The Washington Capitals have advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinals after dispatching the Boston Bruins in seven games and will face the New York Rangers (again). To prepare you for what is in store in the Caps’ upcoming second-round series, below is a primer about the Rangers and what to expect from them.
How They Got Here
The Rangers finished off the Ottawa Senators Thursday in a 2-1 Game 7 victory at Madison Square Garden. For the third time in the last four seasons, New York and Washington will meet in the postseason; the latter has won both series in 2009 (4-3) and 2011 (4-1).
Carl Hagelin – Brad Richards – Marian Gaborik
Chris Kreider – Derek Stepan – Ryan Callahan
Brandon Dubinsky – Artem Anisimov – Ruslan Fedotenko
Brandon Prust – John Mitchell – Mike Rupp
New York had one of the more balanced scoring teams in the NHL during the regular season with nine double-digit goal scorers, led by Gaborik’s 41. The Rangers have been getting production from those same players as Gaborik (one goal, three points), Stepan (one goal, four points) and Richards (two goals, five points) have been effective. Yet, New York’s leading goal scorer in the series, Brian Boyle, is out with a concussion sustained during Game 5 and his status for the upcoming series against Washington is unknown at this time. Without Boyle, the Rangers are relying on Mitchell to fill the void in the bottom six. Meanwhile, rookie Kreider, who made his NHL debut in Game 3, has already scored a game-winning goal.
Ryan McDonagh – Dan Girardi
Marc Staal – Anton Stralman
Michael Del Zotto – Stu Bickel
The Caps are plenty familiar with the Rangers’ defensive corps, having gone up against them several times in recent years. What makes New York’s defense so difficult to deal with is the high rate in which it blocks shots; the top pairing of McDonagh and Girardi were both ranked in the top 10 in blocked shots league-wide during the regular season. The Rangers have their fair share of solid offensive defensemen (Stralman, who has already matched his regular-season goal total with two playoff goals, and Del Zotto), but feature four defensemen who are capable of shutting down the opposition’s top scoring threats, particularly Girardi and Staal.
The book is out on Lundqvist; he is a world-class goaltender who will likely earn the Vezina Trophy this season for his excellent play (39-18-5, 1.97 GAA, .930 SV%, eight shutouts). Yet, he has pedestrian numbers against Washington in his career (2.78 GAA, .901 SV%).
Where the Caps have had most success against Lundqvist in the past is in front of the net. In the 2009 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, the Caps settled for shots from the point, which a goaltender of Lundqvist’s abilities had no problems stopping. Washington eventually moved towards the net and it made all the difference. That trend continued during last season’s series and the Caps will have to stick to the same gameplan in order to best Lundqvist once again.
The Rangers’ power play during the regular season clocked in at just over 15 percent, which was in the lower half of the league, but their penalty kill was one of the best at 86.2 percent, fifth in the NHL.
Unlike in previous seasons, the Rangers are the favorites to the Caps’ underdogs. While that did not work for the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, the Rangers are sure to be motivated by two postseason exits facilitated by the Caps in the last three years. If the Caps can play the same style of game that propelled them to the second round, then this series should be just as tight and competitive.