May 2, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh (27) skates with the puck in front of Washington Capitals center Brooks Laich (21) during the second overtime of game three in the Eastern Conference semifinals of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Verizon Center. The Rangers won 2-1 in triple overtime. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE

NHL Playoffs 2012: Rangers and Capitals Should Beware The Letdown in Game 4

When you play nearly six periods of intense, playoff hockey to its epic conclusion, a week’s worth of rest may not even be enough. The physical and emotional toll a game such as Game 3—the 4th longest game in NHL history—can have may be tough to overcome right away.

Unless you’re Ryan McDonagh, who just jumped over the boards to take another shift.

Both the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers will have two days in between games before heading to the ice Saturday afternoon for Game 4 to mentall and physical prepare to do battle once again.

Just beware of a letdown. 

Whichever team responds from the triple-OT thriller Wednesday night will show great character, but may swing the series in their favor.

If New York wins Game 4 to take a 3-1 series lead and head back to Madison Square Garden with a chance at elimination, Washington will have lost any steam they gained early in the series and their  collective backs will be up against the wall.

On the other hand, if Washington finds a way to recover from a tough loss to tie the series at 2, then it becomes a different game altogether. The Capitals would have the upper hand with the confidence knowing they have a chance to dethrone the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference.

Don’t expect Game 4 to start out crisply or mistake-free. The carryover from Game 3 will still be apparent and it may take one, even two periods before both teams get their legs underneath them, regardless of how well-conditioned the teams may or may not be.

For either team to mitigate a letdown, mistakes have to be few and far between. Simple plays like dumping the puck in, chipping pucks up the boards, high-percentage passes and shots etc. will have to be the norm until you establish your game, and your legs after an epic, six-period playoff game. For both coaches that preach defense first, these fundamentals will be hammered home and whoever establishes a forecheck first has the upper hand.

Whichever team can do all of what has been listed early on will have an excellent chance of winning Game 4. If it’s the Rangers, the series may already be their’s to take. If its the Capitals, they become a dangerous team.

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Tags: 2012 NHL Playoffs New York Rangers Washington Capitals

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