2011 NHL Playoffs Predictions: Who'll Win the Rangers-Capitals Series?

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2011 NHL Playoffs Predictions: Who'll Win the Rangers-Capitals Series?
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Yes it is just one game and many will say I am already back pedaling on my prediction, and while on the surface that might be true, I believed that if the Washington Capitals could win game one, they would win the series.

In past playoff seasons, it was never so much the fact that Washington lost in the playoffs as much as it was how they lost in the playoffs. 

On Wednesday, the New York Rangers were the ghost of Capitals playoff pasts.

In past years it was the Caps that led by one goal midway through the third period, it was the Caps that allowed goals where the referee was a split second away from blowing the play dead and of course it was always the Capitals that lost in overtime during the playoffs.

I cannot remember any No.1 seeded team that had as many questions to answer as the Capitals did prior to game one.

How would the Capitals react if they got behind in the game, especially late? Which young netminder would get the start for Washington and how would he perform? How would Mike Green hold up after missing 20 games?

The Caps held up just fine after allowing the first goal of the game in the third period.

23-year-old Capitals rookie goalie Michael Neuvirth out-dueled the NHL's regular season shutout leader, Henrik Lundqvist and looked good and confident in the process.

Just as the entire defensive unit did, Mike Green played great and got stronger as the game went along.

The Caps two Alex's led the way on offense, and that is especially great news in the case of Alexander Semin. His two points in last night's game matched his total output from all seven games against Montreal in last year's opening round series.

Semin's overtime winner was his first goal in 15 playoff games and his two point night matched his entire seven game output in last year’s first round loss.

There were as many question marks next to Bruce Boudreau’s name headed into this post season as there were about his team. Many wondered if he and his staff learned anything in losing three game sevens on home ice in the last three years.

Apparently, Boudreau did learn from his past mistakes. His team out-hustled, out-hit, out-shot, out-played, and ultimately outscored the Rangers in game 1 on Wednesday night.

Boudreau out-coached former Stanley Cup winning head coach John Tortorella of the Rangers, and while New York fans may not agree, I point out the adjustments Boudreau made in the third period against the ones Tortorella did not make.

Boudreau managed his team’s ice time flawlessly. The Capitals were the fresher team in overtime. The Capitals registered more shots in overtime than they did in either the first, second or third periods.

Tortorella never scaled back the tiresome forecheck that wore his team down, and while he is moving the struggling Marian Gaborik on a line with Vinny Prospal and Erik Christensen for game two, he made no adjustments on the fly in game one.

Boudreau also shuffled his top two lines just enough so that Semin saw time with his fellow countryman Alex Ovechkin. How did that work out for the Caps.?

It took just two shifts to produce the tying goal, as Ovie and Semin worked Lundqvist in the crease to force the marker.

Many of you might be saying that this is a whole lot of optimism from one game. My response is I remember Easter Eve in 1987, and Petr Nedved in 1996. I also remember the eight times we led a playoff series 2-0 or 3-1, only to lose it all in a game seven.

I also remember last year and so do Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom, Green, Knuble and Boudreau. While it is just one game, the Rangers are about to find out how big a victory they let slip out of their hands.

Aside from what has been mentioned, the Caps must continue to get good play from their second, third and fourth lines as well. Playoff series such as this one was designed for players like Matt Bradley and Marcus Johansson to shine.

Anyone remember John Druce?

Here are five adjustments Washington can make to win game two and eventually finish the Rangers off in five games.

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