Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 2 Preview: Washington Capitals - New York Rangers

The New York Rangers play the Washington Capitals in the 2nd round of the NHL playoffs starting tonight in Game 1 at Madison Square Garden. This is the 3rd time in the last 4 years the Rangers have played the Capitals in the playoffs; they are 3-1 in those series, including winning the last 3. All of the Rangers series wins have been in 7 games.


How the Rangers got to the 2nd round:

The Rangers quickly dispatched of the Penguins in 5 games. However, they did not dominate the series, winning every game by a score of 2-1, including the last two in OT. The Rangers did not have much success on the power play all series long. The Rangers defense did a great job all series long of shutting down the Penguins stars Evgeni Malkin and Sydney Crosby, with Malkin getting no goals all series long. Carl Hagelin scored the series-winning goal for the Rangers win.


How the Capitals got to the 2nd round:

The Capitals beat the Islanders in 7 games with a 2-1 win at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. on Tuesday night.  They shut down the Islanders' power play, killing all of the Isles chances and scoring on 15.4% of their PP opportunities. The Capitals got the series-winning goal from Evgeny Kuzentsov.  


Regular season matchups:

The Rangers beat the Caps 3 out of the 4 times they played in the regular season, including in the last game of the season by a score of 4-2. The Rangers only loss to them was a 5-2 loss at Madison Square Garden.


Past Playoff Matchups:
The last time these two teams played each other was in the 2013 first round, when the Capitals won both OT games, both of which were at the Verizon Center but the Rangers beat the Capitals 5-0 in Game 7. In the 2012 iteration The Rangers beat the Caps in 7 games, getting 2 of those wins in OT, one of which was at the Verizon Center in 3OT when Marian Gaborik beat Braden Holbty for the winner. The Rangers' 2nd OT winner of the series came at Madison Square Garden in one of the most exciting games yours truly has ever watched. With 6.6 seconds left the Rangers were on a 5 minute power play, and Brad Richards scored to send the game into OT, once in OT Marc Staal beat Braden Holtby to send the Garden Faithful home happy.  In 2011 the Rangers lost to the Capitals 4-1 in the series, with Washington getting 2 OT winners.


How each team will win the series:

The Rangers will win the series if Henrik Lundqvist continues to stand on his head for them, the power play wakes up and the scoring wakes up only scoring 2 goals is not going to be enough for the Rangers to beat a team like the Washington Capitals. The power play was relatively abysmal versus the Penguins, and the Rangers got past the Pens lacking a deadly power play; they can’t do that against a much better Washington Capitals team. Both the Rangers and the Capitals finished in the top 7 in goals against in the regular season, so the Rangers will win if they can take advantage of their opportunities to score when they arise.The Rangers also have to get Rick Nash going and finding the back of the net, because he has made an impact on the playoffs thus far and helped the Rangers get to the 2nd round but he is paid to score and thus far these playoffs he has not done that.

The Capitals will win the series if Braden Holtby matches Henrik Lundqvist save for save, their playoff-leading penalty kill continues to thrive, and Alex Ovechkin does what Malkin and Crosby were unable to do in the last series vs. the Rangers, break down the Rangers defense and beat Henrik Lundqvist. The Capitals have the same key as the Rangers, they will win if they take the opportunities to score and beat Henrik Lundqvist.


Prediction:

The Rangers are going up against a better Caps team than they previously have faced in the playoffs, so if they think this series will take the same effort that previous years have, they will lose. However, the Caps are also going up against a much better team than they have previously faced in the playoffs. The key for both teams is not underestimate their opponents because both these teams are much better than in previous years playoff matchups. This series will go 7 again and the Rangers will win at least 1 game in OT. The Rangers will thrive with the return of Kevin Klein, who will probably struggle in Game 1 but get it going after that. The Rangers will in this series in 7.


Notes:
Kevin Klein is returning for the Rangers after missing action since March 11th when Alex Ovechkin broke his arm with a shot.

The Rangers are gaining one player but losing another, possibly for the entire length of the playoffs, even if they beat the Capitals. Mats Zuccarello is out for the entire series - the Capitals with a head injury, after getting hit in the head by a Ryan Mcdonagh shot in the Game 5 win.

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