AP Photo/ Charles Krupa
Well, after this exhilarating run came to an end on Monday, I got to thinking: Why did this team, a team on fire going into the playoffs, and a team considered by many poised on making a deep playoff run, lose in the first round yet again?
Over the next few days, I will be examining the biggest reasons the 2013 edition of the Washington Capitals lost, starting with #3: Brian Boyle and Derrick Brassard.
Boyle was held out of Game 1 when John Tortorella decided Chris Kreider would be more of a threat. Kreider skated 8:23 in that game and was a -1 with 2 shots. In Game 2, Tortorella turned to Boyle. He didn't do much, but then again, nobody on the Rangers did offensive-wise. However, Game 3 was a different story. Boyle scored in the 1st to tie the game up at 1, with Derrick Brassard recording his 1st point with an assist. In the 2nd, Boyle had an assist on Brassard's goal to give the Rangers the lead. After that, Boyle was fairly quiet in the series, netting only one more goal, in the first minute of a losing effort in Game 5, but he was a threat whenever he came on the ice, and provided the Blueshirts with a greater physical presence when Ryan Clowe left the series for good. But as important as Boyle was, his contributions were minuscule compared to Brassard's.
Brian Boyle has long been a thorn in the sides of the Capitals. He was one of the few people who scared me whenever he had the puck, along with Derek Stepan and Rick Nash. Derrick Brassard, on the other hand, was (and still is) new to the Eastern Conference and this Rangers-Caps rivalry. Of all the people on this stacked squad, Brassard was one of the people I did not expect to control this series. He proved me wrong, racking up points like he was playing NHL 2013. Over the 7 game series, he led all skaters in points and assists and was tied for the lead in goals. He had a part in 9 of the 16 goals the Rangers scored over the series. Without a doubt, he was the driving offensive force on this team.
In a series where the Capitals dominated offensively (except for Game 7), Brassard and Boyle brought the Rangers a much needed offensive contribution, helping Henrik Lundqvist by giving him just enough goal support. Without those two, the Caps would likely be playing the Bruins right now.