Playoff Pregame #3: Washington Capitals vs. New York Rangers

#1 Washington Capitals at #8 New York Rangers
Capitals lead the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Series 2-0
Location:  Madison Square Garden
3:00 PM
Radio 106.7 FM, 1500AM
Previous Games:
Apr 13, 2011 NYR@WSH, 2-1 W (OT)
Apr 15, 2011 NYR@WSH, 2-0 W
Next Game:
Apr 20, 2011 WSH@NYR, 7:00pm
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Read about the Broadway Performance!

The Washington Capitals once again ground out an ugly win on Friday night, with a lot of hits, blocked shots, and smart but boring plays.  Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist again played a strong game in net, but he was no match for Caps rookie Michal Neuvirth, who slammed the door.  Now that Neuvi’s confidence is very high, the Rangers shouldn’t expect goals to come any easier as the series moves to Manhattan.

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:

Sandpaper Grit:  When Rangers Coach John Tortorella dressed Sean Avery in Game 2, anb already physical series was ratcheted up a notch.  There hasn’t been much room on the ice for the offensive players and that shouldn’t change any time soon.  Expect Avery and the Caps pesky forwards to keep making life difficult for each other and for the hitting to keep up.

Special Players:  The Capitals’ powerplay struck gold on Friday night when Jason Arnott rifled a shot past Lundqvist.  With that goal, and assists by Mike Green and Alex Ovechkin, the Caps have 4 players (Alex Semin is the other) who are a point-per-game heading into Game 3.  If the Caps top players can keep generating offense on special teams, especially with the Caps perfect penalty kill, this should be a short series. 

New York State of Mind:  Returning to Manhattan gives the Rangers a few advantages for Games 3 and 4.  The biggest change comes with the ability to match lines with the Caps, as Tortorella has the last change before every faceoff.  The Rangers centers also get home ice advantage on the faceoffs, as they put their sticks in the circle after they see what the Caps’ center is trying to do.  Then of course, there is the home crowd in the most famous arena in the world, Madison Square Garden.  Look for the Rangers to be more energized and to get a few more breaks in the next 2 games.