For the third year in a row, and fourth time in five years, the Washington Capitals will face the New York Rangers in the playoffs. In 2011-2012 the Caps got sent home in the seventh game by the Blueshirts after beating a tough Bruins squad in the previous round. The 2010-2011 postseason saw the Caps beat the Rangers in five games, before getting swept by the Tampa Bay Lightning. In 2008-2009 the Caps battled back after being down 1-3 and took 3 straight games to win the series against the Rangers before losing in seven games to an eventual Stanly Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins squad. These teams are plenty familiar with one another.
Only three teams in the NHL allowed fewer goals than the New York Rangers in the regular season.
Only two teams in the NHL scored more goals than the Washington Capitals in the regular season.
Already, it’s aligning to be a hard fought series. The Rangers, a team driven by great goaltending and hard-nosed defense, will visit Washington, a high-powered offense, on Thursday night at 7:30 PM for the first game in what will be a gritty first-round series. The Caps are out for revenge against the Blueshirts this postseason, after being eliminated last year by New York in the seventh game of the second round. Once again, Washington and its fans can expect to hear shouts of “OVI SUCKS! OVI SUCKS! OVI SUCKS!” at the 8:00 minute mark in every period of every game in Madison Square Garden. However, this time, Washington owns home-ice advantage and one of the hottest records in the league since late March.
Keys and Notes to the Series
Washington looks to get Joel Ward back at some point during this playoff series while the New York Rangers have been bit by the injury bug. Ryan Clowe, Brian Boyle, and defenseman Marc Staal are all listed on the injury report for the New York Rangers. Washington, on the other hand, is relatively healthy with just Tom Poti and Brooks Laich accompanying Ward on the injury list. The Caps will need to come out firing, getting pucks on net early, against a tough New York team. Putting heavy pressure on Lundqvist early should get the Rangers on their heels and put the Caps in position to take an early lead. Against a great goaltender, the Caps will need to get plenty of shots on goal.
Mike Ribeiro will provide additional veteran presence for the Caps in the postseason, having been to the playoffs four times in his career. In 2007-2008, he recorded 17 points in 18 games, in which his Dallas Stars eventually lost in the Western Conference finals to Detroit. Ribeiro recorded 49 points in 48 games in his first season in Washington. He’s a fiery guy which can prove to be essential in a heated playoff rivalry as long as he does not let his emotions overcome him. Also, look for Troy Brouwer and Mike Green to continue to provide sparks for the Caps as they finished with 6 and 7 goals, respectively in the month of April. Green added 8 assists over that period.
Braden Holtby will benefit from his experience in the 2011-2012 postseason in which he allowed just 1.95 goals per game, recorded a .935 save percentage, and recorded 922 minutes (equivalent to 15.4 games) of ice time in 14 games. He has quality postseason experience against two great teams and netminders in Tim Thomas and Henrik Lundqvist. With a full season, albeit a lockout-shortened season, under his belt, Braden Holtby will be ready to lead this Caps team into the playoffs. The team is scoring 3.1 goals per game as opposed to a squad that scored 2.7 per game in 2011-2012 and should provide Holtby with more than enough scoring support.
Each of the past five years the Caps have not advanced past the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, despite owning the best record in the conference two of those five years. Fans in the DC area hope a hot Capitals team can put an end to that trend this year.
Washington takes the series in six games. While Lundqvist is one of the few goalies you don’t want to face in the postseason, this Washington team can score at will. They have the leaders and veterans to carry them into the next round and should take advantage of a New York squad suffering from injuries.