Washington Capitals (+166) at New York Rangers (-185, 5 o/u)
The New York Rangers (4-1, 2-1 home) have been waiting a while for the Washington Capitals (4-3, 1-2 away). The Blueshirts will get back on the ice tonight as the Caps, fresh off a thrilling Game 7 victory over the Rangers’ crosstown rivals, the N.Y. Islanders, travel to Madison Square Garden for Game 1 of the best-of-seven conference semi (7:30 PM Eastern).
The President’s Trophy-winning Rangers took care of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round, dropping just one game to Sidney Crosby and company. They remain the favorites to win the Eastern Conference after the dominant first round performance, but Washington has become a fierce playoff rival for the squad and the Rangers expect the series to be tight.
“It’s just a rivalry between the two teams, facing each other,” Rangers center Derick Brassard said. “We have the same core, they have the same core. We know a lot of their players. They know a lot of our players. It’s going to be a tough series. It’s going to be a big test for us to see how big we want to compete. I think this team is ready for another challenge.”
Washington forward Joel Ward is downplaying the rivalry, even though the teams have met five times in the playoffs since 2009. “They’ve changed. We’ve changed,” said Ward. “The only things that haven’t changed are the buildings and the uniforms. They’ve got a new coach. We’ve got a new coach. They’ve got new players. We’ve got new players. So it’s a whole different ballgame.”
Washington forward Nicholas Backstrom led his team in scoring in the first round with six points in seven games. while recently announced Hart Trophy finalist Alex Ovechkin had five. For the Rangers, Brassard, Rick Nash, and Ryan McDonagh all had four points in five games against the Pens.
Both goalies come in with sparkling statistics. New York’s Henrik Lundqvist is sporting a 1.53 GAA and a .939 SV%, the Caps’ Braden Holtby is averaging 1.63 goals against and has an even better .943 SV%. Of minor concern, though, is the fact that Holtby only had to make ten saves in the 2-1 win over the Islanders in Game 7, and the one that got by him smelled to high-heaven.
This year, the Rangers took three of four from Washington in the regular season. New York is also 8-3 SU in their last 11 at home against Washington.
Given the tight-checking nature of playoff hockey and the excellent goaltending on both teams – Holtby’s Game 7 slip notwithstanding – consider the under for tonight’s game.
(Photo credit: Keith Allison (Flickr: 00091427) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)