Rangers vs. Capitals Playoff Preview
The Capitals have more offensive firepower than the Rangers can ever dream of matching. In addition to having the best player in the NHL in Alex Ovechkin, the Capitals also feature Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin, Victor Kozlov, former Blueshirt Michael Nylander, Thomas Fleischmann, and the front runner for the Norris Trophy, Mike Green. It's going to be a team effort defensively to minimize the Caps opportunities. With John Tortorella behind the bench, the best defense is a good offense for the Rangers. The more time they can control the puck in the Capitals zone, the less time AO and company have to pummel Henrik Lundqvist.
Marc Staal vs. Alex Ovechkin
The young defenseman has already made his presence known against AO in the regular season. The two have a bit of a rivalry already established and Marc Staal is going to need to step up against the best in the NHL in order for the Rangers to have any success. It's going to be Staal's biggest test thus far in his young career. He and his partner Dan Girardi, are the only Rangers defenseman capable of matching up with Ovechkin.
Rangers Special Teams vs. Capitals Special Teams
Luckily for the Rangers, Alexander Ovechkin is not Sidney Crosby and won't be flopping all over the ice trying to draw penalties. The Rangers penalty kill is ranked #1 and the Capitals power play is to nobody's surprise ranked #2 in the NHL behind only the Detroit Red Wings. Just like last year against the Penguins, special teams will probably decide this series. The Rangers penalty kill led by Henrik Lundqvist, Blair Betts, Freddy Sjostrom and Chris Drury will need to come up big and kill the Capitals potent power play consistently. No easy task considering that the Caps have a 31 goal scorer in Mike Green (more goals than any Rangers player) on the point in addition to AO.
The Rangers power play has failed them all season long, if they continue to come up empty on the man advantage, it will be a quick first round exit. The last time the Rangers faced the Caps, they were using AO on the penalty kill to try and take advantage of the Rangers lackadaisical power play. The power play doesn't have to score every time it gets put out on the ice, but it needs to produce at key points in the series.
No matter who the Rangers are playing, Henrik Lundqvist is going to be the key to the Rangers success. He has the most difficult job in hockey playing behind a team with a pop gun offense and a defensive core that's prone to mistakes. But he's more than capable of carrying the Rangers past the Capitals and is the Rangers only glaring advantage over AO and company. More than any other player, Henrik Lundqvist is the key to the Rangers success.
Not nearly as important to the Rangers success as Hank, but he has been a clutch player in the playoffs for the Blueshirts. In 8 playoff games last year he put up 7 points and was one of the big reasons for the Rangers early success. He's going to take a beating, more so than any other player in the NHL in this upcoming playoffs, but if he can manage to put some points on the board while getting under the Capitals stars skin, it would be a huge lift for the Rangers. Remember how Avery got under Ilya Kovalchuk's skin three years ago? Let's hope that he can do the same with AO, even though I have to say, I doubt it will happen.
Wouldn't you like me to make a pick? Yeah I bet you would. I'm not going to be playing Ms. Cleo but you can get the gist of what I think will happen from this post. It's a new season and a clean slate for the Rangers. Now that they're in the post-season, anything can happen - and it usually does. Jose Theodore is a mediocre goalie, let's hope he plays like one.