Eye of the Hurricane

April 13, 2011

Previewing Caps-Rangers

(1) Washington Capitals vs (8) New York Rangers

If the Rangers win, it will likely be thanks to Henrik Lundqvist

The Rangers barely managed to slide into the playoffs, relying on the Carolina Hurricanes losing their final game to the Lightning to secure the eighth seed.  However, they are probably not the matchup that Washington coach Bruce Boudreau wished for.  The Rangers beat the Caps in three of their four matchups, crushing Washington in two of the wins, 7-0 and 6-0.  Incredibly, in both of those games, the Rangers were heavily outshot by the Capitals, but thanks to the discrepancies in goal-tending, the Blueshirts routed their opponents.

Henrik Lundqvist has been brilliant in the last two months of the season, playing nearly every game because of an injury to backup Martin Biron.  The Capitals have the luxury of having two quality goaltenders, but both Michal Neuvirth and Semyon Varlamov have only two years in the NHL under their belt. Semyon Varlamov is 4th in the NHL allowing only 2.23 goals per game, but Neuvirth is getting the start tonight at the Verizon Center.

The playoffs are about goaltending and experience, and it may hurt Washington to have an unclear goaltending picture.

Dubsinky fights Ovechkin on December 12th. The Rangers won the game 7-0.

But we cannot take the Caps’ regular-season success for granted.  They clawed their way out of their early-months struggle to win the Eastern Conference, thanks to consistent play from their front line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alexander Semin.

The Rangers front-line has struggled with injuries for the entire season.  Captain Chris Drury returned three days ago to the lineup after missing 25 games with an injury, and scored his first goal of the season against the Devils.  The Rangers will need Drury, Dubinsky–their overall points leader, and Marian Gaborik, to step up as the Rangers will try to cope with the absence of Ryan Callahan.  Callahan is second on the team in total points and goals and will be missed on the top line.  It will be up to the youth of Artem Anisimov, Derek Stepan, Brandon Prust, and Bryan Boyle, to assume a leadership role in this series where they are overmatched on paper.

Alexander Ovechkin led the NHL In shots this season

The statistics of both teams match up fairly well.  They both average 2.7 goals per game, and are only separated by a tenth of a goal in goals allowed (2.4 for the Rangers; 2.3 for the Caps).  It will come down to bounces and penalties, and may prove to be the most even 1st seed-8th seed in a long time.

If the Rangers win, they may be in trouble, considering that the NHL re-seeds after the first round.  The Rangers would have to play the best team remaining after the opening round.  If the Rangers beat the Caps, the road would not get any easier; for the Capitals, the first series may be their most difficult.

Don’t be surprised if the Rangers win this, but Washington is still the safe bet.

Caps in 6.

More previews to come, in this, our tenth-year celebration of the Panthers once again not making the postseason.

1 Comment »

  1. The Caps have more firepower for sure, but the Ranges run a tight ship – not only is Lundqvist a wall, the Rangers are constantly blocking shots and are never out of any game. I’m thinking Rangers in 7.

    Comment by phonymahoney — April 13, 2011 @ 11:17 am | Reply

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