Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Caps vs. Rangers Round II

#1 Washington Capitals (48-23-11, 107 pts.)  
#8 New York Rangers (44-33-5, 93 pts.)

The only team the Capitals have beaten in post season play comes back for revenge. Two seasons ago, the New York Rangers were not considered contenders against a offensive powerhouse that were the Capitals in the first round. The Caps had won their second divisional title with more authority that season. But the Rangers found a way to hold on and force a game seven, in which they lost when Sergei Fedorov pulled up and shot a slapper high on Henrik Lundqvist to give the Caps their first playoff series win since in the Alex Ovechkin era. Now, fast forward to 2011. Two different teams from that moment in time.

Forwards: advantage Capitals

(Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
The Rangers are coming into Washington a bit banged up. They have lost one of their top scorers and energy guy in Ryan Callahan . Even though the Rangers have a better goals per game average than the Caps (2.73 versus the Caps' 2.67), the Rangers lack some pure offensive talent that the Capitals have (slumping or not). The Rangers have 5 players with 40 or more points on the season (including the injured Callahan) as do the Capitals. But the Caps have a player in the 50 point range, a player in the 60 point range and Ovechkin in the 80 point range (85 pts. to be specific).

In terms of five on five play, the Rangers have the edge on the Caps scoring 150 goals at even strength to Washinton's 145. Not a large amount but New York would be wise to steer clear of the penalty box.

Defense: advantage Rangers

The advantage is ever so slight as the Capitals and Rangers are 4th and 5th respectfully in the league in goals against per game (Caps 2.33, Rangers 2.38). Washington has adopted the new defensive style to their game, having more structure in the neutral zone and playing a better transitional game. But the Rangers have made a living off of blocking shots. They were 4th in the league in sacrificing the body keeping 1301 shots from ever reaching the net. Caps were 7th.

Goaltending: advantage Rangers

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Henrik Lundqvist has been the Rangers work horse. Lundqvist has played as many games this year than his counterpart Michal Neuvirth has in his NHL career (68 GP for Lundqvist, 70 GP all time Neuvirth). Lundqvist easily beats his counter part in wins (37 to 27), GAA (2.28 to 2.45), SV% (.920 to .910) and shutouts (11 to 4). You also can not count out Lundqvist's playoff experience (30 GP with 2.66 GAA and .907 SV%). Neuvith has zero NHL playoff experience but did play exceptional in back to back playoffs at the AHL level helping the Hershey Bears repeat Calder Cup championships.

Coaching: advantage Rangers

John Tortorella has one thing in his corner. A Stanley Cup ring. He led the Lightning to four straight Stanley Cup Playoff appearances, and two Southeast Division Championships (2002-03, 2003-04). He also currently ranks first on the league's all-time wins list among US-born coaches with 333 career victories.

(John McDonnell/The Washington Post)
While Bruce Boudreau is no slouch either. He had more wins (184) than any other coach in league history at the 300-game mark, surpassing Mike Keenan’s 183 wins. His change from a all out offensive onslaught has changed to a more defensive style and more responsibility in their own zone has propelled the Caps to number one in the Eastern Conference standings.

Power Play: advantage Capitals 

The Caps power play has struggled this season. Despite playing with the same essentially the same personnel, the Caps PP has fallen from 25.2% effectiveness last year to a mortal 17.5% this season. Even so, with the extra man they have tallied 11 goals in 41 opportunities through the last 15 games of the season. In contrast, the Rangers are a 16.9% with the man advantage scoring just once in their past 9 games.

Penalty Kill: advantage Capitals

Second only to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Caps have killed off 85.6% of their penalties. The Rangers are at 83.7%. While the Caps PK has shown vast improvement this season because of their more aggressive style, the Rangers PK has been pretty stingy as well mostly due to their shot blocking ability. The Caps edge the Rangers, however slight it is.

Intangibles: advantage Capitals

The Caps home ice advantage will be key in this series. The Rangers numbers fall almost all across the board when it comes to the road games. But they have found ways to win in their away sweaters. The Capitals have far better shooters than the Rangers do. Even though the Rangers won the regular season series 3-1, and crushed the Caps 7-0 and 6-0, the Caps will play much better at the phone booth against this team. Plus the Caps did not play the Rangers with their new trade acquisitions, so this will be a different team the Rangers will face tonight. With infused players like Jason Arnott and Marco Sturm, the Rangers will have to play tough defense on more than just the number one line for the Caps. Also the Broadway Blueshirts will have to watch out for the defense activating on the play with players like John Carlson and Mike Green following up the break out.

Series win: Washington Capitals

If the Rangers can turn it into a shooting match, they could take a few games from the Caps. But if it becomes a chess match game with tough neutral zone play, I like the Caps' chances of their forwards making the better play. The Rangers will have to lean on secondary scoring, but the way the Caps have been playing 4 lines tough it is going to be hard to do.

1 comment:

Atlanta Roofing said...

I really thought the Rangers looked a step slow, and I am much more worried about this series than I was this time yesterday. Hank cannot be asked to make all of those quality saves - though most of the good shots he saw clearly. The Blue shirts have to go to the front of the net and get some ugly goals. And finally, is there a less knowledgeable fan base than Washington? All they needed was some thunder sticks.