THREE KEYS TO THE SERIES
1. Just can’t wait to beat King
Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is easily the Rangers’ best player and is known for his vision - just about any shots he sees he’s able to stop. “We just gotta … get the puck to the net and get guys there and win the battles in front of the net,” Caps center Marcus Johansson said. Putting traffic in front of Lundqvist is the way the Caps might be able to get to him. All-time, King Henrik is 11-6-2 against Washington.
2. Red, black and blue
New York’s trademark is its physical, bullying style of play. And while some players like Matt Bradley say they like that kind of hockey, it could be tough for a quick, young Caps team to adjust. But Karl Alzner has a solution: “I think we gotta wear them down. We gotta keep the puck in their zone. They really love to dump it, crash and bang and I think if we do that to them, it’s gonna be awesome for us.”
Guys like Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom need to put the puck in the net for the Caps to advance to the second round, but that’s not all. Getting secondary scoring from the likes of Alexander Semin and Marco Sturm is crucial. Semin, who hasn’t scored in his past 14 playoff games, could benefit greatly from skating with Jason Arnott. “It’s just great to play with a person like that who can see the ice, who knows what he’s doing,” Semin said through an interpreter.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
While the Caps get the last change at home for the first two games of the series, New York will likely try to match its best defenseman up against Ovechkin. Bruce Boudreau would love to get Ovechkin some free space on the ice, but Staal and defense partner Dan Girardi will do their best to at least contain the superstar and linemates Nick Backstrom and Mike Knuble. Ovechkin has looked quicker and stronger since returning from a three-game absence, so it might not matter who’s defending him.
LIKELY LINE COMBINATIONS
LW Alex Ovechkin - C Nicklas Backstrom - RW Mike Knuble