NHL Playoffs: 10 Reasons the New York Rangers Will Stun the Washington Capitals

Nicholas PuglieseContributor IIIApril 18, 2011

NHL Playoffs: 10 Reasons the New York Rangers Will Stun the Washington Capitals

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    The Washington Capitals currently hold a two games to one lead over the New York Rangers in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, but there 10 very good reasons why the Rangers will upset the top-seeded Capitals and advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

    If you wanna see Alexander Ovechkin lose, read the rest of the slideshow.

10. History Repeats Itself

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    Last year entering Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarter finals, the Washington Capitals held a 2-1 lead over the Montreal Canadiens.

    At the time the Capitals were the No. 1 seed in the conference with 121 points and the Canadiens were the eight-seed with 88 points, much like the Caps and Rangers this year.

    The Capitals would go as far as to get the 3-1 series lead over the Canadiens before the Canadiens won three straight to complete the stunning defeat.

    Any historian you talk to will tell you the same thing—history finds a way to repeat itself, and the Rangers have that on their side.

9. The PBA Line

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    Since being put together in Game 2 by John Tortorella, the Brandon Prust-Brian Boyle-Sean Avery line has arguably been the best line on the ice for either team.

    A line full of speed, grit, and toughness they have been able to get things going on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ice.

    The physicality they possess and bring each and every shift is unmatched in the series and will wear down the Capitals' skaters.

    It was a key coincidental minor Brian Boyle baited rookie defenseman John Carlson into taking that set up the four-on-four in which Brandon Dubinsky scored because Carlson was not on the ice to defend his line that shift.

    In playoff hockey if you can throw the body, block shots, win the battles in the corners, and create scoring chances you will eventually be successful, and that is what this line does for the New York Rangers.

8. Rookie Goaltending

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    Michal Neuvirth has been great through the first three games of the series, leading all playoff goalies in goals against and is second in save percentage.

    When dealing with a rookie goaltender, however, you do not know how long he is going to be able to keep up that level of play under the pressure of playoff hockey.

    All the talk has been about how Neuvirth has been able to remain 'calm as a cucumber' through all the adversity, but I would be willing to bet if the Rangers' forwards are able to continually crash the net hard and get in his face without any of the Capitals trying to defend him it will indeed get to him.

    I counted four or five times in Game 3 that Brandon Prust was able to in some way bump Neuvirth and not have one Capitals' player say something to him.

    The Rangers are doing a great job trying to get in the head of the young goaltender, and one can only wonder just how much longer he will be able to take it.

7. The Regular Season Hangover

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    A lot of people like to say when the playoffs come around the regular season no longer matters, and understandably so. I am not one of those people.

    The Rangers took three of four games from the Capitals in the regular season, including three straight to finish the season. The one loss was a shootout loss. So the Rangers had a chance to win every game.

    Two of the wins the Rangers handed the Capitals happened to be two of the worst loses they suffered all year at 6-0 and 7-0.

    Just take a look at Neuvirth's regular season stats against the Rangers—two starts, 1-1-0 record, nine goals against, 4.50 GAA, and .839 Sv%.

    Those games are always going to be in the back of the players' heads, whether they like it or not.

6. Alexander Hasn't Been the Great

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    This point is going to sound a bit dumb to someone who just takes a look at the stats and sees Alexander Ovechkin has two goals and two assists in the three games, but from watching him he simply hasn't been the same dominant player I've seen in the past.

    The two goals he scored were pretty much garbage goals, one on a deflection and the other on a rebound.

    There is nothing wrong with garbage goals, but Ovechkin has not been creating his own scoring chances on a consistent basis and putting a real fear into the Rangers. To add to it every time he seems to take a shot it misses the net by five feet.

    Something about him appears to be off this series.

    For the Capitals to win, Ovechkin has to start hitting the net with his rocket and doing a little more on the offensive end of the rink.

5. The Rangers Scoring Depth

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    What a lot of people don't realize because of names like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alex Semin, is that the Rangers outscored the Capitals 233-224 in the regular season. They do go through stretches when they cannot buy a goal, but they have great depth in their lines.

    During the regular season the Rangers had five skaters to put up 20 goals, and although Ryan Callahan is out with an injury, had Vinny Prospal played the full season he presumably would have also hit the 20 goal plateau.

    Throw in that four more guys were in double digit goals it creates a very formidable group of scorers. It makes it very difficult for the opposition to defend.

4. The Capitals Know How to Choke

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    For the last few years the Capitals have had one of the most talented teams in the NHL

    In 2008 they entered the playoffs as a three-seed, in 2009 a two-seed, and in 2010 the No. 1 seed. 

    Despite the high seeds and expectations, the Capitals have only been able to make it past the first round of the playoffs just once. As it happens, that one win was against the New York Rangers.

    The fashion in which they have lost has caused heartbreak for Caps fans. As mentioned in the previous slides, last year they lost to the Canadiens after being up 3-1, eventually losing in game seven. After making it to the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2009 and gaining a 2-0 advantage on the Penguins, they wound up losing to Sid the Kid in seven. And in 2008 they battled from being down 3-1 to the Flyers to get the series to game seven before falling again.

    They have made a living about going deep into playoff series before choking and failing to win that cup that has alluded Ovie in his illustrious career.

3. Heart

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    Even missing the main engine that makes the train run, the Rangers have more heart than any team in the NHL

    There is only one superstar skater on this team with the rest just being a group of hard working, not as talented grinders.

    The Rangers heart and grit originates from the preachings of head coach John Tortorella, who has given the team the legs needed to play so hard with a tough training camp and instilling the idea in their head that they will need to out hustle teams to win.

    The reason I have enjoyed watching the Rangers so much this season is because they are no longer that team packed with talent that underachieves as a result of no desire to becoming the blue-collar team who does the dirty things needed to win.

2. Henrik Lundqvist

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    I hate using this phrase, but King Henrik actually is "The Man, The Myth, The Legend."

    Year in and year out Hank is the sole reason the Rangers are in the race for a playoff birth. 

    He is one of the most consistent goalies in the entire league and the best thing to happen to the Rangers franchise since Mark Messier. 

    At this point Henrik has to be inside the Capitals' heads. In the regular season he went 2-1-0 with four goals against good for a 1.34 GAA on 89 shots, and .955 save percentage while posting two shutouts. 

    In the playoffs he has posted a 1.84 GAA along with a .932 save percentage.

    The Capitals just cannot seem to find an answer to beat the King, who can be the most dominant player in this series if he's on.

1. Brandon Dubinsky's Mustache

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    Just like the world will never know how many licks it takes to get to the center of a tootsie pop, I will never know how Brandon Dubinsky grew this masterpiece overnight.

    Nevertheless, it is a true work of art that deserves to stick around for longer than one playoff series.