ARLINGTON, Va. -- Coming back to Washington with the series tied 1-1, it would be easy to assume the Capitals have the upper hand. With three possible home games at Verizon Center as opposed to two at Madison Square Garden, the Caps managed to take home ice advantage with their Game 1 win over the New York Rangers.
But what is that worth against the Rangers? Not very much.
"We’re going to have to be even more prepared at home now just based on the teams," Braden Holtby said.
"We really don’t know what to expect," Mike Green said. "We’ll see once we get on the ice with them."
Teams don't win the Presidents' Trophy without picking up a few wins on the road. No team in the NHL won more road games in the regular season than the Rangers who managed a franchise record 28 wins away from MSG. For a team with New York's history, that's really saying something.
The turning point for the Capitals in the first series against the New York Islanders was their Game 4 win at Nassau Coliseum. The Islanders clearly fed off of the home crowd's energy and looked like a different team on Long Island as opposed to when they visited Washington. That has not been the case all season for the Rangers.
"I think New York plays a similar style at home than they do on the road," Holtby said. "I think the Islanders played into their building very well."
The Rangers were 25-11-5 at home and 28-11-2 on the road in the regular season. That level of consistency has been a key factor in their success.
"Whether they’re home or away I think they bring it every night," Tim Gleason said. "That’s why they’re the best team in the league this year. They obviously know what they're doing."
They certainly did in Round 1. The Rangers were in the exact same position in their first round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins after losing Game 2 at home. New York responded by winning both games in Pittsburgh before closing out the series at home in Game 5.
For head coach Barry Trotz, that's to be expected.
"Most of the top teams that are playing at this time of year, doesn’t really matter where you play," Trotz said. "They’re going to be a good opponent home and on the road."
If the Caps can expect a similar Rangers' team in Games 3 and 4, then the onus will fall on the Caps to feed off of the crowd and play better than they did in Games 1 and 2.
"How Verizon Center’s been for us these playoffs it’s been a blast," Jay Beagle said. "Everyone’s looking forward to getting back into Verizon."
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