There is quite a bit that can be covered with this upcoming series against the Capitals but here is a quick peep at our foes ...
When Do We Play:
Game 1: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. at Washington
Game 2: Friday, 7:30 p.m. at Washington
Game 3: Sunday, 3 p.m. at MSG
Game 4: April 20, 7 p.m. at MSG
*Game 5: April 23, 3 p.m. at Washington
*Game 6: April 25, TBD at MSG
* Game 7: April 27, TBD at Washington
* - if necessary
Where We Are: In the playoffs, can you believe it? The Rangers didn't exactly back in to the playoff spot but they didn't exactly show they wanted it until the very end.
Where They Are: Washington finished first in the East, topping Philly by one point despite losing their last game. Of course, that was a lonely loss; the Capitals went 7-2-1 over their last 10 games and 16-3-1 in their last 20.
What Happened This Season: The Rangers won three of four, absolutely destroying DC in two of them. The season series opened with a 5-3 Caps win on November 9th at the Garden that included Derek Boogaard's goal. Then the Blueshirts demolished Ovie and company 7-0 on December 12th at the Garden in front of HBO's 24/7 cameras. The series moved to DC on January 24th and the Rangers prevailed 2-1 in a shootout at the Phone Booth with Arty netting the decider in the battle of backup goalies (Biron vs. Holtby). The fourth and final game was on February 25th and the Rangers scored a touchdown, winning 6-0 thanks to Mr. Softie Christensen (two goals and two assists). That was also notable because Derek Stepan took out Mike Green who has yet to return to the Caps lineup.
What Happened Past Seasons: Frankly, let's not discuss John F-ing Druce again. Instead let's rehash the disappointment that was the spring of 2009. Up 3-1 in the series John Tortorella singlehandedly lost it for the Rangers. At the end of Game 4 the coach put Sean Avery - back then a rabid dog of a player - on the ice in the final minutes of the one-goal game and was pinched for a high stick. The penalty was killed and the was won but the coach knee jerked and ripped Avery from the lineup, citing discipline. Without their sparkplug the Rangers fell flat in Game 5 and lost 4-0. The coach lost his discipline and acted like an ass to some fans ... and was suspended for Game 6 because of it. Game 6 was one of the most painful games I have ever been to as Tom Poti had a goal and three assists as the No. 1 star. The Rangers season came to an unfortunate end despite perhaps Avery's best-ever performance as a Ranger in Game 7. Wade Redden deftly deflected Sergei Fedorov's shot past Hank for the lone goal of the game and that was it. (For my original recaps, just check out April 2009.
Who To Watch For: Well, that Ovechkin guy is pretty famous. Ovie averaged better than a point per game and yet he had his worst campaign to date with just 85 points (31 more than Rangers leading scorer Brandon Dubinsky). Nick Backstrom was similarly "disappointing" with just 65 points. Jason Arnott put up seven points in 11 games since being dealt off of the Devils' sinking ship and his veteran presence - like that of Mike Knuble - is sure to be extra big in the postseason. The Rangers being the Rangers and the playoffs being the playoffs, also keep an eye on Matt Hendricks, Matt Bradley and Jason Chimera because those grit guys always end up being big in battles. My boy Poti is out with injury and unlikely to play to the best of my knowledge. Green was supposed to come back for the last game against the Panthers but didn't so we will have to watch his status. Even without the two of them DC's blueline has been capable thanks to John Carlson and John Erskine and they added reinforcements in former Bruin Dennis Wideman and past-his-prime Scott Hannan. The Rangers are apparently getting lucky because Washington's best goaltender is actually in the minors. Holtby is in Hershey while Neuvirth has earned the starting job over Varlamov.
What To Watch For: Washington to come out angry, seeking revenge for the beatings laid on them by the Blueshirts this season. The Rangers inconsistencies rearing their ugly heads. Staal vs. Ovechkin. Sauer and Dubi have both fought twice against the Caps this campaign but the likelihood of fisticuffs is quite lower in the playoffs; should it happen, it would more likely be Prust taking on Matt Hendricks or DJ King (if King even dresses). The Rangers attempt to push the puck past Alex Semin. Semin may be a good scorer but his discipline is lacking - he had 71 PIM this year in 65 games and 18 of them were on hooking calls.
Also Check Out: The Caps have a really strong blogosphere but, frankly, I just head to Japer's Rink for all my info. Eric McErlain hasn't posted in a while at Offwing but On Frozen Blog is still going strong. The WaPo has a blog for those that still support MSM.