scouting Reports
How to beat the Boston Bruins
How to beat the Philadelphia Flyers
How to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins
How to beat the Washington Capitals
How to beat the Anaheim Ducks
How to beat the Detroit Red Wings
How to beat the San Jose Sharks
How to beat the Vancouver Canucks
May 11: Why Wings may soon fall off
April 28: Strome surges in Mock Draft 2.0
April 13: Nashville tries to overcome history
April 11: D. Sedin tops final player rankings
April 7: Coaches feeling the hot seat
April 6: How Caps' draft strategy has worked
March 30: Can Flyers win Cup with Bobrovsky?
March 9: Re-ranking Top 50 draft prospects
Feb. 28: Traded prospect evals
Feb. 28: Rating trades in the West
Feb. 28: Rating trades in the East
Feb. 17: Worst. Trades. Ever.
Feb. 17: NHL Mock Draft 1.0
NHL Rumor Central
Get news and rumblings before anyone
NHL Experts Blog
Daily ice shavings of insight
NHL Draft Blog
A look towards June 2011