Everything the Caps Need To Know About the Rangers (But Were Afraid To Ask)

Martin AverySenior Writer IApril 14, 2009

NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 11:  Colton Orr #28 of the New York Rangers fights with Donald Brashear #87 of the Washington Capitals on February 11, 2009 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Here's the Top 10 Things the Washington Capitals need to know about the New York Rangers but are probably afraid to ask.

The Capitals, with Alexander Ovechkin, had a great season and probably deserve some other reward than a playoff series against the revamped New York Rangers, with Sean Avery.

The Caps have not seen the Rangers since they added coach John Tortorella and Avery, now known as "Averella." They already know the Rangers are tougher and their enorcer, Colton Orr, can handle the Caps enforcer, Donald Brashear.

Here's everything the Caps need to know about the Rangers.

First of all, the Caps are not the Rangers first choice for the playoffs. They aren't even seconds.

Like me, a lot of people wanted to see the New York Rangers draw the New Jersey Devils for the first round of the playoffs, for a re-match of the series that gave the NHL The Avery Rule.

Second choice was a series against the league-leading Boston Bruins, as Avery created a new controversy with their goaltender. The Rangers beat them recently.

Third choice might have been the Rangers versus the Penguins, with Crosby. Avery and Crosby appeared to be trading roles, a bit. Crosby is turning into more of a fighter and Avery is turning into more of a scorer.

The Rangers, finishing the regular season in seventh place, drew the Washington Capitals, in second place. The Caps are expected to win but the Rangers are seen as a dark horse and the most likely team in the East to create an upset.

This series is billed as Ovechkin and the Capitals hosting Avery and the revamped Rangers. The Capitals are expected to win, as they had more points and have more firepower, but the Rangers are can cause an upset, as they have better goaltending and a mysterious quality called The Avery Effect.

Opposing teams get so focused on Avery, they forget to play hockey, and the Rangers win the games, getting goals not just from one or two guys but a group of nine or 10, including Avery.

The Caps expect Avery to target Ovechkin, Green, and the Caps goalie, Jose Theodore. They know they have to expect the unexpected from No. 16.

That's what the Caps already know. Here's the top 10 things the Caps may not know about the Rangers.

10. The Rangers became a Cinderella team in the stretch run. The ended their longest midseason slump with three (count 'em) three-game winning streaks, including a win over the Eastern Conference leading Boston Bruins and three in a row over the Philadelphia Flyers.

9. The Rangers are hot and getting better, game by game. Tortorella called their wins at the start of the stretch run "ugly" but noted that good teams find ways to win and that's what they were doing.

Their more recent wins were not 'ugly', they were beautiful. Tortorella keeps his team focused on the here and now, winning one period at a time, and then one game at a time, and now one series at a time.

8. The Rangers were considered a Cinderella team and are the called the number one dark horse in the NHL, or the most likely to upset a team that finished higher than them in the regular season.

Picture Cinderella riding a dark horse down the stretch and into the playoffs. Keep that image in mind. This team is no longer called The Vanilla Rangers. They're out to upset you.

7. The Rangers are a team made up of a lot of first round draft picks and former NHL captains. They started the year off strong, going 10-2, and then took it easy, but finished strong, so they are the opposite of burnt out at the start of the playoffs.

Look out for Markus Naslund, Nikolai Zherdev, Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, Ryan Callahan, Mark Staal, Lauri Korpikoski, Fredrik Sjostrom, Brandon Dubinsky and Sean Avery. The Rangers miss Jagr and don't have an Ovechkin, but they can get goals from nine guys and surprise you.

6. Henrik Lundqvist, in goal for the Rangers, set an NHL record this year for most consecutive seasons with 30 wins or more since joining the league. He has already had great success in international hockey series. He had a career high number of wins this year. The Rangers still call him "The King." His back-up is 6'9".

5. Nik Antropov scored a goal every three games, on average, with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but he scored a goal every other game with the Rangers. Big Nik, as he's known, is a finesse player, a play-maker, who uses his reach and size (6'6") to score a lot of goals. The Caps might know that, but do they know he is also capable of flying through the air to land in front of the net and push the puck across the goal line?

4. Ryan Callahan is scoring lots of goals under Tortorella's new regime, which features non-stop aggressive attack. He plays well with Avery and without him.

In their last game, Callahan took the place of the Rangers captain, Chris Drury, and scored two goals. He scored 22 regular season goals and got 18 assists for 40 points for an excellent rookie year.

3. The Rangers have the best penalty-killing record in the NHL this year. They don't have the best power play in the world. But who has both the best penalty killers and the best power play? The Rangers power play unit has shown signs of life in the stretch run. Blair Betts is great as a penalty killer and he has started scoring again.

2. Drury and Scott Gomez, criticized for being paid like superstars but not performing like Jaromir Jagr, have both thrived under Tortorella, with the revamped Rangers. Gomez is great on the first line with Avery and Antropov, in particular. Drury scored two goals and got two assists in his last two games. Look out.

1. Avery and Tortorella together are known as Averella, and that's not just the name of a surprising 'bromance', it's the name of a fire-breathing, two-headed monster that is all about aggressive attacks.

Tortorella's had the team playing playoff style hockey for a month and Avery's known to inspire the team to pick it up a few notches, especially during the playoffs.

The Rangers know Ovechkin had a great season. Not only did he lead the scoring race and end the regular season as the first and only hockey player in the NHL to score 50 goals or more, he also took over Sidney Crosby's title as the best in the league.

Many argued about who was better, Crosby or Ovechkin, but by the end of the season the scoring leader looked like the clear-cut winner.

Ovechkin was regarded as a franchise player, a guy who lifted a weak time way up. The team was built around him, to give him the support he needed. He did not have to do it all by himself, anymore.

In particular, they have Mike Green, who led all defensemen in the NHL in goals (31) and points (73), and was also counted on to save the Capitals' goalie, Theodore, who was sometimes called "shaky" in the net for the Caps.

The Capitals looked shaky in their final game of the year and the Rangers looked impressive, ending the season with another three game winning streak, which included two huge victories over the Philadelphia Flyers.

Avery may be controversial but Ovechkin caused some controversy this season with antics of his own. When he scored his 50th goal, he did some showboating that attracted the scorn of Don Cherry and other hockey commentators.

Ovechkin performed a pantomime on the ice, pretending his hockey stick was too hot to pick up. Avery's acting skills are more honed.

The Caps don't know if Avery will be reprising his roll as "Killer" Dill, from the movie called The Rocket, about Maurice Richard, or if they will see him in his new role, as a Zen-like Robot who scores and sets up goals but will still drop the gloves, happily, if the timing is just right.

The know he will play the role of Puckface—that's the working title of the movie in the works about Avery—but Puck is a character that's always full of surprises.


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