Playoff Pregame #2: Washington Capitals vs. New York Rangers

#1 Washington Capitals vs. #8 New York Rangers
Capitals lead the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Series 1-0
Location:  Verizon Center
7:30 PM
TV Local: Comcast SportsNet (HD) (Game On!), National: Versus (HD)
Radio 106.7 FM, 1500AM
Previous Game:
Apr 13, 2011 NYR@WSH, 2-1 W (OT)
Next 2 Games:
Apr 17, 2011 WSH@NYR, 3:00pm
Apr 20, 2011 WSH@NYR, 7:00pm
Know The Enemy: Our Bloguin Partner: The New York Rangers Blog, Sports Haze, Blueshirt Banter

Read the head-to-head matchup!

The Washington Capitals were able to stick to their defensive system and grind out a win on Wednesday night.  Look for more of the same tonight as the Caps look to throttle the life out of the Rangers.  Both sides are playing a physical style and are getting excellent goaltending, but the Caps have more scoring talent and overall depth, and if they are able to bury some of those chances that hit crossbars last game, they’ll be able to put the game away much earlier. 

Injury Report:  Capitals’ defensemen Dennis Wideman (leg hematoma), and Tom Poti (groin) are out. 
-The Rangers expect to be without RW Ryan Callahan (broken leg), LW Derek Boogaard (shoulder), G Martin Biron (broken collarbone), and RW Alexander Frolov (knee).

Three Things To Watch For:

Staal Tactics:  Rangers defensemen Marc Staal and Dan Girardi were given the unenviable task of trying to shut down Alex Ovechkin on Wednesday, and they did yeoman’s work as they led all skaters in ice time (33:48 for Staal, 32:50 for Girardi).  Girardi hat 3 hits and 5 blocked shots and Staal had 1 hit and 1 takeaway.  Unfortunately for them, fatigue set in and they were victimized for both goals and finished -2.  If the Caps can keep forcing these two defensemen onto the ice and wear them down, they can force them into more mistakes, like the turnover that led to Alex Semin‘s overtime goal.

The “A” Team:  We pity the fool who thought Alex Semin didn’t come to play.  Yeah, yeah, Semin hadn’t scored a goal in 14 playoff games, but the first 7 against Pittsburgh on ’09 Semin had a bum wrist and put up 6 assists; the next 7 Semin didn’t have a legit playmaker yet still fired 44 shots on goal and had 2 assists.  Now that Semin is on the “A” line with playmaking center Jason Arnott, he has woken up and is producing again.  Look for Semin and Arnott to team up for quite a few goals this spring.

Neu Experiences:  While he wasn’t tested much in game 1, Caps rookie goalie Michal Neuvirth made all the saves he needed to in his first career playoff game.  Neuvirth won the last 2 Calder Cups in the AHL with a consistent presence in the net, there’s no reason to think he couldn’t backstop the Caps deep into these playoffs.  Now that Neuvy has a .960 playoff save % and a Goals Against Average of 0.77, look for him to ride a wave of confiednce into the rest of this series and shut the Rangers down.