The Washington Capitals are set to face the New York Rangers in the playoffs for the third season in a row and the fourth time in five seasons, which is every playoff year since 2009 if you're a Ranger fan. While the teams are quite familiar with each other from the last 3 seasons, only 3 of the 22 players from that 2009 Rangers playoff team are expected to face the Caps this year, and a fourth, Marc Staal, is injured and likely will not play. By contrast, 8 of the Caps' 23 players who took the ice against the Rangers in 2009 are on the team, though it is uncertain whether Tom Poti, Jeff Schultz, or Brooks Laich will see game action.
The Rangers still have Head Coach John Tortorella and former Capitals head coach Jim Schoenfeld on staff from 2009. Who knows? Perhaps we could expect another Jelly Doughnut Incident or Water Bottle Incident this year. Either way, we're pretty sure the Capitals head coach won't be talking smack about the fans at Madison Square Garden, like Bruce Boudreau did in 2011.
Photo from DC Sports Bog
For some background info, here are the Rangers' career scoring stats against the Capitals in the playoffs next to the Capitals' career scoring stats against the Rangers.
|Brad Richards||13||4||4||8||Alex Ovechkin||19||9||8||17||2*|
|Michael Del Zotto||7||2||4||6||1*||Mike Green||19||3||9||12||1|
|Marc Staal||19||2||3||5||1||Nicklas Backstrom||19||1||11||12|
|Ryan Callahan||14||3||1||4||1||Brooks Laich||19||2||8||10|
|Derek Stepan||12||0||4||4||Jason Chimera||12||5||2||7||3|
|Roman Hamrlik||7||0||3||3||Tom Poti||7||2||4||6|
|Dan Girardi||19||0||3||3||John Carlson||12||2||2||4|
|Chris Kreider||7||1||1||2||1||Marcus Johansson||12||2||2||4|
|Carl Hagelin||7||0||2||2||Troy Brouwer||7||0||2||2|
|Matt Gilroy||5||1||0||1||Joel Ward||7||0||2||2|
|Anton Stralman||7||1||0||1||Karl Alzner||12||0||2||2|
|Brian Boyle||11||0||1||1||Jay Beagle||5||0||1||1|
|Ryan McDonagh||12||0||1||1||John Erskine||13||0||1||1|
|Mats Zuccarello-Aasen||1||0||0||0||Matt Hendricks||12||0||1||1|
|Steve Eminger||1||0||0||0||Eric Fehr||9||0||1||1|
|Stu Bickel||7||0||0||0||Jeff Schultz||12||0||0||0|
Some may remember that Brad Richards faced the Caps with the 2003 Tortorella-coached Tampa Bay Lightning, playing 6 games. Tom Poti had a team record 4-point night at Madison Square Garden in 2009 against his old squad.
And here are the goalie's stats against their rivals.
Henrik Lundqvist has been the Rangers starting goalie in every series against the Capitals. Martin Biron was the starting goalie for the 2008 Philadelphia Flyers.
Besides the regular season games between the teams every year and the 2009 playoff series, here's some more info on how well acquainted the players are with each other.
The player who should be most familiar with the Caps is aging defensman Roman Hamrlik. Hammer played 68 games last season with the Washington Capitals and played all 14 playoff games, scoring a game 7 goal against the Rangers. He started this season with the Capitals, but after four games was picked up on waivers by the Rangers on March 6 after they lost Marc Staal to injury. Martin Erat is the one player who was not on the roster with Hamrlik as a member of the Capitals, and he was teammates with Roman and his brother Martin Hamrlik for ZPS Zlin of the Czech Extraliga during the 2004-05 lockout season. Hamrlik was also part of the 2010 Montreal Canadiens team that bounced the Capitals in the first round of the playoffs. Whether Coach Tortorella opts to use Hamrlik against the Caps remains to be seen, as he has often been a healthy scratch for both teams this season.
Some people may remember that Capitals winger Wojtek Wolski played against the Capitals in the 2011 playoffs as a member of the Rangers. They probably do not remember he led that squad in assists and points against the Caps in the 5-game loss. Wolski played 37 games in Manhattan in 2011 after being acquired mid-season from Phoenix. He played 9 more games for the Rangers in 2011-12 before he was traded to the Florida Panthers. He will likely not play in this series unless there is an injury.
Another player who has seen both sides of the rivalry is Rangers defenseman Steve Eminger, who played 212 games for the Capitals between 2002 and 2008 and was teammates with 8 players on the current Capitals roster. Eminger was also teammates with the injured Brooks Laich on the silver medal-winning 2003 World Junior Championship team.
Capitals defenseman Tom Poti was traded to the Rangers in 2002 and played 229 games there between 2002-06. In Poti's last season in Manhattan, he was a teammate of rookie goalie Henrik Lundqvist, the only player from that team who is still with the Rangers. Before his trade from Edmonton, Poti was teammates with Roman Hamrlik for two seasons from 1998-2000 and with Jason Chimera for a few games in 2000-2002. Chimera also has the distinction of being the only current Capital to play with current head coach Adam Oates, then with the Edmonton Oilers in 2003-04.
Jason Chimera is a player the New York Rangers should be very familiar with, and not just because he's a certified Ranger killer in the playoffs (Chimera has scored 5 of his 7 career playoff goals against the Rangers, and 3 have been game-winners). Chimera has played with 5 current Rangers in the NHL, including four when they were all members of the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2009-10. Chimera played with big Rick Nash from the time he arrived Columbus in October 2005 through his trade to Washington in December 2009. He also played with Derick Brassard from 2007-09, the injured Derek Dorsett from 2008-09, and with Anton Stralman for the first half of the 2009-10 season. Chimera also won gold with Nash at the 2007 IIHF World Championships in Russia and Silver with Nash and current teammate Mike Green in 2008 in Canada.
Rick Nash (Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)
On the Swedish entry at the 2007 championships were Caps center Nicklas Backstrom and Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist joined them at the Worlds 2008, and Backstrom and Lundqvist played together again at the 2010 Olympics.
Nick Backstrom & Henrik Lundqvist
At the beginning of their professional careers, Capitals center Mike Ribeiro and Rangers winger Arron Asham started out playing together in the Montreal Canadiens' system beginning with the 1998-99 AHL playoffs with the Fredericton Canadiens. They played together at the AHL and NHL levels with the Quebec Citadelles and the Habs from 1999 until Asham's trade to the Islanders in 2002. Ribeiro moved on to Dallas in 2006, and played with Rangers center Mike Richards for three and a half seasons starting with the trade fo former Cap Jeff Halpern to Tampa Bay in the spring of 2008. While on Long Island, Asham played with Caps defensemen John Erskine in 2005-06 and Tom Poti in 2006-07.
Many folks know that Caps D John Carlson and Rangers D Michael Del Zotto were defense partners on the 2008-09 OHL London Knights under former Capitals coach Dale Hunter, but folks probably don't realize Del Zotto and Michal Neuvirth were teammates on the Oshawa Generals the season before. Let's also not forget that John Carlson scored the gold medal-winning goal at the 2010 World Junior Championships; his teammates included Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider. Speaking of World Juniors, Karl Alzner and Marc Staal won gold together for Team Canada in 2007.
At the 2010 World Championships, Brooks Laich played with Rangers' defensemen Michael Del Zotto and Marc Staal on the Canadian entry. At those same championships, Caps defenseman Jack Hillen played with Chris Kreider and Matt Gilroy on the American team.
Jason Chimera and Michael Del Zotto
Let's not forget that Caps defenseman Tomas Kundratek was drafted by the New York Rangers in 2008 and spent a couple seasons playing for their AHL team, the Hartford Wolf Pack and the Connecticut Whale. While in the AHL, Kundratek played with Michael Del Zotto, Ryan McDonagh, Carl Hagelin, Kris Newbury, Stu Bickel, and Mats Zuccarello-Aasen, along with current Capital teammate Wojtek Wolski. While Kundratek is in Hershey now after spending the first half of the season in DC, there is a chance he would get called up if there was an injury. Those players are more likely to be a part of the future rivalry between these teams, much like Ranger forward JT Miller and Capitals prospect Tom Wilson, who were teammates on the OHL Plymouth Whalers last season.
And of course, Rangers winger Taylor Pyatt has a family connection to the Capitals, as his father Nelson was the Caps leading scorer in 1975-76.