The Washington Capitals are set to face the New York Rangers in the first round of the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. That doesn't mean the teams are all that familiar with each other because of it, though. Only 7 of the 22 players from that 2009 Rangers playoff team are expected to face the Caps this year, and an eighth, Ryan Callahan, is injured and will not play. . By contrast, 12 of the Caps' 23 players who took the ice against the Rangers in 2009 are still on the team, though it is uncertain whether Semyon Varlamov or Tom Poti will see game action.
The coaching staffs have had some turnover, as well. The Capitals still have Head Coach Bruce Boudreau and Assistant Coach Dean Evason, but Assistant Coach Jay Leach was replaced by Bob Woods and Goalie Coach Dave Prior has been replaced by Arturs Irbe. The Rangers have replaced Assistant Coach Perry Pearn with Mike Sullivan, a teammate of Evason's and Irbe's in San Jose from 1991-93 and Evason again in 1995-96 in Calgary. The Rangers still have Head Coach John Tortorella and former Capitals head coach Jim Schoenfeld on staff. Who knows, perhaps we could expect another Jelly Doughnut Incident or Water Bottle Incident this year.
For some background info, here are the Rangers' career scoring stats against the Capitals in the playoffs.
Henrik Lundqvist was the Rangers starting goalie in '09 and went 3-4.
And here are the Capitals' career totals against the Rangers.
Add in Varlamov, who played 6 games with a 4-2 record.
Besides the four 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 Rangers defenseman Steve Eminger. Eminger played 212 games for the Capitals between 2002 and 2008 and was teammates with 11 players on the current Capitals roster. Eminger was also teammates with Brooks Laich and Boyd Gordon on the silver medal-winning 2003 World Junior Championship team.
Another interesting note is that recently re-signed Caps winger Mike Knuble played 141 games for the Rangers between 1998 and 2000, including the 1999-00 season when John Tortorella was assistant coach. He has also played with three current Rangers during his time in Philadelphia, including Eminger in briefly in '08. His other two teammates were Rangers backup goalie Martin Biron for three seasons and forward Vaclav "Vinny" Prospal in 2008. Knuble also played with Rangers Captain Chris Drury at the 2006 Olympics.
Speaking of Prospal, he is very familiar with playing the Capitals in the playoffs. This will be his fourth playoff series against the Caps with four different teams and he has scored 14 points in 14 games. He was a member of the 1998 Ottawa Senators, the Tortorella coached 2003 Tampa Bay Lightning (along with Ruslan Fedotenko), and the 2008 Flyers (with Knuble and Biron). Going way back, Prospal played with Caps assistant coach Bob Woods on the 1993-94 AHL Hershey Bears.
Capitals defenseman Scott Hannan was acquired mid-season from the Colorado Avalanche after 3 and a half seasons. While he was there, he not only played with Matt Hendricks last season, but he was also mile-high teammates with Rangers forward Wojtek Wolski for 3 years. Speaking of mid-season trades, the Florida Panthers traded away a lot of veterans at the deadline this year, among them were Dennis Wideman, who came to Washington, and Bryan McCabe, who was sent to Manhattan. If Wideman plays in the first round, it would be an interesting matchup.
Rangers center Artem (pr: Artyom) Anisimov is very familiar with the Russian players on the Capitals, particularly goalie Semyon Varlamov. Anisimov and Varly grew up together in the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl system and were teammates from 2004-07 and again at the 2007 World Junior Championships. Anisimov and Varly teamed up with Alex Semin and Alex Ovechkin to win the silver medal at the 2010 World Championships last spring, too.
Artem Anisimov & Henrik Lundqvist
Also at those 2010 Championships, Brooks Laich played with Rangers' backup goalie Chad Johnson and defensemen Michael Del Zotto and Marc Staal on the Canadian entry. Staal also teamed up with Mike Green and Jason Chimera for the silver medal at the 2008 World Championships. On the Swedish entry at the 2008 tournament were Caps center Nicklas Backstrom and Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who played together again at the 2010 Olympics.
Going back to juniors for a moment, Rangers forward Erik Christensen played for the WHL Kamloops Blazers from 1999-2004, where Dean Evason was head coach from 1999-2002. He also played two seasons with Caps defenseman Tyler Sloan (2000-02). In 2003-04, Christensen was traded to the WHL Brandon Wheat Kings, where he played the second half of the season with Caps winger Eric Fehr. Two other players who were junior teammates were Caps D John Carlson and Rangers D Michael Del Zotto, who were defense partners on the 2008-09 OHL London Knights.
Michael Del Zotto
Before Rangers Captain Chris Drury and Caps defender Tom Poti were teammates at Boston University from 1996-98, they were also teammates at the 1996 World Junior Championship. They later won the silver medal together at the 2002 Olympics. After the Olympics, Poti was traded to the Rangers 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.
And, of course, Sean Avery used to play for Bruce Boudreau on the Manchester Monarchs in 2002-03. We all know how that turned out.