Both Washington's Eric Fehr and Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin won their first round...
Caps Outsider Round 2 Roundtable
It’s time once again for another roundtable! After all, it’s people’s opinions that make the difference in series. Okay, maybe not, but whoever is most right gets to shove it in the face of everyone else who was wrong. And, we’re off:
The Bruins had the champion bias on their side last series, giving them the edge in most people’s minds. Considering the Caps’ struggles, both this season and in past postseasons, I was one of them (glad to say I was wrong.) The Caps didn’t respond to the Bruins physicality like they wanted, and the injuries to Nathan Horton, Adam McQuaid, Patrice Bergeron, and Joe Corvo ended up as too much to take.
All that said, the Bruins didn’t know the Caps. The Rangers do. New York also relies more on a balance of speed and physicality that will offer a different kind of challenge to the Caps. While Washington has dominated New York in the playoffs, they haven’t faced the Rangers past the first round since 1994. And at the moment, they’re only missing Brian Boyle and Steve Eminger, though Brandon Dubinsky didn’t play the last 11 minutes of Game 7 against Ottawa and didn’t practice Friday.
Without the advantage of Verizon, the Caps will definitely struggle more than in past years, and it remains to be seen if Braden Holtby can sustain his mental fortitude.
Rangers in 7
So, here we are again. After blundering my first round prediction (and enjoying my crow in the process), I will attempt to give you some “insight” into this Eastern Conference Semifinal match-up against the New York Rangers.
The Rangers have been the one team that the Caps have found some success against in the postseason. In 2009, Washington came back from a 3-1 deficit to take the series in 7 games. Last season, as fans got into a screaming mach about who’s volume was louder, everyone in New York (especially the Rangers) forgot a playoff series was actually going on and the Caps took the series in 5 games. But hey, Madison Square Garden does have some positives. Outside on the corner of 34th Street and 7th Avenue by the taxi stand you can get some piping hot Tim Horton’s. Also, underneath the arena runs the Long Island Railroad, NJ Transit, and Amtrak rails, just in case as the Rangers get trashed and people want to make a quick exit it’s BOOM and the fans disperse back to whatever caves they came from.
Oh, but I digress everyone. Let’s talk some seriousness. We all know the Rangers key players (Lundqvist, Callahan, Dubinsky, Gaborik, Richards, etc.) And why wouldn’t we? It’s not like there’s a feeling of deja vu going on, right? The key to this series will be how much pressure the Caps can put on the Rangers. The Rangers have a tendency to shell up when pressure is being put on them, and if the Caps can fly some rubber at Lundqvist there’s no reason they can’t take this series early. A few new faces in blue, same fun result (for Caps fans, at least).
Final prediction – Caps take this bad boy in six and I get to gloat and puff my chest out around here a little bit more.
Caps in 6
To get straight to the point, I say Caps in six. Henrik Lundqvist is a great goaltender, but in my opinion, he’s about as even as Tim Thomas. If Braden Holtby can out-goalie Thomas, Lundqvist shouldn’t be a problem. This also might be the most attractive goalie faceoff of the playoffs. If the Caps keep getting down and blocking shots, they can out-defend the Rangers. As a team, they blocked 139 shots. Karl Alzner, alone, had 17.
I think the Caps can outscore the Rangers, but it will, by no means, be an easy series. Both teams will have to fight, but in the end, the Caps’ offense will be louder.
Caps in 6
First of all, I would just like to be the 10,000th person to say, “I can’t believe we’re playing these guys again.”
The Ottawa Senators were a terrible defensive team in the regular season. At even strength, they gave up 2.88 goals a game, 24th in the league. They gave up 52 goals at 5 on 4, ahead of only Tampa Bay and Columbus. Their home PK was 77.5%. 77.5%!! The Bonus Army defended better than those people.
Yet for all that, the Rangers still couldn’t put the puck in the net against them. They converted 1 of their 15 PP opportunities at home and went 3 for 17 on the road. Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik combined for 3 goals and 8 points. Granted, the Caps offensive stats weren’t much better, but the disparity in defensive acumen between Ottawa and Boston is about as wide as the disparity in physique between me and The Rock.
So I’m looking for a lockdown series where every game pretty much comes down to one goal. Sound familiar?
Caps in 7
The Rangers are, in my mind, the Diet Bruins: not quite as physically intimidating and without a Conn Smythe-winning playoff goalie. Their biggest strength is the fact that they play for each other, but so do we; when you’ve got Sasha Semin blocking shots against the Boston Bruins, you know you’ve got all hands on deck.
The only advantage that I would say they have over us is Head Coach profanity levels; without Bruce Boudreau, we simply can’t match up against Tortorella in that department.
Prediction: Caps in 6, only because I will be coming home from college on Friday the 4th and I want to go to a game.
Caps in 6
Philip Van der Vossen
Since my first round prediction was pretty damn close, I’m going to just quote it. Also I will be predicting the Caps to win every series in 6, since they won’t have home ice advantage, and I think series clinching games at home are tons of fun.
The Capitals will finally put it together and become a good playoff team under Dale Hunter. They’ll steal one game in
BostonNew York, and then sweep their home games to take the series in 6. The fans will be integral to the home-ice domination, rocking the red, loud and proud. Holtby will emerge and dominate for long stretches of play as several young Goalies have done in recent seasons around the league. This is very much the same roster that began the season as one of the Cup favorites, so there is no reason they can’t pull their asses out of their heads, because I’m sick and tired of losing in the Playoffs.
Caps in 6
When I found out the Caps were playing the Rangers, my first thought was, “The Caps can beat them.” You know, because the Caps beat the Rangers in the playoffs twice in the past few years and because the Caps smoked the Rangers in the last game of the season. And we all know that past performance guarantees future results. Oh, wait, that’s the stock market I’m thinking about.
Okay, despite the Caps’ success against the Rangers, after seeing what they pulled off against Boston, I have no reason to think they can’t do it again against New York. Or, they’ll fizzle out in the second round like they did last year against Tampa Bay. Or New York will fizzle out due to a long series with Ottawa.
Let’s split the difference.
Caps in 7
My previous feelings on predictions remain, despite the unexpected accuracy of my first round prediction. So without further ado, I give you 4 random things that will happen in Round Two.
I still contend that Keith Aucoin will score a goal. Alex Semin will continue to demonstrate a knowledge of both back-checking and shot-blocking. Karl Alzner will take a flailing fall reminiscent of Ryan Kesler (though with less artistry and more “OMG Stick!”), and his beard will continue to dominate the competition (while Ovi will resemble Evil!Ovi from the Mirror ‘Verse). On the Rangers side of things, Henrik Lundqvist will lose composure on a level that makes Braden Holtby look positively placid.
The biggest downside of this entire series for me is that we won’t get to see Holtby & Sean Avery exchanging words/blows/PIMs. I know they managed to go a whole game once where they were on good behaviour, but this is the playoffs. It would have been fantastic, and we all know it.
I stand by my initial Round One prediction, however, when it comes to the Caps in the second round. I’ll be thrilled if they rally, but my gut says:
Rangers in 6.