Empire State of Mind. (NBCW)
With the regular season now closed, we know that the Washington Capitals will face the New York Rangers in the playoffs for the fourth time in the last five postseasons. The Capitals took a crazy route to get here, getting off to a terrible start before closing out the year on an impressive hot streak to lock up the Southeast Division and the number three seed. The Rangers, meanwhile, after a summer that saw them add star forward Rick Nash, struggled to put wins together on a regular basis for much of the year but were energized at the trade deadline by the departure of Marian Gaborik and the addition of Derick Brassard, Ryan Clowe, and other depth-level forwards. And so they meet again, starting early this week at Verizon Center. Let’s take a look at each aspect of each team, shall we?
FORWARDS: Both teams feature several name-brand stars at the top of their rosters among forwards. The Capitals’ attack is spearheaded by 2013 Rocket Richard Trophy winner Alex Ovechkin, with Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Ribeiro, Marcus Johansson, Troy Brouwer, and Martin Erat filling out the top six. New York is led by Rick Nash, who scored 21 goals this season, with Brad Richards, Ryan Callahan, Carl Hagelin, Derek Stepan, and Mats Zuccarello rounding out the scoring forwards. Below that, the Capitals have more depth with the way Eric Fehr, Mathieu Perreault, and Jason Chimera have been playing of late and are likely to be aided by the return of Joel Ward and perhaps later Brooks Laich. The Rangers have Brassard below their top scorers, and he has played well since arriving, and also have a potential X-factor in last year’s playoff darling, Chris Kreider. However, they also have several injuries with undefined return dates, like Derek Dorsett, Brian Boyle and Ryan Clowe, that really hurts their depth. Overall, the Caps have the best goal scorer in the NHL as part of a unit that has played well despite missing two of their best forwards and, at least right now, have the better and hotter difference makers lower down in the lineup. EDGE: Capitals.
Read on about the series here.