KOL Co-founder Jack Anderson returns to break down the keys to the Washington Capitals’ series with the New York Rangers.
After a shocking upset of the defending Cup Champion Bruins, the Caps set their sight on the Eastern Conference’s number one seed in the New York Rangers. The matchup seems to be a bit more favorable than the last one for Washington who has to be coming in full of confidence after playing their best hockey of the season vs. Boston.
With the Rangers offense sputtering at even strength they will look to a stalwart defensive corps and elite goalie Henrik Lundqvist to carry the load. Meanwhile the Caps hope to get their stars untracked against a team they’ve previously had success against in the playoffs.
Some keys to the series:
- Alex Ovechkin is one of those stars and he’s set to take on another tough defensive matchup in Dan Girardi.
Ovechkin had six points in five games while playing largely against Girardi in last year’s playoffs. The Caps will need a similar effort from their star forward this time around as Ovechkin will square off against the postseason leader in blocked shots.
- Though he had a memorable series, Braden Holtby was far from perfect and was the first to admit it. He’ll need to clean up his game — particularly his rebound control — if he wants to outduel Lundqvist, the best netminder in hockey.
There’s a reason Lundqvist is both a Hart and Vezina finalist. He posted a 1.97 GAA and a save percentage of .930, helping the Rangers to their best season since 1993-94 when they won the Stanley Cup. Holtby has been a terrific story and will hold his own against New York, but he’s not yet in King Henrik’s league so the Caps will need to continue providing the same defensive zone support they did in round one.
Holtby will certainly be a factor in this series, but the Capitals will have more ice to work with against New York, meaning there will be extra opportunities to give him goal support. Alex Semin scored a team-high three goals against Boston and has been at his best when he plays New York in the postseason. In 12 playoff games against the Rangers, Semin has eight goals and 12 total points, making him the most likely candidate to tip the offensive balance in the Caps’ favor.
- For the Rangers, the focus is on an offense that scored just five even-strength goals after Game 1 of their series against the Senators. There’s plenty of blame to go around, but Marian Gaborik might be under the most pressure to deliver. Gaborik has recorded two 40-goal seasons in the past three years, but has just two goals in his last 18 postseason games. If he can rediscover his scoring touch in the playoffs, then it could jumpstart a team, which already possesses a tenacious defense and world-class goaltending.