#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)|
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)|
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)|
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
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.