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Caps and Rangers by the numbers

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Caps and Rangers by the numbers

Caps vs. Rangers in the playoffs. Hmm, sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It should.

This will be the fifth series between the two team since 2009, the most meetings between two teams in that stretch.

Though it may seem like the same teams meeting again and again, only three player for each team have played in all four previous series: Dan Girardi, Marc Staal and Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers and Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green and Nicklas Backstrom for the Caps.

The Caps and Rangers met four times in the regular season with the Rangers winning three of those meetings. Braden Holtby was in net for all four games and he did not fare well with a 3.06 GAA and .897 save percentage.

The Caps’ first period struggles may follow them to this round as the Rangers outscored them 7-2 in the first period this season. Overall, New York outscored the Caps 13-10, but despite the Rangers’ familiarity with slowing down Ovechkin, he still managed to score five of the Caps’ 10 goals. In fact, no player in the NHL has scored more goals against Lundqvist than the Great 8 (26). He will need to be just as potent this series given how dominant Lundqvist looked New York’s opening series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

RELATED: Ovechkin among three finalists for big NHL award

Lundqvist managed an insane 1.53 GAA against Pittsburgh, holding SIdney Crosby to only two goals and Chris Kunitz to one. Evgeni Malkin had no point at all in the series.

Barry Trotz finds himself to be a newcomer to this rivalry in his first year as the Capitals’ coach though he and Alain Vigneault have met once before in the playoffs. In 2011, Trotz and the Nashville Predators met Vigneault and the Vancouver Canucks in the conference semifinals. Vancouver won in six games.

Overall, Trotz has eight playoff appearances with a 23-34 record. Vigneault has nine appearances and a 54-54 record.

But this postseason has been about the Caps overcoming their playoff history which they did in their first round win over the Islanders.

Not only did they play their best game in Game 7, a situation in which the Caps have struggled in the past, but it was also the first time in franchise history that the team allowed no power play goals in a series.

Some have pointed to the exploits of Evgeny Kuznetsov as a major reason for the team’s win over the Islanders and they may be right. Kuznetsov was not with the team for their past struggles, but he delivered for the Caps in a big way. Not only did he record four points in the first round, he also scored the series-clinching goal in Game 7 making him the first Caps’ rookie to do so.

The Rangers have won the last two playoff series between these two teams with both series going seven games. Could Kuznetsov be the key to winning this series as well?

Round two begins on Thursday night in Madison Square Garden. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m.

MORE CAPITALS: Ovechkin braces himself for another war on ice

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Capitals Extra Podcast: Trade deadline story time with Alan May

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NBC Sports Washington

Capitals Extra Podcast: Trade deadline story time with Alan May

Alan May knows a thing or two about the trade deadline.

Over the course of his NHL career, May was traded five total times, four at the trade deadline. He sits down with Rob Carlin on a special edition of the Capitals Extra Podcast to tell stories from his playing days about what it was like getting traded.

This one's a can't miss for hockey fans. You can listen to the episode here on the Capitals Extra page or with the player below.

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NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

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USA TODAY Sports

NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

The Hart Trophy is given to the player judged to be the most valuable to their team. With the Caps currently struggling in almost every aspect of the game, consider this: Just where would they be without Alex Ovechkin?

Washington ranks 10th in the NHL in goals per game with 3.05. Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals with 36. He has scored an incredible 19-percent of his team's goals. No one on the Caps is within 20 goals of the Caps' captain.

That's not a typo. Evgeny Kuznetsov ranks second on the team with 16 goals. No other team in the league has a larger separation between its top two scorers. In fact, only three teams have a difference that's in the double digits: Vancouver (11), San Jose (10) and New Jersey (10).

Ovechkin is almost singlehandedly propping up Washington as a top-ten offense. If you think about just where this offense would be without him, there's a pretty strong case to be made that Ovechkin is as valuable to his team this season as any other player in the league.

SEE THIS WEEK'S 2018 NHL AWARDS TRACKER HERE

Here are the Caps' hopefuls for awards this season:

John Carlson

In contention for: Norris

Carlson is fifth among all defensemen with 45 points, but his case goes beyond the numbers. With a blue line that has featured two rookies the majority of the season, an aging veteran in Brooks Orpik and that had to deal with an injury to Matt Niskanen, the Caps have asked a lot of Carlson this season and he has always been up to the task.

Alex Ovechkin

In contention for: Hart

Few players, if any, are as important to their team's offensive production and therefore its success than Ovechkin has been this season.

Check out who the top candidates are for the league's major individual awards in this week's 2018 NHL Awards Tracker!