Found April 28, 2012 on

Welcome to Center Ice Chat’s Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview and Predictions series. With Round 1 in the books as of Thursday night, we take a look at the crop of the few, the proud, the Conference semifinalists.  Alexander Ovechkin and Henrik Lundqvist shake hands after last year's first round series of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. While the Rangers look poised to come out on top this time around, it may not be that simple. It’s back to Broadway for the Washington Capitals. They’ll make another series of playoffs magic with the New York Rangers starting with this afternoon’s game at 3 p.m. It’ll be a different one for sure, setting aside last year’s and 2009′s tilts, both in the first rounds, both starting in Washington. The Caps eliminated the Rangers both times. Will it be three in a row, or will the Rangers, with the home advantage and a completely new look, figure out an also very different team, with a different bench boss in Dale Hunter. Here’s a comparison:
  • Top lines not always at the top: The New York Rangers found this out the hard way with the Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and Carl Hagelin line. Hagelin, of course, was suspended for three games in the first round. But, still, Gaborik started it off by scoring in Game 1, and nothing else thereafter. He averaged 3.4 shots per game in the regular season, then amounted just 13 in seven games in the Ottawa series. Meanwhile, the Capitals have Alexander Ovechkin, Alex Semin and Nicklas Backstrom combine for six goals and six assists. Semin had three goals.
  • Sacrificing the body: Rangers lead playoffs teams with 155 blocked shots (Dan Girardi leads with 30) and the Capitals are third with 139. For Washington, Karl Alzer and John Carlson lead with 17 apiece.
  • Defensive production: Washington had help from John Carlson with one goal, nine assists and 58 shots in the Boston series. Getting shots from the outside will continue to help Washington bang away at Henrik Lundqvist. As for New York, Marc Staal continues to slug a little bit while Girardi is the main reason the Rangers are in Round 2, scoring the game winner. But they’ll need one of their top forwards — not their top defender — to help carry the load.
  • Special teams: The Capitals are ranked second in the playoffs while on the penalty kill with a 91.3 success rating. (Rangers are seventh with an 84.6). Meanwhile, on the power play, the two teams are nearly identical at the eighth and ninth spots. The Caps have a 15.8 success rating while the Rangers have a 15.6.
  • Face offs: The Caps have a slight advantage here ranking sixth with 51.1 wins in the circle, meanwhile the Rangers are at a disadvantage of a 45.6 win percentage on the draw, but rank 15th.
Final prediction: Capitals in 7 games. It may be a stretch, especially with the Vezina Trophy-worth year Lundqvist is having. The main difference between Tim Thomas last year and Lunqvist this year is that there are teams that can actually challenge this year’s premiere goalie. With the Rangers struggling to eliminate the Ottawa Senators, the Capitals having the momentum of their first line — while the Rangers do not — there’s see more possibilities for Washington to rise out of this one. After all, the Bruins ran on all cylinders with depth of offense and defense last year, if the Rangers can’t fix that first line problem soon, it’ll spoil a brilliant run by Lundqvist, which would be unfortunate. Matthew Wilson is editor of Center Ice Chat. Follow him on Twitter @Mattjw24. Be sure to also Like us on Facebook and to Follow our Tumblr page. If you'd like to contribute, or appear as a guest columnist, please email us at

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