Game 6 Preview: Capitals at Rangers

#3 Washington Capitals at #6 New York Rangers
Capitals Lead Series 3-2
Location: Madison Square Garden
4:30 PM
TV:  Local: CSN, National: CNBC, Canada: TSN
Radio: 1500AM & 820AM
Previous Games:
Game 1, May 2 in Washington: 3-1 W
Game 2, May 4 in Washington, 1-0 W (OT)
Game 3, May 6 in New York, 3-4 L
Game 4, May 8 in New York, 3-4 L
Game 5, May 10 in Washington, 2-1 W (OT)
Remaining Game:
Game 7*, May 13 in Washington, TBD
*If necessary
Familiar Faces of Former Capitals:  D Steve Eminger (212 GP, 2002-08)

We're as excited as this guy! Read on!

Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images

Thanks to an overtime goal by Mike Ribeiro in game 5, the Washington Capitals come into Manhattan with a chance to eliminate the Rangers and move onto the second round for the third straight season.  The Capitals returned to their high-energy style of play last game, hemming the Rangers in their own zone and keeping the puck away from their own goal.  The Capitals also managed to convert on their first powerplay by changing their point of attack to the forward in the slot, an adjustment the Rangers weren't prepared for.  If the Capitals can maintain their energy level and keep up their strong forecheck, they will be able to keep the Rangers back on their heels and control the game.

For the New York Rangers, the task is simple: don't get eliminated.  Head Coach John Tortorella used every trick and adjustment he could to win two games in New York, but the Capitals adjusted back and kept the Rangers in check during game 5.  The Rangers also won't have some of their best players at their disposal, as defenseman Marc Staal and forward Ryane Clowe both were re-injured during the series.  None of Tortorella's lineup adjustments or line juggling have helped him unleash his top two offensive stars, either, as Rick Nash and Brad Richards have been kept silent throughout the series. If they stay dormant, the Rangers can't expect to win.

Injury Report: Capitals' C Brooks Laich (groin) and LW Martin Erat (forearm) are out. 
-For the Rangers, C Darroll Powe (concussion) and D Marc Staal (eye) are out.  RW Ryane Clowe (concussion) is doubtful.

Three Things To Watch For:

Ice Escapades:  The ice at Madison Square Garden was awful in games 3 and 4 and there is no reason to think it will be any better in game 6. The bad ice conditions are ideal for a big forechecking team like the Rangers that thrives on counterattacking off of turnovers. The Capitals' skill advantage was neutralized on the bad ice, as their passes skipped around the ice, often becoming uncontrollable.  If the Capitals are going to have success breaking the puck out of their zone or in creating offense, they are going to have to keep their passes shorter, simpler, and safer than they did earlier in the week so they can stay in control of the game.

For-Ward Thinking:  Capitals right winger Joel Ward is healthy and back with a vengeance.  He has been dominant in this series, especially since moving up to the third line, leading the team in assists and points.  Not that this should be a surprise, the burly veteran got his big payday here in DC because of his ability to produce in May.  Ward has been great at controlling play on the forecheck and forcing his way to the net. He was rewarded with powerplay time in game 5 and rewarded his team with a game-tying goal. Look for Ward to continue his strong play.

Tower of Power:  Rangers center Brian Boyle has been a key addition to the lineup in this series.  As the biggest player in this series at 6'7, 244, and playing over 20 minutes per game over the last 3 games, the Rangers go as he goes. He is their top faceoff man (57.6%) and leads the team in goals (2).  After missing game 1 with injury, Boyle returned to play 11:27 in a game 2 loss and was ineffective on faceoffs (44.4%). Boyle thrived over the next two games at home, winning 66.7% of his faceoffs and scoring a goal and an assist in a game 3 win. He followed that up by winning 68.9% of his draws in a game 4 win.  He started out game 5 by scoring in the game's first minute, but as he lost control in the faceoff circle (38.7%), the Rangers lost control of the game. The  coup de grâce came when Boyle took a retaliatory penalty, slashing Mike Ribeiro, and the Capitals' powerplay scored 11 seconds later. If Boyle gets his faceoff magic back at Madison Square Garden in game 6 and keeps playing his hard-nosed, strong forechecking style, he could turn the tide of the game back in the Rangers' favor.

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