We interrupt this Sabres/Flyers coverage to breakdown the rest of the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Today's installment looks at the matchup that is 1) Capitals vs. 8) Rangers. Make sure you vote after the jump on who you think will win this series.
The Rangers beat the Capitals three times out of four and outscored the Southeastern Division Champs 16-6, including 6-0 and 7-0 shutouts. The teams last met on February 25, 2011.
Wednesday, April 13 at Washington, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, April 15 at Washington, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, April 17 at New York, 3:00 p.m.
Wednesday, April 20 at New York, 7:00 p.m.
*Saturday, April 23 at Washington, 3:00 p.m.
*Monday, April 25 at New York, TBD
*Wednesday, April 27 at Washington, TBD
It goes without saying that Alex Ovechkin is a world class talent. He led the Caps in goals (32), assists (53), and obviously points (85). But he's not a one-man band. He Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin form a formidable line, if they're paired together. They also have impressive youngster Marcus Johansson (13/14/27) as well as solid vets in Jason Arnott, Marco Sturm, and Mike Knuble.
Last week the Rangers lost their best player and Rochester native, Ryan Callahan, to a broken ankle. They do, however, have very balanced scoring with six forwards with at least 35 points and five with 20 or more goals (though Callahan was one of those players on both lists). Brandon Dubinsky led the team in goals (24), assists (30), and points (54). Former Sabre and Captain Clutch Chris Drury returned to action on Saturday, so perhaps he can help fill the void of Callahan's absence.
Edge: Capitals. The Rangers boast more depth, but the loss of Callahan hurts and Ovechkin is an assassin on ice.
Washington has a premier defenseman in Mike Green. Of course he's been out since February 25th with a concussion. He may return, however. Even if he doesn't, John Carlson (7/30/37) is more than capable of picking up the slack. Deadline pickup Dennis Wideman is out with a fairly serious leg bruise.
New York has virtually a no-name defense, minus deadline acquisition Bryan McCabe (who was picked up for former Sabre Tim Kennedy) and the third installment of the Staal brothers (Marc Staal). But Dan Girardi is a do-it-all defenseman who blocked an incredible 236 shots and Mike Sauer was a plus 20 on the season.
Edge: Rangers, unless Green returns. The Caps are banged up at the moment and though the Rangers have no "stars" on the blueline, they have solid contributors top-to-bottom.
The Capitals had three netminders start at least a dozen games. The question is who will they ride this postseason? Michael Neuvirth logged more ice time and backstopped the AHL Hershey Bears to two Calder Cups the last two seasons. Semyon Varlamov posted better numbers of the big two (Braden Holtby played third fiddle when injuries arose).
The Rangers lived and died (mostly lived) with Henrik Lundqvist. He posted an NHL best eleven shutouts. His .923 save percentage was tied for third among goalies with at least 60 starts (he started 67 games). Former Sabre Martin Biron backs up "King" Lundqvist.
Edge: Rangers. No doubt about it, goaltending is New York's strength.
The Rangers needed help from the Tampa Bay Lightning to even qualify for the playoffs. That said, the Capitals don't match up well against New York even minus Callahan. If the Rangers can find a way to slow Ovechkin down (like Montreal did last year) and Lundqvist steals two games (something he's quite capable of doing), New York could upset the Capitals. Rangers in six.