The New York Rangers have to feel pretty good about their matchup with the Washington Capitals.
They won three of four vs. Washington, won two of those games by a combined score of 13-0. So on the surface it seems like the Rangers can march right to the second round.
Not so fast.
After the Rangers' 6-0 win at Verizon Center on Feb. 25, the Caps finished the year 16-3-1. And allowed an average of just 1.85 goals a game. There has been a dedication to defense that has made the Caps the No. 1 seed in the east.
The Caps' new commitment to D has come from the fact that there are questions about their goaltending situation. Washington has 3 goalies who have played this year: Semyon Varlamov, who saved the Caps' bacon 2 years ago when the they came back from 3-1 down vs the Rangers, Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby. Not a stable situation but it has not hurt them down the stretch.
The question for the Rangers is: Will they score consistently enough to win a best-of-7 series? I know they have scored 17 goals in four games vs. the Caps, but winning Game 1 6-0 and losing Games 2 and 3 1-0 will not get it done.
If the Rangers are going to score they need Marian Gaborik. You know the old hockey saying, "If you have a great goalie and a hot goal scorer you can win the Stanley Cup." Well they have the goalie but do they have the scorer? All of their offensive threats are solid. However Gaborik is a difference maker when he's on. He needs to be the guy.
Mark Messier was a guest of ours on the Michael Kay Show and said that he loves Gaborik and has faith in him. Rangers fans are hoping Mark is right.
I have no doubt that the pairing of Marc Staal and Dan Girardi will keep Alex Ovechkin at bay. The games will be low-scoring and that plays into the hands of the Rangers. Not from a stats standpoint -- the Caps were 24-21 in one-goal games while the Rangers were 21-18. But from a panic standpoint.
The Caps have not been out of the second round with Ovechkin. We saw how it went last year vs. the Canadiens. They couldn't finish when it counted and were bounced in the first round. Can you imagine the pressure they will be under in this series?
In a tight series you have to like Henrik Lundqvist. Now he's under pressure too. He's been an elite goalie ever since he joined the league but has never been past the second round. I feel he's going to play lights-out.
Rangers in 7.