The New York Rangers will have the home ice advantage in their best-of-seven second round Eastern Conference playoff series against the Washington Capitals. In fact, the Rangers will enjoy home ice advantage throughout the postseason after winning this year’s President’s Trophy as the NHL’s top team with 113 points. The Capitals had 101 points to finish as runners up in the Metropolitan Division. This is the fifth time these two clubs have met in the playoffs since the 2008/09 campaign. The Rangers advanced to the second round by ousting the Pittsburgh Penguins in five games while the Capitals edged the New York Islanders in seven.
Rangers vs Capitals NHL Playoff Preview – bet365 lists the Rangers as the favorites to win this series at 5/9 with Washington at 8/5
The last two Rangers vs Capitals series went seven games with the Rangers winning both of them in 2011/12 and 2012/13. Washington came out on top in 2008/09 in seven games and in five games in 2010/11. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist and defensemen Dan Girardi and Marc Staal have played in all four previous series against the Caps while five Washington players have appeared in each series. These are Mike Green, Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Eric Fehr and Brooks Laich.
The Rangers beat Washington in three of their four regular season meetings this year with two of the victories coming in Washington. Center Derrick Brassard led the Rangers with five points against the Capitals this season and scored three goals against Pittsburgh in the first playoff round. Rookie center Kevin Hayes chipped in with five points as well during their regular season meetings while Rick Nash added three goals.
Rangers’ goalie Henrik Lundqvist played twice against the Capitals and posted a 92.9 save percentage and 2.00 goals-against average. Washington scored four power-play goals against the Rangers this campaign on 13 chances with the league’s top goalscorer Alex Ovechkin scoring all of them. He also added an even-strength marker to bring his total to five against New York. This represents 50 per cent of the team’s total as they managed just 10 goals against the Rangers in the four meetings.
Washington netminder Braden Holtby played all four games against the Rangers and allowed 12 goals for an 89.7 save percentage and GAA of 3.06. It looks like the key in this series will be how the Rangers handle Ovechkin, who had 53 goals this season. They’ll have to do it without the services of forward Mats Zuccarello as he’s sidelined indefinitely due to an upper-body injury which he suffered in the fifth game against the Penguins. Zuccarello had a pair of points in that series and 49 on the season in 78 contests.
Martin St. Louis will likely take over from Zuccarello on New York’s first line with Nash and Derek Brassard. Meanwhile, James Sheppard will probably take over Zuccarello’s spot in the roster. The Rangers are also expecting defenseman Kevin Klein to return to the squad for this series after missing the showdown with Pittsburgh with a broken arm. Matt Hunwick will likely be scratched when Klein returns.
Goaltending will also be a key since Lundqvist has gone 32-29 in the postseason since 2011 with a save percentage of 93.1 and a 1.99 goals-against along with six shutouts. Washington’s Holtby played an NHL-high 73 games this season and was ranked in the top five in just about every netminding category. He has a 94.3 save percentage in this year’s playoffs with a 1.63 goals-against average, but is 6-8 during his postseason career against the Rangers.