Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Rangers vs Capitals: Playoff Preview

Series Headlines:
  • Uncertainty regarding whether or not Chris Drury will play in the 1st game. Honestly, I'd be very surprised if he's not on the ice in Washington tomorrow night. [Link]

  • The Capitals know that they face a completly different team than the one that they beat three out of four times during the regular season. The two teams haven't played since the Rangers made major moves at the trade deadline by bringing in Avery, Antropov and Morris. The Rangers have also undergone a coaching change since the last time the two teams played. [Link]

  • Stan Fischler's take on how the Rangers can beat the Capitals. [Link]

  • This playoff series will only intensify the rivalry that has developed between Marc Staal and Alexander Ovechkin. [Link]

  • A few Capitals will be dying their hair red (at least putting in streaks) for the playoffs. [Link]

  • Barry Melrose & E.J. Hradek analyze the Rangers/Capitals series. Melrose & Hradek pick the Caps in 6. [Video]

  • This Caps blog has been focusing on individual Rangers, so far they've looked at Avery, Antropov, Betts, Callahan, Dubinksy & Staal. [Link]

Key Players:

Alexander Ovechkin
In my opinion AO is the most dynamic forward in the NHL who can change the outcome of a game by himself. Ranger fans remember that miserable game in December when the Rangers blew a 4-0 first period lead to lose to the Capitals. It was Ovechkin who carried the rest of the Capitals on his back and he put on a show at MSG that was unbelievable. He takes at least 7 shots a game, so when he has the puck, at all times the Rangers must be in position to block the shot or clear away a rebound. Stop Ovechkin and the Rangers win the series, it's that simple. The thing is, it really isn't that simple, it's almost impossible. Limiting Ovechkin to one point a night would be considered a success.

Henrik Lundqvist
If the Rangers are to get past the Caps then Lundqvist will need to be at the top of his game, every game. He is one of the elite goalies in the NHL, it's now that he needs to show all of the experts who have chosen the Capitals to run away with this series why. He has a lot of pressure on him because he knows that if he allows any more than three goals past him in a game that the Rangers chances of winning because of their lack of offense are slim to none.

Jose Theodore
Goaltending is easily the Capitals biggest flaw. The Capitals play a wide open game that often leads to many scoring chances against. As much as the Rangers have struggled offensively all season, this could really help them get some confidence. If Theodore is as inconsistent as he's been in the past couple of seasons then the Capitals aren't going very far, not even past the first round.

Marc Staal
Marc Staal has developed very quickly into the Rangers best defensman. He'll be looked upon to try and stop Ovechkin as much as possible, he'll probably be on the ice against AO as much as possible. This has developed into a real rivalry this season with both guys going out of their way to deliver hits on each other, this series will only intensify that rivalry.

Sean Avery
The Rangers have something that the Capitals don't have, the "Avery" factor. He gets all of the attention that he does because of his antics after the whistle and because of the things that he does/says to rile up the opponent. Often, this allows Avery to fly right under the radar and actually help the Rangers on the scoresheet. Avery is a very fast skater and has a very quick wrist shot that he can fire while in full stride coming down the wing. But, let's be honest, the Avery sideshow is not only entertaining it is often very influential in the outcome of the game. Last year in the playoffs we saw two different scenarios; against Atlanta he was the focus of their attention and the Rangers easily won that series in four, but against the Penguins they did a pretty good job of ignoring Avery and the Pens won that series. Will Avery be able to get under Ovechkin's skin? Will he draw more penalties than he takes? One things for sure, he'll be on top of Theodore all series long and that's where the Rangers need him to be.

Series Schedule:

Game 1 Wed. April 15, 7pm et on MSG Rangers @ Capitals
Game 2 Sat. April 18, 1pm et on NBC Rangers @ Capitals
Game 3 Mon. April 20, 7pm et on VERSUS Capitals @ Rangers
Game 4 Wed. April 22, 7pm et on VERSUS @ Rangers
*Game 5 Fri. April 24, 7pm et on VERSUS Rangers @ Capitals
*Game 6 Sun. April 26, 2pm et on NBC Capitals @ Rangers
*Game 7 Tue. April 28, TBD on VERSUS Rangers @ Capitals

* If Necessary

Rangers vs. Capitals playoff tickets on StubHub & RazorGator

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