Rangers-Capitals: Series Preview

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The Goaltenders

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Rangers: Coming off his first Vezina Trophy, Henrik Lundqvist started slowly this year once the lockout was over. But after a couple of weeks, Lundqvist found his form and backstopped the Rangers into the playoffs with another Vezina-worthy season. With the Rangers battling all season just to reach the playoffs, Lundqvist was a workhorse in goal, starting 43 of the team's 48 games, including 14 straight to close out the season. He tied for the league lead in wins (24), ranked fifth with a .926 save percentage, and was seventh in the NHL with a 2.05 goals against average. Lundqvist also posted two shutouts, moving past Hall-of-Famer Ed Giacomin as the Rangers all-time leader with 51 career shutouts. In two starts against Washington this season, Lundqvist was 1-0-1 and allowed only three goals on 52 shots over 125 minutes of play. Many believe Lundqvist still needs to make his mark in the playoffs---despite leading the Rangers to within two wins of a trip to the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals. In 55 career post-season games Lundqvist owns a 25-30 record and a 2.31 goals against average. Backup Martin Biron is both solid and experienced, though he did not play nearly as often as John Tortorella would have liked this season, appearing in only six games, starting just five. Biron was 2-2-1 with a 2.32 goals against average and .917 save percentage this season. He has not played since starting March 30th up in Montreal.

 

Capitals: 23 year-old Braden Holtby does not have nearly the resume of Henrik Lundqvist, but he gave the Rangers fits last spring and nearly backstopped an upset of the Blueshirts after authoring a dramtic seven-game upset of the Boston Bruins in Round One. Holtby started all 14 games in the 2012 playoffs for the Capitals and posted a terrific 1.95 goals against average and .935 save percentage. He did not necessarily follow up on that success this year, however, struggling at times with soft goals allowed. Holtby appeared in 36 games, posting an impressive 23-12-1 record, though his goals against (2.58) was somewhat ordinary. Like the rest of the team, Holtby's play was at its best down the stretch when the Caps surged into first place in their division. Holtby allowed two goals or fewer in six of his last nine starts. Backup Michal Neuvirth, who just inked a two-year contract extension last week, appeared in 13 games and posted a 2.74 goals against average. The 25 year-old Neuvirth has experience two years ago as the Caps No. 1 goalie, winning 27 games in 2010-11 and helping eliminate the Rangers in the first-round of the playoffs. The Capitals do own the second highest goals against average of any team in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.