Wednesday, April 15, 2009

It Begins - Capitals vs. Rangers

Alex Ovechkin is not too concerned about his goaltender. In the locker room after practice he couldn't say enough about how much confidence he had in the 32 year old net minder. So did all of the other Capitals.

"We are confident in our goalie," Ovechkin told reporters following practice. "We are confident in our team."

Jose Theodore has a good history in the playoffs and a little bit of luck. He is a perfect 4-0 in the first round of the playoffs. A stat that plays in the favor against a Ranger team that has been struggling to score. Don't talk about Theodore's inconsistencies to the Capitals, they are not hearing a word of it.

What they will be hearing a lot of is Ranger Sean Avery. Avery has returned to New York and already he has made a difference. While he has the power to get under one's skin, he is also a scoring threat on the power play and the checking line. While the talking gets him noticed, the Caps will have to deal with his antics through out the series.

The Capitals are facing a different New York Ranger team from what they saw during the season. With a new coach and some new players, Bruce Boudreau was quick to throw out the 3-1 regular season series lead they had against them.

"It's not the system that's changed, it's the mentality," Boudreau said, addressing the media. "You can see a different hunger in their eyes. That may be strange to hear, but you can watch two tapes at the end of Tom's run and John's run now. That usually happens with a coaching change. I don't know either man, how they coach, but reputation-wise it looks like John's a little more fiery and gets 'em going."

The Rangers are looking for a big upset despite their lack of scoring. Which means they will be relying heavily on goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. He has killed penalties on his own, played tough in big games and even addressing his pad size when called out on having over sized gear.

"It's funny, I've heard that before," Lundqvist retorted. "There's no way you can cheat because they measure it all the time. Sometimes, it's the way you stand... I guess I look big."

While the Capitals have had no trouble in the scoring department, it has been defense they have struggled with down the stretch. They have allowed nearly 30 shots per game in their last six games. It is a number that the Caps aren't overly excited about. The blue liners would like to keep that number in the low to mid 20's to give themselves a chance.

Tom Poti, Donald Brashear and Brian Potheir are all questionable to start in game one. Karl Alzner may be a late call up from Hershey. Alzner did not practice with the team in the past two days. Boyd Gordon has practice fully with the team, but is still listed as injured.

Home ice should be a factor as well, as the Verizon Center should be very loud and very into it. It has been a bright spot for the Caps all season. All of the Capitals numbers improve at the phone booth; power plays, penalty kills, even shots on goal. The Capitals are looking forward to taking advantage of that fact all series long.

Game 1, Washington Capitals vs. New York Rangers, 7:00 pm et, CSN (HD), MSG (HD), TSN (HD).

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