The first of my playoff previews focuses one of many high-profile matches in the opening round, with the #2 seed Washington Capitals hosting the #7 New York Rangers.
Oh, look! It's Sean Avery! What wacky pranks will he come up with next? The question that interests me here is whether Washington tolerates Avery's calculated taunts, or if they choose to swat this pest early.
On the Washington side, Alex Ovechkin has captured trophies and filled up countless highlight reels with his regular season exploits, but true NHL legends are made in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. How will he fare in his second playoff run?
This deck is stacked pretty heavily in Washington's favor. Take, for instance, those power play numbers. While it looks like #2 vs. #28 is already a big advantage for Washington, that 13.9% PP for the Rangers doesn't even count the 13 shorthanded goals they gave up, a league high. Yes, the Caps gave up 10 shorties too, but at least they scored twice as often on the PP to make up for that.
|2008 - Henrik Lundqvist||70||4153||38||25||7||3||168||2.43||2007||1839||.916||3|
|2008 - Jose Theodore||57||3287||32||17||5||4||157||2.87||1572||1415||.900||2|
Lundqvist is a star performer, but he'll have to absolutely steal games for the Rangers to have a chance.
No OtF preview would be complete without a look at Penalty Plus/Minus, to see which players will head to, or send other players to, the box:
|New York||Penalties Drawn||Washington||Penalties Drawn|
|Player||Draws||Fouls||Pen +/-||Player||Draws||Fouls||Pen +/-|
|Brandon Dubinsky||45||38||+7||Alex Ovechkin||42||35||+7|
|Sean Avery||41||33||+8||Brooks Laich||33||14||+19|
|Scott Gomez||34||30||+4||Alex Semin||30||32||-2|
|Ryan Callahan||34||18||+16||Donald Brashear||26||33||-7|
|Colton Orr||32||43||-11||Mike Green||25||34||-9|
|Aaron Voros||31||36||-5||Matt Bradley||23||16||+7|
|Penalties Taken||Penalties Taken|
|Colton Orr||32||43||-11||Alex Ovechkin||42||35||+7|
|Brandon Dubinsky||45||38||+7||Mike Green||25||34||-9|
|Aaron Voros||31||36||-5||Milan Jurcina||7||34||-27|
|Sean Avery||41||33||+8||Donald Brashear||26||33||-7|
|Paul Mara||20||33||-13||Alex Semin||30||32||-2|
|Scott Gomez||34||30||+4||Shaone Morrison||18||31||-13|
As mentioned above, a key player here is Avery; if he can goad the Caps into some bad penalties, it provides a chance for the Rangers to get an early lead and then hang on.
I have to take the Washington Capitals in a cake walk here. As much as I like John Tortorella as a coach, I just don't think he has the horses to keep up with the Caps in this one.