The Capitals are going to be a tough out for the Rangers

Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

So for the 4th time in 5 years, the Rangers will square off against the Washington Capitals in the Stanley Cup playoffs. In that time, the Rangers post-season record against the Caps is 8-11. Although there have been some key personnel changes on both sides, not to mention three different head coaches in DC, the song remains the same. The Rangers have the best goaltender in the world, while the Capitals have the best goal scorer in the world. That formula always makes for some edge-of-your-seat hockey.

This year will be no different. To no surprise, the Capitals are again a goal-scoring machine. They rank 4th in the league with 3.04 goals per game. They also rank 1st in the league in power play conversion (26.8%). Interestingly enough, they’ve reached those heights while simultaneously being one of the best shot blocking teams in the league (ranked 8th in the NHL). Of course, you already know blocking shots doesn’t stifle a team’s offensive ability ;)

So what does this mean for the Rangers?

Offense:

Last year the Rangers got to the Eastern Conference Finals on the skin of their teeth. They lacked roster depth both offensively and defensively so Henrik had to be his usual outer-worldly self. Post deadline, the Rangers finally have some roster depth at forward, but are still lacking a true power play quarterback.

This is obviously very different from the Capitals who have offensive balance up and down the lineup. Aside from the big five (Ovie, Backstrom, Ribeiro, Green, & Carlson), you have Troy Brouwer (listed at 6-3 215 lbs) who was on pace for a 60 point season after a career of being a 30-40 point guy. Marcus Johansson and Joel Ward were on pace for 50+ and 40+ point seasons respectively, also career highs. On the bottom six you have Perrault, Hendricks and Chimera who can all put up points in limited minutes.

As for the Rangers, it’s tough to know if this recent offensive explosion (3.6 goals per game in April) has to do with feasting on non-playoff teams or if their goal scoring has finally caught up to their shot production and puck possession metrics, which have been among the league’s best all season. More worrisome is the Rangers power play which although has produced more chances in recent weeks, the lack of finish from our blueline — only Staal has a PP goal — is a major negative.

Edge: Capitals

Defense:

Although the Capitals and Rangers play similar defensive zone strategies (low zone collapse & the overload), their execution of said systems isn’t comparable at this point. The Rangers make mistakes in their own zone, all teams do, but the commitment to play below the dots is always there.

The Capitals blueliners aren’t great defensively, but they’re capable in their own end zone. Their forwards on the other hand are suspect defensively. They aren’t always committed to backchecking after turnovers and their over-commitment along the boards leaves them prone to blown coverages. Their 27th ranked penalty kill speaks for itself.

In my opinion, the Rangers have a clear edge in team defense. If we can get Staal back at any point during this series, that edge becomes a wide margin.

Edge: Rangers

Goaltending:

I have nothing but respect for Braden Holtby. He’s a solid young goaltender and you don’t put up a .920 SV% on the Capitals by having puck luck. Still, you don’t need me to tell you Henrik Lundqvist gives us an advantage. There is no goaltender in the Eastern Conference that gives their team an edge over the Rangers in this department. Rask, Reimer, and Holtby are all great young goaltenders, but Hank is still King.

This is going to be a close series and will likely go to the brink. If you’re a Rangers fan, expect the Capitals to pin us in our own end zone for long periods of time. If you’re a Caps fan, expect the Rangers to capitalize on some of your player’s brain farts. Everyone will need to hold fast for this one. This series is likely going to see seven games.

31 Responses to “The Capitals are going to be a tough out for the Rangers”

  1. Walt says:

    The Caps have always played us tough, but after last season’s play-off, I feel this year will be a doozie!!!

    Two things need to happen in order for us to have a very good chance of winning. First of all we need Marc to return, that will give Torts all kinds of options to play with in the shut down role. Next we need Clowe, and his grit, and desire. If this happends, we will be in good shape.

    I don’t think this will be a knock out, punch out session between these teams, but it will be physical. For that reason alone, we need both of the players mentioned.

    I want to see how the new players hold up in the play-offs. They don’t have experience, for that matter, Nash doesn’t have much as well. If the kids can hold up to the pressure, and produce offensivly, all three lines can contribute, and make life easier for the top 2 lines. Moore will be tested, but for some reason, I feel very good about this kid the way he handles himself.

    The key is Hank!! He has to carry this team this year, with the way he has played, he will be tested. Also, the Holtby kid is going to be tough. Lets beat him early, and get in his head!!

    • Bobby says:

      Suit, thoughts on the rest of the east…in other words help me win my playoff pool!

      • The Suit says:

        Bobby – I’m going Pens over the Isles in 6, Sens over MTL in 7, NYR over WSH in 7, Bruins over Leafs in 6.

        In the west, B-hawks over Minny in 5. Ducks over Detroit 6, Sharks over ‘Nucks in 6, Blues over Kings in 7.

        • Dave says:

          Pens in 5 (4 if Crosby is back and 100%), Sens over MTL in 6, NYR in 7, Leafs in 7.

          Hawks in 4, Ducks in 7, Nucks in 5, Kings in 6.

  2. Chuck A says:

    Who does the four days’ rest most favor? Who of the injured Rangers do you think we’ll most likely see Thursday?

    • The Suit says:

      Rangers. It allows more time for Boyle, Clowe and Staalsie to heal.

      Brooks Laich is out till the 2nd round at the earliest I believe.

  3. Chris F says:

    When is game 1?

  4. Evan M says:

    I tell ya, I’m not at all happy with this schedule. The excessive days off to start the series and lose momentum, and then have 3 games in four days to close the series. Major screwup in my mind.

    • Chuck A says:

      Yes, but the Caps were smokin’ hot, too, so I think this is a wash, and the Rangers need healthy bodies. If the rest enables Staal to get back in sooner, I think the NYR win the rest conundrum, hands down.

      • The Suit says:

        Yea plus everyone was moaning about Hank starting the final game. Good thing they did or he would have had a week off.

    • Dave says:

      That works much more in the Rangers favor than the Caps. Caps were 15-2-2 heading into the postseason. This cools them off significantly. Plus, Rangers have more impact players hurt that need more time.

    • bogans says:

      I think it cools the Caps off more than the Rangers, and gives us an opportunity to heal. This is normally a terrible thing going in, but circumstances being what they are, this favors teh Rangers a ton.

  5. Evan says:

    Key for the rangers is to stay out of the box as much as possible. Obviously in some games this is tough as refs in this league now get whistle happy. However, if we can keep it to 5 on 5 we can definitely do some damage. I believe we are top 10 in the NHL in Corsi metrics, but this number did shoot up due to us feasting on terrible teams in the last 3 weeks. I hope this translates vs the best in the east .

    Staal coming back would be huge. Sit eminger and help lower the workload of mcd and girardi who torts has been riding very hard.

    Days off. i am not sure who it helps. Gives henrik a much needed chance to recharge his batteries, but he seems to thrive the more he plays. I am not sold on getting Boyle back. We have been awesome without him and his 5 total points this year. Clowe we could use his size. Washington obviously has been rolling so days off may ruin their flow.

    Either way, looking at a 6 or 7 gamer. Coin flip, but I think our offense is better than last years squad in terms of talent. Last year henrik went 10-10 in playoffs with a 1.86 gAA. I feel our O this year can give more support and maybe close out series earlier.

    Lets see what happens

  6. SalMerc says:

    Like Evan said, we need to stay out of the box. Ovechkin on a PP is deadly. We can frustrate him into taking penalties as well. Could go 7. Need Hank to be a wall and some production out of 3rd & 4th lines. They will try to lock up Nash, Callie and Stepan so others need to chime in. Looking for Hags to come up big.

  7. TxRanger says:

    Is Dorsett playing?

  8. Evan M says:

    How much of a boost is Staal coming back during the playoffs?
    His vision won’t be at 100% and he’s not going to be how he was before his freak injury. Is a partially blind Staal better than a healthy Eminger? I’d take Staal anyday, but I don’t think he’s going to be the Staal we know and love during these playoffs.

    • The Suit says:

      Vision is fine. But it will interesting to see how he finds his footing under this type of pressure. Still way better than Eminger.

  9. Ray says:

    I’d like to see Staal back too, but the key to last year’s victory was McDonagh’s shutdown performance on Ovie. He actually was better than Staal ever was at this particular assignment because he has the speed to keep up with Ovechkin. I hope he retains the role.

    I am also worried that vision problems will hamper Staal. He’ll be good, but maybe not the guy we remember.

  10. joe719 says:

    Forget all the other variables: this is on Lundqvist. He is the better goalie—now prove it!! I don’t want to hear about how great the Caps have played; if you can establish a strong forcheck on them, they will crumble. As for Ovechkin, he’s gonna be Ovechkin: pounding our D men from behind and blasting away from the point. You will not be able to stop him—but he can be marginalized by taking away the rest of his line. And more importantly—the D HAVE TO be Physical with him!!! THAT MEANS YOU DAN GIRARDI!!!! There are no surprises here…the Caps game comes from Ovie. Our game, since the deadline, is more rounded and spread over 3 lines. If they can continue to keep sending 3 strong lines out there, I don’t think the Caps can handle it. Special Teams will be HUGE!!! As for coaching, I’m no Torts fan, but he has it over Oates! I think the NYR’S take it in 5.

    • Dave says:

      This isn’t the NBA. One player can only take you so far. 2009 comes to mind, when Hank got them to a Game 7.

  11. Sally says:

    I hate to agree with Milbury here, but I think he is right that Nash and Richards have to take it up another level. We have to have two deadly lines.

  12. VinceR says:

    ^^^^^ yeah, you guys need to talk to your hosting company about this stuff! Is there a such thing as comment spam blockers?

    Also, on the mobile version, I randomly get app store interupptions when opening blog pages. Like an ad popup, except I’m not clicking on anything (don’t know if it’s by design, if so, that’s cool if it pays the bills, but if not just thought I’d warn you).

    • Dave says:

      I removed the comment as spam. Keep in mind that we get about 200 spam comments a day. One a week slipping through isn’t terrible.

      As for the mobile version, is it just you with that issue? I don’t have any problems with that.

      • VinceR says:

        Hmm, no idea, but every so often I open an article and in a few seconds a link to ad.something or other opens automatically, which in turns opens up the iphone app store to some app or another.

        Had no idea about the 200! I thought it was new because of that one and another one earlier (the only ones I’ve ever seen)… so obviously things are going pretty well with the blocking!

        • The Suit says:

          Stop downloading porn. Problem solved.

          • VinceR says:

            Why would I download porn on my phone? That would be substandard! Also if I had to DL porn while out and about, I’d probably have more serious issues to deal with than popups :)

  13. Justin says:

    Great post Suit. Didn’t know about Washington’s shot blocking prowess…