After going the distance against the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins, the Caps find themselves facing a familiar playoffs opponent in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Washington Capitals will face a New York Rangers team that they have bested twice as the favorite, in recent years. This year, the Capitals enter yet another best of seven against the Rangers as underdogs.
- Many people argue that special teams are the difference as Stanley Cup playoffs series drag on and teams move deeper into the playoffs. The Caps and Rangers power plays operated at almost the same efficiency in their first round match-ups at 15.8% and 15.6%, respectively.
- The difference in special teams between Washington and New York is the 7 point gap in penalty killing. The Caps boast the second best PK in the first round at 91.3%. The Rangers posted a seventh best 84.7% penalty kill.
- While it’s generally accepted that teams that score first have a better chance of winning, these two teams seem to really like holding a lead through the first two periods. Both the Caps and Rangers had perfect records in games where they led at the end of the second period.
Game One Goalie Match-Up
|Washington Capitals||New York Rangers|
|Braden Holtby||Henrik Lundqvist|
Rookie sensation, Braden Holtby has to face yet another one of the Eastern Conference’s elite netminders in Henrik Lundqvist. Holtby was able to match last year’s Conn Smythe winner, Tim Thomas. King Henrik has slightly better numbers than Holtby. This is probably due to the shutout he posted against the Ottawa Senators in the first round. It will be interesting to watch this match-up as the series progresses.
How the Caps can win the series
- Again, get to the net. Lundqvist can be beaten with traffic in front, deflections, and chances from recbounds.
- Don’t let the Rangers’ skill guys like Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik get rolling. The Rangers are a very talented team. Look for Dale Hunter to continue line matching against John Tortorella’s best.
- While all the line matching is going on, the Caps third and fourth line guys need to step up, again. Players like Jay Beagle, Matt Hendricks, Jason Chimera, Mike Knuble, and Joel Ward have to play important roles.
- Dale Hunter’s line up decisions defy all logic sometimes. However, Hunter’s game day rosters, line combinations, and in-game, hard line matching seem to put Caps players in positions to win. Dale Hunter will now be facing one of the league’s best personnel matching coaches in John Tortorella.
- As teams get deeper in the playoffs, their best players must be their best players. The Washington Capitals need Alexander Ovechkin to lead them to the next level. He showed what he is capable of in a second round match-up against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009. We also saw Alex Semin finally show up in the playoffs, against the Bruins. Mike Green played much better defensively and even scored a goal. Nicklas Backstrom scored a critical overtime game winner against Boston. It’s time for the Caps’ core to extend that success and make more history.
|1||4/28||3:00pm||Madison Square Garden|
|2||4/30||7:30pm||Madison Square Garden|
|**5||5/7||7:30pm||Madison Square Garden|
|**7||4/26||TBD||Madison Square Garden|
** IF NECESSARY
Rangers (2-2) Caps (2-2)
Top Three Playoffs Scorers
1st: Brad Richards - Goals:2, Assists: 3, Points: 5
T-2nd: Ryan Callahan - Goals: 2, Assists: 2, Points: 4
T-2nd: Anton Stralman - Goals:2, Assists: 2, Points: 4
1st: Alex Ovechkin – Goals: 2, Assists: 3, Points: 5
T-2nd: Nicklas Backstrom - Goals: 1, Assists: 3, Points: 4
T-2nd: Brooks Laich - Goals: 1, Assists: 3, Points: 4
Shots Per Game: 29.7
Shots Against Per Game: 31.1
Penalty Kill: 84.6%
Power Play: 15.6%
Shots Per Game: 29.6
Shots Against Per Game: 35.4
Penalty Kill: 91.3%
Power Play: 15.8%