In order to keep our blog from being biased, I am here to present you with what the Rangers need to do to win this playoff series. First it’s important to note that all of the times the Rangers have played the Capitals it was under ex-coach Tom Renney’s defensive first system. The Capitals have yet to face the new and improved post trade deadline line up additions, as well as new coach John Tortorella’s aggressive attacking system. In order for the Rangers to be successful they are going to have to, contain Ovechkin and the Capitals dynamic offense, get excellent goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist, score timely goals, and use Sean Avery to agitate.
1. Contain Ovechkin:
Ovechkin leads the Caps dynamic offense that is made up of some very talented players. In order for the Rangers to have success they are going to have to do their best to stop him at even strength and on the power play. The bulk of this responsibility is going to go to the defensive pairing of Marc Staal and Dan Girardi. Staal is by far the Rangers best shut down defenseman and has been paired against Ovechkin many times throughout the regular season. Part of the burden to stop the Caps offense is going to fall on the forwards as well. It’s going to take hard forechecking, strong backchecking, and quick transition plays to keep the puck away from Ovechkin and the Caps.
2. King Henrik:
In order for the Rangers to win this series they are going to have to get top caliber goaltending from a man who is more than capable of bringing it, Henrik Lundqvist. The three time Vezina candidate is the main reason why the Rangers boast the top penalty killing unit in the league. Hank’s ability to go from post to post very quickly will eliminate the many “back door” goals that the Caps like to set up on the power play. In addition, Henrik likes to play deep in his net to take away scoring chances close to the net. However, this can also be his weakness. There have been times this year where Lundqvist has gotten beat up high because he is too deep in the net. To prevent this, the Rangers’ defense is going to have to pressure the attacking Capitals forwards with active sticks, good body position, and physical play, in order to limit their scoring chances.
3. Timely Goals:
The Rangers are going to have success if they can get timely goals from key players in their roster. In the last 3 games of the season, Avery, Callahan, Dubinsky, Drury, and others have shown the ability to get goals when it matters most. In the last game against Philli, the Rangers battled back after each Flyers’ go ahead goal. Veteran players like Gomez, Naslund, and Drury are going to have to show their experience and play like they did when they won cups or in Naslund’s case, a gold medal.
4. The Avery Factor:
As I alluded to earlier, some players were not around for the season series verses the Caps. One of those players, Sean Avery has the potential to turn this series in the Rangers’ favor and get inside the heads of the Capital players. The Avery factor cannot be overlooked because he has had success in the past rattling young Capital Backstrom. Who knows to what level Avery can agitate Ovechkin or Green. The Capitals would be foolish to not put Donald Brashear in the line up to prevent Avery from running around unchecked. As the series goes on I wouldn’t be suprised to see both teams enforcers healthy scratches in favor of more offensive fourth lines.
The Rangers can’t expect to compete with the Capitals if they get into a run and gun type of game. Tortorella believes that the best defense is a strong offense and puck possession. The Rangers are going to have to pin the Capitals deep in their offensive zone with hard forchecking, thus putting pressure on the Caps’ D to make mistakes. If the Rangers can do all of these things mentioned above they will have a successful series and move on to the next round.