The Rangers and Capitals are about to party like it’s 2009. The last time the Rangers made it to the postseason was 2009. They were the seventh place underdogs facing the second place powerhouse Caps.The Blueshirts rocked the red jumping to a 3-1 series lead after defeating the Caps in their own home. But the Rangers, known for their inconsistency lost control and the series.
Both these teams share a common desire: redemption. The Capitals will be looking to prove they can carry over their regular season successes through the postseason and make a serious run for the Cup. Last year they were ousted in the first round by the eighth place Montreal Canadiens.
The Rangers will be looking to get it right this time against their old foe. They also want to show they’re right where they belong. Last season they missed the playoffs by a point and watched the Philadelphia Flyers work their way into the Stanley Cup final.
Season Series: The Rangers went 3-1 against the Capitals this season. They won the last three games by a margin of 15 to 1.
Yo Gabby Gabby: Marian Gaborik didn’t score once in the final eight games of the regular season and spent most of the third period on the bench for the remaining games of the season. It’s make or break time for the struggling winger. Is he just having a tough year ready to bounce back or is he just another failed Glen Sather experiment that could be sent packing this summer? The power play has been atrocious going 1 for 27 over an eight game span. The sniper needs to do more sniping and less thinking.
Step it Up: Wojtek Wolski and Erik Christensen can’t hide in the shadows anymore. There’s not enough time in a series to selectively appear. Four games and you’re out. The crafty hand forwards need to help jumpstart the offense.
Watch Out For: Alexander Ovechkin’s been quiet this season for his standards, perhaps pacing himself for the playoffs. He can weave around defenders better than a spider weaves a web. Despite finishing the season with his lowest scoring totals since he entered the N.H.L. in 2005-6, he’s a major threat that Rangers’ blueliner Marc Staal will be called upon to shutdown and throw off.
Bright Spot: Henrik Lundqvist is the reason the Rangers squeaked their way back into a playoff spot when their offense went out for lunch. The Caps have some shaky goaltending to contend with. Varlamov and Neuvirth aren’t always sure things.
X Factor: Captain Chris Drury needs to make his presence known outside of the locker room and on the ice, just as he did in his return back after a long injury hiatus on Saturday. His offensive contributions have dipped each season, but his timely knack for chipping a puck into the net at the right time could get the Rangers out of a jam. He needs to win faceoffs, an area New York has struggled with this season. Without their future captain Callahan, Drury needs to steer the ship back on course.
Dubi dubi do: Can Dubinsky keep the points coming without his partner in crime Ryan Callahan? He led the team this season with 54 points and 24 goals.
Remember the time: Coach John Tortorella lost his cool after a Washington fan threw beer at him back in 2009 when the Rangers let the series slip right out of their finger tips. Caps goaltender Semyon Varlamov got hot at the right moment.
Prediction: Maybe it has an added element of wishful thinking, but the Rangers can win the series 6. They’ve unraveled Washington’s defense before and they have the potential to do it again, even without Callahan. They’ll prevail only if: Lundqvist maintains his composure; Gaborik gets his act together; everyone works hard like blue collar Brandon Prust; the power play doesn’t consistently choke.
About the Author
Written by Margaret DeJesus
I'm a recent college graduate looking for a dream job covering hockey. I've been watching the New York Rangers since my grade school days of VHS and Gordon Bombay's "ducks fly together" speech. While studying journalism at Boston University (COM '10), I wrote for the Daily Free Press, the student newspaper. I worked two summers at the Staten Island Advance, my hometown newspaper, writing city news and features. I've also written CD reviews for Music-Reviewer.com. One of my favorite gigs was interning for hockey analyst extraordinaire Stan Fischler covering the Boston Bruins and attending all their home games in the 2009-2010 season. (Yes, including the crushing defeat against the Flyers in the Eastern Conference playoffs.)