Playoff Pregame #12: Washington Capitals at New York Rangers

#7 Washington Capitals at #1 New York Rangers
Location: Madison Square Garden
Time:
7:30 PM
TV: NBC Sports Network (HD)
Radio: 1500AM, 820 AM, and XM
Series Schedule:
Game 1:   Apr 28, 2012, WSH@NYR, 1-3 L
Game 2:   Apr 30, 2012, WSH@NYR, 3-2 W
Game 3:   May  2, 2012, NYR@WSH, 1-2 L (3OT)
Game 4:   May  7, 2012, WSH@NYR, 3-2 W
Game 6:   May  9, 2012, NYR@WSH, TBD
Game 7*: May 12, 2012, WSH@NYR, TBD
Familiar Faces of Former Capitals:  D Steve Eminger (212 GP, 2002-08)
Former Ranger:  RW Mike Knuble (141 GP, 1998-2000)
Know The Enemy: Our Bloguin Partner: The New York Rangers Blog, Blueshirt Banter

Read on.

NHL
Photo by Mitchell Layton/NHLI via Getty Images

The Washington Capitals won a huge game four on their home ice to even the series.  Now they must head back to Madison Square Garden for a pivotal game five.  The Capitals were able to get good pressure on the Rangers right from the start by making sart plays with the puck.  If the Capitals can continue their forecheck and keep the puck from getting to the front of their net like they did (26 blocks in game 4), they should be able to neutralize the Rangers for the remainder of the series.  

After winning a huge triple-overtime game in game 3, the New York Rangers lost any momentum from that game when Mike Green’s powerplay goal trickled through Henrik Lundqvist’s pads.  The Rangers rely on a high-energy, up-tempo game to pound their opponents into sumbission.  By taking the play to their opponent so much in game 3, they lacked the fire the continue that aggressive play in game 4 against a patient Capitals’ team.  If the Rangers cannot get the fire back soon, their season will be over on Wednesday.  

Injury Report: Capitals’ G Tomas Vokoun (groin) is out. 
-For the Rangers, RW Mats Zuccarello-Aasen (arm) and D Michael Sauer (concussion) are out.  C Brandon Dubinsky (lower body) is day-to-day. 

Three Things To Watch For:

Tricky Nick:  After being held without a goal since Game 2 of the Boston series, Nicklas Backstrom broke out with a huge counter-hit and a goal to give the Caps a big lead on Saturday afternoon.  Backstrom had been practicing hard and put forth the kind of dominant performance the Caps have come to expect from him when the going gets tough. In fact, Backstrom is at his best when the Caps’ backs are against the wall.  Look for a re-energized Backstrom to have a major impact again tonight. 

The Little Things:  After playing sound hockey for nearly the entire series, the New York Rangers were victimized by uncharacteristic gaffes in game 4.  Giveaways and poor clearing attempts led to two Capitals goals and the Rangers were unable to sustain pressure in the Capitals’ end for the kind of long, draining shifts the mustered earlier in the series.  If the drain of a triple overtime showed up on anyone, it was the Rangers, as their key players lacked the crispness of execution they displayed in game 3. 

Psyched Ward:  Game 5 is Joel Ward time.  In his four his previous game 5s in his career, Ward has posted four goals and four assists and his team has won three times.  All of those goals came with Nashville over the past two seasons, but that doesn’t mean Ward wasn’t a factor this year.  With the series tied and the Capitals clinging to the game after blowing a 2-goal lead late in the second period, Joel Ward set up the tie-breaking goal by Mike Knuble early in the third to propel the Capitals to victory.  Even in limited ice time, Ward’s five points are a major reason the Capitals are where they are in the playoffs.  

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