All of the first-round matchups in the East are set:
Here is the Rangers-Capitals season series, although that means about as much as tonight’s game in Philly for the Rangers — zero:
11/8 @WAS L 1-3 (goals: Voros).
12/23 MSG L 4-5 OT (goals: Naslund, Rozsival, Callahan 2).
1/3 @WAS L 1-2 (goals: Prucha).
2/11 MSG W 5-4 (SO) (goals: Callahan, Naslund, Korpikoski, Mara; SO/GWG: Callahan.
So? So what? None of those games was played with John Tortorella behind the bench, or with Sean Avery, Nik Antropov or Derek Morris on the ice. The Dec. 23 game was the dreadful collapse. The Feb. 11 game was the only highlight of Tom Renney’s last month.
“It’s finally good to know so you can prepare,” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said on the Capitals’ Web site. “But then it’s like we’re preparing for a whole new team because we haven’t seen this team under (John) Tortorella that’s played very good. Right off the bat, I think we’re in for a tough team.”
What matters for the Rangers is finding a way to get goals, because they will need goals against the Capitals and Alex Ovechkin (who finished with an NHL-leading 56 goals) unless Henrik Lundqvist plays out of his mind. The thing with the Boston matchup that vanished when the Canadiens lost to Pittsburgh last night was that the Rangers knew they could play low-scoring games with the B’s, even in Boston.
They are not sure they can do that with the Caps, and we all know that goal-scoring hasn’t been the Rangers forte. On the plus side, the Capitals don’t take a lot of penalties, which means the Rangers’ woeful power play won’t be as big a factor.
You might have noticed that Callahan had a bit of success against the Caps. You might have also noticed that the Rangers haven’t won a road game in a while (at Montreal in a shootout March 17; the last regulation road win coming at Nashville March 5; the last regulation road win against a playoff team — Yikes! — at Chicago Jan. 16, back in Sam Weinman’s heyday on the blog).
CORRECTION, THANKS TO SPIDERPIG: The Chicago game was an OT win. So the last regulation victory on the road over a playoff-bound team was Dec. 16 at Anaheim. Double-yikes!
We’ll do some more analysis as we get closer.
Tonight’s game is important for the Flyers, all of a sudden, after Pittsburgh beat the Canadiens to move ahead of Philly in the East (both teams have 99 points, the Penguins have one more win, 45-44). So the Flyers need a point tonight to take home-ice advantage in the first-round Intra-State matchup against Sidney Crosby’s boys (Sid the Kid said he would be a Rangers fan today).
Don’t forget the inaugural Rangers Report Playoff Beard Extravaganza (or something). Details in many of the previous posts below.
With the game suddenly meaningless, and it being Easter Sunday … not to mention the final round of the Masters … this might be the final post for the day. Or at least until near gametime. Enjoy it anyway.
Jane here, I updated the poll to look ahead to the postseason. Out of 448 responses, only 80 or so thought the Rangers would miss the playoffs.