With only a few hours remaining before the puck drops on the NHL's second season, we were able to set our waterbottles aside and sit down email with Kevin from The New York Rangers Blog and pick his brain on the Capitals-Rangers playoff series set to start tomorrow. While questions regarding Sean Avery's spring collection went unanswered, we were able to get his thoughts on the five most pressing topics Caps fans have been wondering about. We were kind enough to share our thoughts on the series as well, so be sure to head over to his blog to see what we had to say regarding the Caps' goaltending, Alex Ovechkin's "slump" and the ghosts of playoffs past.
Entering the postseason without Ryan Callahan, who had two goals in three games against the Caps, who can you expect to bring the Rangers' offense against the Caps' D?
With the struggling Marian Gaborik (22g in 62 games) being the only legitimate scoring threat on the Rangers there really isn't one person who is going to be relied on to bring the offense. As has been the case all year it's going to be a team effort. All you need to do is look at the goal scorers in the final game of the season (Drury (1g), Wolski (12g), McDonagh (1g), Prust (13g) and Prospal (9)) against the Devils to see that this is a team of grinders with a different group stepping up on the offensive end every night. The Rangers didn't have a single 25 goal scorer this season but they did have six players score 18 goals or more.
The last time a Goalie not named Lundqvist dressed for the Blueshirts was during the first week of February. With Biron out with a broken collarbone, and backup Chad Johnson playing one game this season, how important is he to a Rangers series victory? Will fatigue be an issue?
Henrik Lundqvist is THE key to this series for the Rangers. If he falters the Rangers have no chance. He literally put the team on his back the final month of the season and got them in the playoffs. Having said that, Lundqvist has been known to breakdown in the playoffs from overuse during the regular season and has been outplayed in every series the Rangers have been eliminated from since the lockout including by Varlamov in 2009. I do think this year will be different as Lundqvist has amazingly taken his game up a notch and I expect nothing but his best in this series.
In their final 15 games of the season, New York played 9 games against playoff bound teams, besting San Jose, Montreal and Pittsburgh- and Boston and Philadelphia twice. Did this final tough stretch, coupled with the urgency to reach the postseason, help or hurt the Rangers?
It absolutely helps. The Rangers have basically been playing playoff hockey for the last three weeks. This gives them a major advantage over a Capitals team whose division title nor playoff spot was ever in doubt down the stretch.
With his antics legendary, what can we expect of Sean Avery this post-season, play-wise and controversy-wise? Since he was scratched in the final regular season game for Chris Drury, what impact can we expect from #23 in return?
Sadly, the days of the agitating Sean Avery seem to be over. Since the series against the Capitals back 2009 when Avery was out of control, John Tortorella has kept him on a short leash and basically neutered the real Sean Avery. He is playing less than 10 minutes a game and I don't expect him to have much of an impact in the series. As far as Chris Drury, aka Captain Clutch, goes his Saturday afternoon goal against the Devils in his first game back from knee surgery is what he's all about. Stepping up in the big moment and there is no bigger moment than the playoffs. His return will also soften the blow of losing Ryan Callahan's leadership on and off the ice.
The Capitals and Rangers boast the second and fourth youngest teams in the playoffs, respectively. Are the Caps or the Rangers in better position to turn that youth to their advantage?
I feel that it benefits the Rangers because of Tortorella. He has guided a young, inexperienced team to a Stanley Cup in the past and will know what buttons to push to keep them relaxed. He has already compared the novice Rangers to that Tampa team hoping they'll be as oblivious of the moment as that Lightning team was.