Second round series breakdown: Rangers (1) vs. Capitals (7)
We can automatically look to the goaltending match-up here as potentially the most fascinating aspect of the series, maybe of any we'll see in the playoffs from here on. Can rookie Braden Holtby come through again for Washington? Or will Henrik "Just give me the Vezina now" Lundqvist prove that the kid in the Caps' net was just a one-round wonder?
If this series had started a couple months ago, it would be easy to size it up: the disciplined Rangers against the run-and-gun, defense-is-only-an-option Capitals. No more. Dale Hunter has somehow gotten his troops to buy in to the same kind of system that John Tortorella demands: defense first and nothing fancy or chancy at the offensive end.
Personally, I'm not much of a "here's what happened in the past between these teams" analyst because I don't think the past has much to do with anything that will happen in playoff hockey. If that were usually the case, the Caps would be home by now, and so would teams like Phoenix and Los Angeles in the West. But here is one stat to think about: Washington is 8-4 against Lundqvist in the playoffs, with series wins in 2009 and 2011. Lundqvist's saves percentage against them is .912, well below his usual average. So does that mean the Caps come in confident against King Henrik? Maybe, but certainly not overconfident. This is a different Rangers team now, better in front of him in all parts of the game.
The Bruins were frustrated by Washington's shot-blocking, collapsing defense in round one, and never really got their fast transition game going. It will be harder for the Caps to do that with the Rangers, because New York doesn't like to play that way. They'd rather collapse their D and block a lot of shots and get opportunities off that. Which team will crack first and maybe deviate from its preferred style? Neither will want to, so getting the first goal in each game will be major in this series.