NHL Playoffs 2012: Capitals vs. Rangers Game 7 Analysis, Preview
It is the second straight series to go the distance for both the Rangers and Capitals. The winner will face the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Final.
The two teams have provided fans with some of the best hockey of the 2012 playoffs. Here is a look at the results of the first six games of the series.
Game 1: Capitals 1 at Rangers 3
Game 2: Capitals 3 at Rangers 2
Game 3: Rangers 2 at Capitals 1 (3OT)
Game 4: Rangers 2 at Capitals 3
Game 5: Capitals 2 at Rangers 3 (OT)
Game 6: Rangers 1 at Capitals 2
The theme in the playoffs has been the same for both teams: tight checking, low scoring games, featuring great shot blocking and better goaltending.
The Capitals won their first-round series with the Bruins in overtime of Game 7. Each game was decided by a single goal, with four being decided in overtime. In the end, the Capitals outscored the Bruins 16-15 in the series.
The Rangers were down 3-2 to the Senators in their first-round series, before winning Game 7, 2-1. The series featured two overtime games and saw the Rangers edge the Senators 14-13 in total goals.
Who will win Game 7?
Holtby and Lundqvist
Considering how tough it has been to score on the Rangers and Capitals in the playoffs, it’s no surprise that Henrik Lundqvist and Braden Holtby are receiving consideration for the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Lundqvist is 7-6 in the playoffs, has a 1.73 goals-against average, a .936 save percentage and a shutout.
Holtby is also 7-6 in the playoffs, has a 1.95 goals-against average, a .935 save percentage and no shutouts.
Lundqvist and Holtby both have the experience of winning a Game 7 in the first round. Expect both goaltenders to be brilliant in Game 7 and for goals to come exclusively on rebounds or tipped shots from the point.
Ovechkin and Richards
The two players who have been most successful on offense in this series are, as expected, Alex Ovechkin and Brad Richards.
Ovechkin has managed to beat Lundqvist high glove on three occasions, including on the first goal of Game 6. Ovechkin leads the Capitals in playoff scoring with five goals and nine points. For the Rangers to win Game 7, they will have to limit Ovechkin’s chances like they did in Game 5, when Ovie had no shots for the first time this year.
The Rangers’ offense is led by former Conn Smythe Trophy winner Brad Richards. Richards was the hero in Game 5 when he scored with under 10 seconds to go in regulation to send the game to overtime. Richards has five goals and five assists for 10 points, and is averaging over 23 minutes of ice time in the playoffs.
The Rangers and Capitals have managed to limit the scoring chances of talented forwards like Ovie and Richards by supporting their goaltenders with solid team defense. That defense, along with physicality, shot-blocking and special teams play, is why the Rangers and Capitals got this far in the playoffs.
The Rangers and Capitals have proven they can protect a lead in the playoffs. When leading after two periods, the Capitals are 4-0 and the Rangers are 3-0. When scoring first the Capitals are 7-1, while the Rangers are 6-2.
The Rangers are first in the playoffs with 453 hits and the Capitals are second with 427. They Capitals lead all playoff teams with 293 blocked shots, while the Rangers are second with 248 blocked shots. A huge part of each team’s first-round series win was blocking shots and it should be a determining factor in Game 7.
The Capitals’ special teams holds a slight edge over the Rangers' in the playoffs. The Capitals’ power play is operating at 20.9 percent, while the Rangers have made good on 16.4 percent of their power plays. The Capitals’ penalty kill is operating at 87.0 percent, compared to the Rangers’ 82.2 percent.
However, the Capitals’ penalty kill did allow two goals in Game 5 which gave the Rangers a come-from-behind win that may stand as a turning point in the series.
With those percentages in mind, it’s important to point out that New York has spent over 18 minutes more on the power play than they have on the penalty kill. For the Capitals, it’s the exact opposite, as they’ve spent over 19 minutes more killing penalties, than they have on the power play.
If there is one safe bet for Game 7 it’s that it won’t be a blow out. It could come down to a lucky bounce, or a penalty call, like Game 5 did.
Each team will try to simplify their game and, as always, do the little things needed to win. This includes being strong in the faceoff circle, getting pucks to the net, limiting giveaways and blocking shots.
If the Rangers win it will be their first conference final appearance since 1997, when they lost to the Philadelphia Flyers in five games.
If the Capitals win, it will be their first conference final appearance since 1998, when they went on to lose to the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup final.
Prediction: Capitals Win 2-1 in overtime.
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