New York Rangers vs. Washington Capitals, 3:00 PM at Madison Square Garden
Game One, Eastern Conference Semifinals
Where To Watch: NBC Network
Where To Listen: 1130-AM, Bloomberg Radio, and newyorkrangers.com
Live In-Game Chat: 2:45 PM at BlueshirtsUnited.com
The Rangers did not have much time to celebrate their come-from-behind opening-round series win over the Otatwa Senators---one that featured a comeback from a 3-2 series deficit, and a series-clinching 2-1 victory in Game 7 Thursday night---before shifting their focus to their second-round opponent, the Washington Capitals. Roughly 16 hours after dispensing with the Senators, the Rangers were practicing and gathering for team meetings to prepare for Saturday afternoon's Game 1 against the Capitals. Rangers head coach John Tortorella believes that the short turnaround will be good for the Blueshirts, that they will be able to maintain their high level of intensity and focus with which they closed out their first-round series. Tortorella was especially pleased with how well defensively his team played in Games 6 and 7 against Ottawa, and the hope is that will carry over into this series against a Caps squad that is not dissimilar to the Senators. Injuries could play a factor because Brian Boyle has missed two straight games due to a concussion and Brandon Dubinsky did not practice Friday due to an unspecified ailment. Boyle, though, did return to practice Friday, and the hope is that he will not suffer any setbacks from his on-ice workout. It likely will not be known until near game time Saturday whether or not Dubinsky and/or Boyle will be able to play in Game 1. If both are unable to play that will leave a void in the middle of the Rangers checking line since that is Boyle's regular spot, and one that Dubinsky handled admirably in Boyle's absence during the final two games against Ottawa. Like the Rangers, it took the seventh-seeded Capitals seven games to advance out of the first round. They knocked off the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins with a 2-1 overtime victory on the road in Game 7. That contest was one of four decided in overtime---or double overtime---in the Washington-Boston series, two of which were won by the Caps. The star of that series for Washington was rookie goaltender Braden Holtby, who stood tall with a .940 save percentage and 2.00 goals against average in his first NHL playoff action.
The Rangers and Capitals split their four-game regular-season series this year, with each team winning once at home and once on the road. Ryan Callahan led the Rangers with five points (1-4-5) in the season series, while Caps defenseman John Carlson had six points (3-3-6) against the Blueshirts. Braden Holtby played only one game vs. the Rangers this season, earning the win in a 4-1 Capitals victory on April 7 at The Garden. Henrik Lundqvist made three starts against Washington and was 2-1 with a 3.00 goals against average. This is the seventh playoff meeting all-time between the Rangers and Capitals, with Washington having won four of the previous six series, including the last two a year ago and in 2009. Last year the Caps eliminated the Rangers in five games, and in 2009 they rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to oust the Rangers in a seven-game first-round series. The Rangers kayoed the Capitals in 1986 (six games) and 1994 (five games).
"It is the past and you try not to think about it, but it's hard because they knocked us out two different years. We really want to beat this team. It's a great challenge for us to face this team now. They're playing well, they're a confident group. It's going to be exciting and interesting to see how this plays out."-Henrik Lundqvist
The Rangers were just 1-15 on the power play during the regular season against the Capitals, an area they will need to be much better at in the post-season. In their first-round series the Rangers were 5-32 on the power play, netting a pair of power play goals in two different games.
Washington's Alex Ovechkin scored twice and totaled five points in the Caps opening-round series against the Bruins, playing a variety of different roles under head coach Dale Hunter. In 44 career playoff games Ovechkin has 27 goals and 55 points.
Will the Rangers be able to grab Game 1 on home ice just as they did in the opening-round of the playoffs? Share your prediction below.
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