TCL Round 2 Staff Predictions: New York Rangers vs. Washington Capitals


2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs - Eastern Conference Semifinals
New York Rangers ( 1 ) vs. Washington Capitals ( 7 )
It's not surprising that the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals got to the second round, it's how the got here. The Rangers were taken to the bring of elimination against an eighth seeded Ottawa Senators team who, let's face it, probably had no business being in the playoffs in the first place. The Capitals were not favorites in their series against the Boston Bruins, and had their own troubles on their way to a 7th place finish in the regular season, but with the talent they had, and a ridiculous hot rookie goaltender in Braden Holtby they defeated the defending Stanley Cup Champions, also in seven games, and they now find themselves facing yet another hurtle in the Rangers.
There are plenty of storylines heading into this series. The Capitals and Rangers are facing each other for the fourth time in the last five years in the post-season. But what's especially interesting is that it's the Capitals that usually find themselves at the top of the East. This time, it's the Rangers who dominated during the season, and then struggled against a first round opponent that everyone thought they should have easily beaten. But maybe the biggest difference between these two teams is that the Rangers, as the favorites and first seeded team, actually won their game seven at home. They've faced adversity, they know what it's like to come to the brink of elimination after an entire season of dominating, and they're ready for the Capitals.
That's not to say that the Caps don't have a chance in this. They also won a game seven and beat a team that should have probably taken care of them. Not to mention all the in-season drama, with the firing of Bruce Boudreau, the continued problems with the new coach, Dale Hunter, the lack of performance from many of the team's stars, and everything else. Now the Caps are playing well and responsibly, defeating the Bruins in the only series in NHL history to be decided by seven one-goal games, and they have a goalie who they can rely on in Holtby. Winning this and heading to the Eastern Conference finals isn't going to be obvious for either of these teams.
Consensus: 10 of 13 TCL writers pick the Rangers, consensus in 6 games.
Round 1 Results:
Rangers vs. Senators: 11 of 14 TCL writers correctly chose the Rangers to win, although the consensus was in 5 games. The Rangers defeated the Sens in 7 games.
Capitals vs. Bruins:  Only two (of 14) TCL writers predicted a Caps victory, but amazingly, both predicted it perfectly in 7 games. The consensus was Bruins in 6.
Game 1: Sat. April 28 at 3PM in New York
Game 2: Mon. April 30 at 7:30PM in New York
Game 3: Wed. May 2 at 7:30PM in Washington
Game 4: Sat. May 5 at 12:30PM in Washington
Game 5: Mon. May 7 at 7:30PM in New York (if necessary)
Game 6: Wed. May 9 at TBD in Washington (if necessary)
Game 7: Sat. May 12 at TBD in New York(if necessary)
*All Puckdrops are in Eastern Standard Time*
Previous Meetings: Three times in the last four years, Caps took the last one in 5 last year.
Coaching Battle: John Tortorella vs. Dale Hunter
Key Injuries:
New York: Michael Sauer (concussion, indefinitely), Steve Eminger (knee, indefinitely), Brian Boyle (concussion, DTD)

Washington: Tom Poti (groin, indefinitely), Tomas Vokoun (groin, indefinitely)

Genius Or Madness?
Derrick Newman -- Caps in 6
Adam Pardes -- Caps in 6
There's always some surprises in the NHL playoffs and I think the Caps-Rangers series could be the one that stands out in the second round. The Caps were able to beat a Bruins team which strongly resembles the Rangers, which gives me enough reason to think that they could do it again. Holtby will have to continue his strong play in net if the Caps hope to pull off the upset though.
Prax's Take:
There are plenty of storylines heading into this one. You have the grizzled, hot-headed veteran coach in John Tortorella, versus a coach in Dale Hunter on a perennial struggle to keep his team together and keep guys like Alex Ovechkin in line. You have the goaltending battle, once again with an experienced Vezina-caliber goalie in Lundqvist, versus the surprise rookie Holtby, who could be the X-factor. You have two young defense corps carrying their teams, two forward groups with plenty of big names that need to step up their games, and the winners of two grueling seven game series. Let's not forget these two teams will have completed their 4th series in 5 years against each other in two weeks. 
But the big difference here is that the Caps, a 7th seeded team with way too many problems, took out the defending Stanley Cup champ Boston Bruins in literally the closest playoff series of all time, a series that included seven one-goal games. On the other hand, the consensus here at TCL was that the Rangers would make quick and easy work of the Ottawa Senators, and that team almost pulled a Washington on their opponents. I know anything can happen in the playoffs, and all that jazz, but logically and on paper, the Capitals shouldn't be in the second round, and the Rangers should have been here much quicker and easier. If the Sens can take the Rangers to the brink of elimination, then the Caps, with what should be a much better line-up, a hot goalie and a coach with something to prove, can definitely take them out. But if the first round is any indication, neither team will have an easy time taking the other out. 
Prediction: Capitals in 7
Around The Checking Line:
Featured Writer -- Mark Trible:
The Rangers seven-game first round series brings back memories of the Bruins win over Montreal last season. Holtby has been unreal in net for Washington, as has Lundqvist for New York.In a low-scoring series, I'll go with the proven vet and Hart finalist.

Prediction: Rangers in 6

Featured Writer -- Kyle Andrew Busch: 
There's no way Holtby can go up against Lundqvist head to head. I also see that guys like Semin and Backstrom are buying in defensively, but it won't be enough against New York. None of the Caps big three take over the game anymore, and instead it's guys like Ryan Callahan that turn the tide. Washington just doesn't seem to have a championship team and the Rangers do.
Prediction: Rangers in 6
Featured Writer -- Jordan Kuhns: 
This series is freaking dangerous. The Bruins had so much depth and the Capitals sputtered all throughout the regular season to get to this point. The Caps found another level, which included limiting Alex Ovechkin's role, and it all worked out. For the Rangers, they got pushed to the brink by another up-and-coming team, and they needed to find themselves again to get through it. Braden Holtby played heroically in series one, but is he the next Semyon Varlamov? The Rangers are going to make this really difficult on the Caps. This has the ability to go seven, but I'm saying six.
Prediction: Rangers in 6
Andy Veilleux:
The Rangers' boast a better goaltender - not to take anything away from Holtby - and deeper defense core. McDonough, Staal and Girardi have been particularly stellar for the team this post-season. Richards and Callahan are playing like stars and Washington's offense has left much to be desired. The Rangers aren't filling the back of the net regularly but have shown an ability to score momentum-crushing goals.
Prediction: Rangers in 6
John Russo: 
New York almost let themselves down in the first round, beating the Sens in an unnecessary Game 7 in come-from-behind fashion. On the other hand, Washington played spoiled, knocking out one of the East's big boys in seven games, breaking Boston's hearts in overtime on Joel Ward's winner. That leads us to this ECS match up between another David and Goliath. It's all going to come down to goal-scoring. Washington is riding the hot goaltending of rookie Brayden Holtby, who has only been in the NHL for a couple of months. New York is riding their newly-named Vezina and Hart Trophy finalist Henrik Lundqvist. If it's going to come down to defense, it's New York's game. Washington is going to need to find ways to score on King Henrik but that's going to be a difficult task in itself. They'll win a couple but in the end, New York moves on to the ECF for the first time since 1997 when they lost to the Flyers in 5 games.
Prediction: Rangers in 6
Larry D'Angelo: 
This will be a goaltending duel between Henrik Lundqvist and Bayden Holtby, the veteran versus the rookie. Holtby was the reason the Capitals are even in the second round as he out dueled Tim Thomas in round one. That being said, it will be a matchup that Lundqvist will eventually win as the Rangers offense maybe just too much for the Capitals to handle. Although the Capitals found ways to beat Tim Thomas in round one the task this round will be a little tougher against the top seeded Rangers. They will need to be strong on special teams and get traffic in front of Lundqvist.
Prediction: Rangers in 6
Maggie Avila:
This series will be very close and probably goes down to the wire. I do think the Rangers have the better defense overall and the better goaltender. Holtby was hot in the Bruins series but I'm not sure if he can continue in this series. Should be a good one.
Prediction: Rangers in 7
Nick Symon: 
This series will come down to Alexander Ovechkin. If he comes out and plays like a elite player he says he is, then the Caps have a chance. Otherwise the Rangers depth and strong defensive play will win this series. It's great to see a kid like Holtby succeed but I worry he'll get worn down. I feel the Ottawa series was a wake-up call for the Rangers.
Prediction: Rangers in 6
Robert D'Aurelio:
The Rangers will be able to escape out of this series with relative ease. New York simply has too much depth on defense and have a far superior goaltender. Holtby won't be able to match King Henrik save for save in a series where scoring will be at a premium. Washington has established it can play close, gritty games with the best of opponents. Frankly, the Rangers have been a more consistent team over the whole season than Boston, and I think they'll keep Ovechkin off the scoresheet by shadowing him with Marc Staal.
Prediction: Rangers in 6