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.
|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.
|2012 - Braden Holtby||36||2089||23||12||1||90||2.58||1123||1033||.920||4|
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.
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
|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
|Dirk||Washington||My head says Rangers, but I can't go against both Martin Erat & Joel Ward. Caps all the way!|
|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.|