Game 7 Preview: Rangers at Capitals

#6 New York Rangers at #3 Washington Capitals
Series Tied 3-3
Location:  Verizon Center
Time:
8:00 PM
TV:  Local: CSN, National: NBCSN, 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)
Game 6, May 12 in New York, 0-1 L
Familiar Faces of Former Capitals:  D Steve Eminger (212 GP, 2002-08)

C'mon Ref! Read on!


Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

The Washington Capitals are now on the verge of being eliminated after taking 2-0 and 3-2 series leads.  While this may sound like a familiar refrain to tortured fans of this team for the last 20 years, these aren't your daddy's Capitals, and they didn't play as poorly as the score indicated in Games 4 and 6 of this series.  The Caps were whistled for 5 penalties in their Game 6 loss, while the officials gave them 0 powerplays, a very biased game.  With new referees on the ice tonight, better ice in DC, and a home crowd to cheer them on, the Capitals have a very good likelihood of success tonight.  They will need to not give the officials any excuses to penalize them and play a majority of the game in the Rangers' end if they are going to move on to the next round.

The New York Rangers have accomplished what they set out to do in this series so far: give themselves a chance to win it.  The Rangers have been playing strong defensive hockey and have been getting excellent goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist to keep themselves in every game of this series.  They will need more scoring if they want to have a realistic chance of winning, and that means getting their dormant powerplay going.  The Rangers have had the most powerplay time of any playoff team, yet have only managed 2 goals with the man advantage.  They will almost certainly get plenty of chances again tonight, but they have to make adjustments to make them count. 

Injury Report: Capitals' LW Martin Erat (forearm) is out. C Brooks Laich (groin) is questionable.
-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:

Second hands:  At this point in a playoff series, there is nothing new, nothing to hide between the teams.  Both sides know the others' strengths and weaknesses, and the Capitals have certainly had strong play fro their second line.  In the absence of Marc Staal for all but Game 3, the Rangers have relied on Anton Stralman and John Moore to try to shut down the Mike Ribeiro line for the Capitals.  While the line has accounted for only two even strength goals, they have been huge ones.  Troy Brouwer scored on his backhand with 18 seconds left inthe second period of Game 4 to tie the game heading into the intermission to give the Caps a chance to win it.  The other goal was Mike Ribeiro's overtime strike in Game 5.  The Ribeiro line spent a good portion of Game 6 in the Rangers zone, cycling the puck and forecechking well.  If the Capitals are going to move on in this series, they will almost certainly need at least one goal from Mike Ribeiro's line in this pivotal Game 7. 

Fatigue Factor:  The Capitals and Rangers have spent the past 11 days bludgeoning each other in 6 hard-fought playoff games.  With the Game 7 start coming just 24 after the end of Game 6, neither side will have much time to rest their bumps and bruises or work out any kinks in their systems.  The players who have been heavily used on both sides, especially in those "high-stress minutes," will have the heaviest legs and will be the most prone to mental mistakes, a la Ryan McDonagh in overtime in Game 2.  The Capitals have generally done a better job than the Rangers of spreading out the minutes among their defensemen, and the heavy workload affects nobody more than Rangers #1 defenseman Dan Girardi.  Girardi has played over 29 minutes in 3 games in this series and played 24 last night.  He was also the recipient of two thunderous body checks from Alex Ovechkin in Game 6, and Ovechkin had a little more room to operate as a result, getting some more quality scoring chances at even strength.  If the Rangers' rock on defense has any sort of letdown in Game 7, Ovechkin will be able to take advantage of it and put the Rangers away. 

Red Army:  Rangers' head coach John Tortorella is on record as saying home-ice advantage only really matters in the playoffs in Game 7.  The home team has won each game in this series, and now the Capitals have Game 7 on home ice.  The sea of red-clad fans have been a huge source of inspiration for the Capitals, as Joel Ward so aptly said after Game 5, and the energy the Caps will feel from the crowd, not to mention the intimidation factor on the officials and visiting players will feel, could make all the difference.  Here's hoping the best fans in the NHL enjoy the game tonight and make Verizon Center register on the Richter Scale.  

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