2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview: Washington Capitals vs New York Rangers

Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

One was a Cup favorite that didn't meet expectations. The other turned an abysmal start into a division title. Now they are both surging and looking to prove their critics wrong.

Go check out the fine folks at Japers' Rink (WSH) and Blue Shirt Banter (NYR) for all the fantastic postseason coverage you could ever want.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

The Rangers and Capitals are no strangers to postseason play, this being their fourth meeting in the last five years. Last year, the teams battled to a Game 7 that New York won at home.

MVP candidate and Rocket Richard winner Alex Ovechkin leads the charge to get the Caps past the second round. Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green have also seen a rebirth under rookie head coach Adam Oates, and are all big reasons why the team went from worst to first in a month's time.

Throughout the season, New York didn't do much to justify being highly favored to win the Stanley Cup this season. But they have also been on fire down the stretch, and are hoping their deadline acquisitions will outwork any team they face. Look for Rick Nash to have a big series, playing in only his second playoff series ever.


Rick Nash

#61 / Right Wing / New York Rangers

6-4

219

Jun 16, 1984



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG
SOG PCT
2012 - Rick Nash 44 21 21 42 16 26 3 1 3 176 11.9

Henrik Lundqvist is indeed the better goalie, but don't underestimate Braden Holtby. Plagued by a horrible start to the season, he has rebounded and looks to show last year's amazing run wasn't a fluke. Each team has proven they aren't afraid of who is between the pipes.


Braden Holtby

#70 / Goalie / Washington Capitals

6-2

203

Sep 16, 1989



GP MIN W L OTL GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2012 - Braden Holtby 36 2089 23 12 1 90 2.58 1123 1033 .920 4

KEY INJURIES

Washington: Brooks Laich underwent sports hernia surgery and may not be available until the second round of the playoffs. Nashville hero Joel Ward is nursing a bruised knee, but may be available to start Game 1.

New York: The Rangers are a little banged up. Marc Staal hasn't played since his grisly eye injury. There is no timetable for his return, but it hasn't been ruled out yet either. Ryan Clowe and Brian Boyle are also questionable for Game 1, but Derek Dorsett is hopeful to return sometime in the first round.

HOW THE CAPS CAN WIN

Play like they've played the past month.

Washington's power play is scorching, clicking at 26.8% on the season. They'll need it to continue to do so, as the Rangers are tied with Chicago as being the league's least penalized team.

In addition, they absolutely must get contributions from secondary scoring. Everyone knows the damage the top line can do, but if the line of Brower/Ribeiro/Erat comes to life as it started to in the last few games of the season, the Rangers won't be able to match the fire power. Getting Joel Ward back into the lineup will also help compete with New York's tough lines.

HOW THE RANGERS CAN WIN

Be the better team at even strength. If the likes of Callahan, Stepan, Richards and Nash can keep them in their own zone like they are prone to do, they will severely limit the Cap's chances.

If they can take advantage of Washington's questionable defensive depth and provide a cushion for Lundvist, that could be all he needs to secure the game. The Rangers were 18-2-1 when scoring first in the regular season and a perfect 16-0-0 when leading after two.

PREDICTION

While the Rangers defense may be considered better, it is largely unchanged from last year's playoff run. The one where a defensive minded, coin-flip Capitals club pushed them to a seventh game.

New York's gritty forwards will give the Caps own defense a run for its money, and Lundqvist will steal a couple of games. But ultimately Washington's revived offense will be able to provide goals at the right time.

Capitals in 7.

New York Rangers/Washington Capitals TV Schedule

Date Time (CTL) Location TV
Thursday, May 2 6:30 p.m. Washington NBC Sports Network, TSN
Saturday, May 4 11:30 a.m. Washington NBC, TSN
Monday, May 6 6:30 p.m. New York NBC Sports Network, TSN
Wednesday, May 8 6:30 p.m. New York NBC Sports Network, TSN
*Friday, May 10 6:30 p.m. Washington TSN
*Sunday, May 12 TBD New York Rangers TSN
*Monday, May 13 TBD Washington TSN

OTF Staff Picks

Picks Winner Comment
Dirk Washington My head says Rangers, but I can't go against both Martin Erat & Joel Ward. Caps all the way!
Sam Washington Joel Ward
Caroline Washington I've watched the Caps recently, and they are charging full-steam ahead. Also, Ovie is on fire. Washington in 5, maybe 6.
Jonathan Washington This one goes the distance, and may be the most tightly contested. Both teams have momentum, but Oates will show he's as good a coach as he was a player. Caps in 7.
Chris Washington Hottest team in the NHL right now. The most entertaining moment of the series will be Torts during his post-game interviews. Get your popcorn ready. Caps in 5.
George Washington This is a fun playoff rivalry to watch. It'll be nasty. Adam Oates has Ovechkin's ear, and the Caps are playing responsible two-way hockey. Rangers have been inconsistent this year. Caps in 5.
Jason Washington Caps are the hottest team in the league, and they take it in 5.
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