NHL Playoff Preview: No. 7 New York Rangers Vs. No. 2 Washington Capitals

Ben LivingstonCorrespondent IApril 14, 2009

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 01:  Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals skates against the New York Rangers during their NHL game on November 1, 2007 at Madison Square Garden in New York, New York.  The Rangers defeated the Capitals 2-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

 No. 7 New York Rangers vs. No. 2 Washington Capitals

Season Series: Capitals (3-1)


Why should I pick the Capitals in this one? Ovechkin.


Oops. I probably should write more here…Alex Ovechkin.


Is that enough? No?


Well, if Alexander the Great isn’t enough of a reason for you to pick the Capitals in this series, you might want to watch this guy play a bit more often. Ovie has been smoking defenses and goalies alike all year, his only weak streak coming in the first couple months of the season.


However, this streak was defined by the fact that he was a measly second in the NHL in goals for about half of the first couple months (he led the NHL in goals for the other half of that period of time, and for the rest of the season).


Last season Ovechkin was “shut down” by the Philadelphia Flyers, just managing four goals in seven games, including just two game-winning goals and only one game-tying goal. Also, in case you were wondering, I am not being sarcastic here. The Flyers’ defense did an amazing job of keeping Ovechkin in check, lead by level-headed defenders Braydon Coburn and Kimmo Timonen.


Video Play Button
Videos you might like

Unlike the Flyers, the Rangers defense has nobody who could even dream of keeping tabs on Ovechkin. Unless Sean Avery can find a way to frustrate Ovechkin, there’s nothing that any Ranger skater is going to be able to do to keep him from unloading a barrage of rockets on Henrik Lundqvist, who can only stop so many shots.


As for the other players on both teams, it goes without saying that the Capitals have talented players not named Alex Ovechkin. Mike Green has had an unbelievable season, becoming the first defenseman in 16 years to score 30 goals. He did all this while missing 15 games.


Alex Semin has also played very well, missing 20 games but notching 34 goals. With Green, Semin, Ovechkin, and center Niklas Backstrom all playing different positions, the Capitals can spread their superstars out onto different lines, or put them together in one unbelievably powerful line if needed.


In goal, Jose Theodore has been sub-par all year long, but it hasn’t mattered because of the Capitals’ electric scoring attack.


If there’s one hope for the Rangers, it’s Henrik Lundqvist. The perennial contender for the Vezina Trophy is going to face a ton of shots in this series, and he’s going to have to be even more amazing than he usually is if the Rangers are going to stand any chance in this series.


However, Lundqvist has been unable to carry the Rangers deep into the playoffs during his career, making it seem unlikely that he’ll be able to do so this year, especially given the intense competition the Rangers are facing.


Elsewhere, Sean Avery can only frustrate so many players at once, and with the electricity that Washington plays with, he’s going to end up biting off more than he can chew. He’ll get frustrated himself, and if he takes a dumb penalty, he’ll likely regret it given the Caps’ strong power play.


The Rangers have made a very impressive late-season run thanks to John Tortorella and Sean Avery, and they would probably be able to make a great playoff run if the circumstances were different. However, this match-up just does not bode well for the Rangers, and their season will come to a quick end, allowing Martin Brodeur to sleep well at night once again.


Prediction: Capitals in 5


Check out Ben Livingston's other playoff previews, which can be accessed in the module to the right of this article. More will be posted on Bleacher Report in the days to come.