Stanley Cup Playoffs 2013: Capitals-Rangers Preview

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2013 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS

EASTERN CONFERENCE QUARTERFINALS

(3) WASHINGTON CAPITALS VS. (6) NEW YORK RANGERS

Game 1: 7:30 Thursday at Verizon Center. Game 2: 12:30 Saturday at Verizon Center. Game 3: 7:30 Monday, May 6 at Madison Square Garden. Game 4: 7:30 Wednesday, May 8 at Madison Square Garden. Game 5*: Friday, May 10 at Verizon Center. Game 6*: Sunday, May 12 at Madison Square Garden. Game 7*: Monday, May 13 at Verizon Center.

STORY LINES

1. Contrasting Styles

Unlike Dale Hunter hockey, what coach Adam Oates has the Capitals playing is much different than John Tortorella’s shot-blocking style. Last year, there wasn’t a whole lot of entertainment, but the Caps’ aggressive forecheck and opportunistic offense should improve that. It’ll be an interesting chess match in Washington’s defensive zone, too, as the Rangers’ pressure will test the Caps, who like to keep their defensemen from getting hit a lot.

2. Emphasis on Ovechkin

Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi could play 30-plus minutes every game, as Tortorella matches his top pair up with the Caps’ first line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson. Ovechkin scored 22 goals in his final 21 games, and he’s more than a point-a-game performer in the playoffs, so the Caps need that kind of production to continue.

3. Holtby vs. Lundqvist

Braden Holtby is 5-6-1 with a 1.77 goals-against average and .935 save percentage in his NHL career against the Rangers. He’s one of the major reasons the Caps even pushed New York to seven games a year ago. Henrik Lundqvist won that series, and even though the Rangers have more offense this time, he’ll have to be great to beat the Caps.

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Capitals’ second line of Martin Erat, Mike Ribeiro and Troy Brouwer vs. Rangers’ second pairing of Michael Del Zotto and Anton Stralman

When the Caps’ offensive stars are on the ice against the Rangers’ shutdown defensemen, it’s strength vs. strength. It’s up to Erat, Ribeiro and Brouwer to take advantage of what could be a favorable matchup against Del Zotto and Stralman, or even Steve Eminger and John Moore.

“Obviously our line wants to help that top line and create confusion on how to play against us or which Ds you’re going to put against Ovi,” Ribeiro said. “And for us it’s to help that line just create offense, create scoring chances.”

If Erat finds a groove and Brouwer maintains his scoring touch from the regular season, the Rangers might have to consider splitting up McDonagh and Girardi. If that happens, Oates will have won in a big way.

LINES, PAIRINGS AND INJURIES

Capitals forwards

Marcus Johansson – Nicklas Backstrom – Alex Ovechkin

Martin Erat – Mike Ribeiro – Troy Brouwer

Jason Chimera – Mathieu Perreault – Eric Fehr

Aaron Volpatti – Matt Hendricks – Jay Beagle OR Matt Hendricks – Jay Beagle – Joel Ward

Capitals defensemen

Karl Alzner – Mike Green

John Erskine – John Carlson

Jack Hillen – Steve Oleksy

Capitals goaltenders

Braden Holtby

Michal Neuvirth

Capitals injuries

F Joel Ward (left knee, questionable for Game 1), F Brooks Laich (groin, out indefinitely)

***

Rangers forwards

Carl Hagelin – Derek Stepan – Ryan Callahan

Rick Nash – Brad Richards – Mats Zuccarello

Taylor Pyatt – Derick Brassard – Chris Kreider

Darroll Powe – Michael Haley – Kris Newbury

Rangers defensemen

Ryan McDonagh – Dan Girardi

Michael Del Zotto – Anton Stralman

John Moore – Steve Eminger

Rangers goaltenders

Henrik Lundqvist

Martin Biron

Rangers injuries

F Derek Dorsett (broken clavicle, questionable for series), C Brian Boyle (right knee, status uncertain), F Ryan Clowe (undisclosed/possible concussion, status uncertain)

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