Rangers-Capitals: Series Preview

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The Defensemen

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Rangers: Like all good defensive teams the Rangers rely on their entire roster to contribute in their own end of the ice, and they do have one of the game's elite goaltenders in Henrik Lundqvist. But the Rangers corps of defensemen has been very solid, especially in the second half of this shortened season. The pair with bullseyes on their backs in this series will be Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh, who will draw the majority of the shifts against Alex Ovechkin and the Caps top line. Girardi, an All Star last season, got off to a slow start in 2013, but has been playing his typcial hard-nosed intelligent game ever since. McDonagh proved himself last season as a future All Star---as intelligent as he is skilled---and he played a huge role in the Rangers seven-game series win over Washington, in particular logging nearly 60 minutes of ice time in the Game 3 triple overtime victory. Michael Del Zotto and Anton Stralman have formed a solid second pairing since Marc Staal was injured on March 5th---and Stralman is coming off an excellent 2012 post-season, one that earned high praise from the previously skeptical John Tortorella. John Moore (1-5-6, +9 in 13 games) has been a big surprise and a clutch addition to the blueline---drawing comparisons to McDonagh---since being acquired from Columbus. And his partner Steve Eminger has been a solid and physical performer, playing in the final 31 games of the regular season. More offensive production would be a huge benefit from this group---which incredibly contributed just one power play goal all season, and is backed up by Matt Gilroy and Roman Hamrlik, and could receive a boost should Staal be able to return at some point during this series.

 

Capitals: Washington's blueline corps provides much more offense than that of the Blueshirts, led by Mike Green and John Carlson. Though he playes in only 35 games, Green was among the league leaders among defensemen with 26 points, while his 12 goals led all NHL defensemen. After twpo injury-plagued seasons, it looks like Green is once again among the elite offensive blueliners in the game---the player who put forth back-to-back 70+ points seasons in 2008-09 and 2009-10. Carlson, who always seems to be a thorn in the Rangers side, had 22 points (6-16-22) and was a +11 for the Caps this season. A pair of unheralded d-men---Jack Hillen and Steve Oleksy---had surprisingly strong seasons (both finished +9), while a pair of former Rangers Tomas Kundratek and Tom Poti also were in the mix for the Caps on defense. John Erskine provides size and toughness in front of the Caps net; and Karl Alzner had an extremely disappointing 2013 season, with just five points and a -6 plus/minus rating while playing in all 48 games.