Caps (1) vs. Rangers (8) - NBC Sports

Caps (1) vs. Rangers (8)
April 12, 2011, 6:04 am

A preview of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal between the No. 1 Washington Capitals and No. 8 New York Rangers:

Schedule
Wednesday, April 13:
N.Y. Rangers at Washington, 7:30 p.m. ET, Versus (JIP), TSN
Friday, April 15: N.Y. Rangers at Washington, 7:30 p.m. ET, Versus, TSN
Sunday, April 17: Washington at N.Y. Rangers, 3 p.m. ET, NBC, TSN
Wednesday, April 20: Washington at N.Y. Rangers, 7 p.m. ET, Versus, TSN
x-Saturday, April 23: N.Y. Rangers at Washington, 3 p.m. ET, NBC, TSN
x-Monday, April 25: Washington at N.Y. Rangers, TBD, TSN
x-Wednesday, April 27: N.Y. Rangers at Washington, TBD, TSN
(x-if necessary)

Season series (New York Rangers won 3-1)
Nov 9: Washington 5, New York Rangers 3
Dec 12: New York Rangers 7, Washington 0
Jan 24: New York Rangers 2, Washington 1, SO
Feb 25: New York Rangers 6, Washington 0

Playoff history (Washington leads 3-2)
1986:
New York Rangers 4-2 in Patrick finals
1990: Washington 4-1 in Patrick finals
1991: Washington 4-2 in Patrick semifinals
1994: New York Rangers 4-1 in Eastern semifinals
2009: Washington 4-3 in Eastern quarterfinals

Stanley Cups
Washington:
0
New York Rangers: 4 (1928, 1933, 1940, 1994)

Forwards

Washington
It wasn't a typical Alexander Ovechkin season, as the Capitals captain seemed to struggle to find his game in Washington's new defense-first philosophy. But he looked more like the Ovechkin of old down the stretch, finishing with 11-18-29 totals in his last 22 games. Beyond him, Alexander Semin produced 28 goals, and old reliable Mike Knuble knocked in 24 from his post in the slot.

New York Rangers
When Marian Gaborik is healthy and making the puck dance, he is a concern for any opponent. The trouble is that through too much his career, Gaborik's been harder to find than the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. His 48 points in 62 games was good for a tie for second on this offensively impotent club. Brandon Dubinsky (24-30-54) led the way, and rookie Derek Stepan impressed with 21 goals.
Edge: Washington

Defense

Washington
Big question marks here for the Capitals. Will Mike Green, the league's best offensive blue-liner, be ready for the playoffs after missing the last 20 games due to post-concussion syndrome? Veteran Tom Poti missed the last 38 games with a groin injury, and Dennis Wideman missed the last five with a hematoma in his right leg. In their absence, rookie John Carlson has picked up the slack, with 7-30-37 numbers.

New York Rangers
Brother put brother out of the playoffs when the Rangers and Marc Staal edged Carolina and Eric Staal for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. Because of his family's claim to fame, Staal may be New York's most well-known performer among a relatively obscure back end corps. Dan Girardi led Rangers defenders with a pedestrian 31 points, while Staal's seven goals topped all New York defenders.
Edge: Washington

Goaltenders

Washington
The Capitals set an NHL record this season with three goaltenders 22 or younger - Michal Neuvirth (27), Semyon Varlamov (11) and Braden Holtby (10) - winning at least 10 games. The question is, which one will get it done in the playoffs? Varlamov owns the most playoff experience - 19 games - but the Caps will hand the ball first to rookie Neuvirth, who's carried the load for the majority of the regular season.

New York Rangers
Henrik Lundqvist led the NHL with a career-high 11 shutouts, tying for the second-most in Rangers history, second only to the 13 shutouts posted by John Ross Roach in 1928-29. King Henrik was at his best down the stretch in helping the Rangers secure a playoff spot. Lundqvist won a gold medal with Sweden at the 2006 Winter Olympics, but his Stanley Cup legacy is another matter. He's 14-16 all-time in playoff action, and his postseason goals against average (2.66) is significantly higher than his regular-season GAA (2.32).
Edge: New York Rangers

Coaching

Washington
His potty mouth gained him national infamy during HBO's 24/7 broadcast of the Capitals and Penguins leading up to the Winter Classic, but Bruce Boudreau is armed with more than an arsenal of four-letter words. After playoff heartbreak last spring against Montreal, he set out to reshape his club into a defensively responsible unit, and the result was a second straight Eastern Conference regular-season title. His 184 wins in his first 300 games set an NHL record.

New York Rangers
John Tortorella is a bull in a china shop. You'll get no Dr. Phil-like touch feely stuff from him. He's ready to battle at a moment's notice, whether the opponent be the other team, his own team, the officials, or the media. He lives life with a permanent chip on his shoulder, and puts the edge into his team. He also won a Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004, so his theories apparently work.
Edge: New York Rangers

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Special teams

Washington (16th on power play; 2nd on penalty kill)
The Capitals dearly miss Green's quarterbacking skills to run the power play. He's dangerous both as a distributor of the puck, and for his deep drives into the attacking zone in pursuit of scoring chances. Alexander Ovechkin leads the Capitals with the man-advantage, producing 7-17-24 numbers. Washington was 27-3-4 when scoring a power-play goal. Seven different Capitals scored a shorthanded goal this season. Center Brooks Laich led the team with three shorthanded points.

New York Rangers (18th on power play, 10th on penalty kill)
Their biggest gun on the power play won't be firing in the playoffs. Ryan Callahan, who scored 10 power-play goals, is out with a broken ankle. That will leave the work to Gaborik, who led the team with 16 power-play points. The Rangers went five-for-five in five-on-three situations this season. They also produced 11 shorthanded goals, led by five from Brandon Prust. Only two playoff teams scored more.
Edge: Washington

Role players

Washington
You can't play a solid defensive system without plenty of grinders willing to pay the price, and the Capitals are loaded in this department. Matt Bradley is a physical presence who dished out a team-leading 241 hits. The Capitals went 7-2-1 when he registered a point. Boyd Gordon led the team by winning 58.1 percent of his faceoffs. Center Matt Hendricks equaled a career-high with nine goals.

New York Rangers
A tremendous combination of production and punishment, Brian Boyle delivered a team-leading 240 hits, blocked 86 shots, and also netted 21 goals. Agitating Sean Avery won 62.5 percent of his faceoffs this season. They will dearly miss Ryan Callahan, who suffered a late-season broken ankle. Callahan put the puck in the net 23 times, while serving up 224 hits and blocking 77 shots.
Edge: Washington

X-factor

Washington
It's not difficult to suggest that as Ovechkin goes, so go the Caps. He shared the NHL lead with 11 game-winning goals and set up nine other game winners, but would be the first to say it hasn't been a banner year for him. He collected a point in 40 of Washington's 48 wins, and there's no question that a motivated Ovechkin could win this series on his own.

New York Rangers
Which Avery shows up for the New York Rangers? The pesky, annoying, chirping jabbing pain in the neck with a knack for getting under the other team's skin? Or the pain in the butt, selfish, penalty-taking fool who costs his team games? One thing's for sure - Avery could very well be a difference-maker in this series, one way or the other.
Edge: Washington

Outcome
The Rangers are the thorn in Washington's side. They beat the Caps 7-0 and 6-0 this season, and had them down 3-1 in the opening round of the 2009 playoffs before squandering their advantage. They'll give the Caps all they can handle again this spring, but will once more ultimately come up just a bit short.
Prediction: Washington in 7

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