Live Playoff Chat at 11:30 a.m. … Game 1 tonight

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Another reminder that we will do a Live Playoff Chat at 11:30 leading into Game 1 of the Rangers-Capitals series tonight in D.C. Be there. Or else.

Later today I will post my matchups for the series, and of course we will have our first postseason “It’s Go Time!” thread tonight.

Meanwhile, here’s the column I wrote for The Journal News and LoHud.com today:

By Rick Carpiniello

GREENBURGH — The Washington Capitals are on a roll. They are super-duper dangerous. Watch out below.

Well, part of that is true, but beware of buying too much of it.

The Capitals, with their rookie head coach Adam Oates and their rejuvenated superstar Alex Ovechkin, and their recovered offensive defenseman Mike Green and all, finished the season with exactly one more point than the disappointing, mediocre, inconsistent Rangers.

One stinking point. And that while playing in the league’s worst division, which didn’t produce another playoff team. OK? Most of their 11-1-1 finishing kick was against teams from the pathetic Southeast.

The Rangers finished the season on their own little roll, going 10-3-1 in the last 14, playing a late-season schedule stacked with Southeast teams (plus two against a Devils team that had packed it in).

The point is, don’t be fooled. Yes, these are both teams to take seriously. Yes, these are two teams that probably would have a chance in any series (other than against Pittsburgh, probably).

But they aren’t Cup favorites. They aren’t the 1980s Edmonton Oilers. They aren’t even the 2011-12 Rangers.

So it’s a wait-and-see series, especially for the eyes on the Rangers — who, if they had won one of the two late games they lost to the worst team in hockey, Florida, could have been the fifth seed.

The Rangers have a different look since they added Mats Zuccarello, Derrick Brassard, John Moore and Ryane Clowe (who is injured) around the trade deadline. They were a one-line team before that, and now they are a three-line team, in terms of offense.

Credit for that also goes to the re-emergence of Brad Richards, who was supposed to be the No. 1 center on a line with with Marian Gaborik and Rick Nash, and is now playing a lesser role … with Zuccarello and Nash, who plays the fifth playoff game of his career Thursday.

Richards’ goals have been fluky, but he does have 11 points in the last six games, and he’s made plays. He must produce, especially on the power play, for the Rangers to have any chance against Washington or anybody.

He owns most of the Rangers’ playoff pedigree, and their only Stanley Cup ring (not to mention a Conn Smythe Trophy). But that Richards has not lived here much this season.

The Rangers’ inconsistent (or consistently bad, most of the season) power play is probably the reason they can’t be favored in this series, because Washington is going to score goals, and score power-play goals.

As many Rangers said in this elongated week of practice — a sort of NHL mini-lockout after the ridiculous and unnecessary season-shortening lockout from September to January — special teams are going to determine the winner of this series. So, to repeat, the Rangers better find a way to score on their man-advantages.

The Rangers also need to prove they can grind against a good team, and defend against a strong offensive team and an all-world offensive player. They need to control the puck in the offensive zone and wear out the Washington defense, and play keep-away from Ovechkin and Co.

They need to do more than “test” Washington goalie Braden Holtby, who is a step down from Henrik Lundqvist, but who played equal to Lundqvist in the seven-game Rangers victory last spring.

When the Rangers, in recent history, have hit hard times, it almost always has been their inability to score goals that was to blame. This team, even with all the new players, has to prove that it can score.

And if it can’t, well, fore.

 

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51 Comments

  1. You need to talk to Manny, Carp. He’s done a marvelous job on the Beard Contest, but is really doing lousy at his main job.

  2. i can’t see this team winning this series, but i’ve still got the game 1 butterflies and excitement going this morning! can’t wait for the puck drop!

    let’s go rangers!!!

  3. Gravy, You Know You Want Some Marty on

    Hmm, I’d like to participate, but I’m not sure if I could commit should they make it two months down the road. I do work in a somewhat professional organization.

  4. There are many ways to enter the contest……You can be as creative with the pictures as you want.

  5. Stranger Nation on

    “But that Richards has not lived here *much* this season.”

    Understatement of the year!!

  6. Matty"Sather should have known better"Boy on

    Man, these have been long days. Only the west series have been some fun to watch so far. St. Louis/Kings, good first game. It doesn’t seem these matchups are as scintillating as last years.

    TIME FOR THE REAL TEAM TO PLAY. LGR!!!!

  7. Matty"Sather should have known better"Boy on

    Richards has had some of the most fortunate points in the history of the game these last 6. His ‘trick’ was putrid. His game tying goal vs. Carolina was not something he did, it was the goalie’s incomptence. But by default, Richards go the credit. Whatever.

    The fact is that he is skating a bit more confidently, for what it’s worth. He still makes his stupid drop passes to the blue line. And he still dogs coverage. Just doesn’t do it all the time and as horrifically as he did earlier in the season.

    We are so lucky to have Step. Hope he has a constructive playoffs!

  8. Matty"Sather should have known better"Boy on

    Manny, the thought crossed my mind, but it wouldn’t coexist well with my day time job!!

    When I retire, I’M IN!!!

  9. You guys who think you have to actually grow a beard yourself are just not thinking outside the box. Stop being such squares!

  10. Hi ilb! Sorry I didn’t get to see you over the weekend :(

    I’m hoping someone invites me to their lakehouse this summer so I can finally meet their baby (hint hint).

  11. Stranger Nation on

    NYR 3 – Craps 1

    GWG: -gabby-, -redden-, -rupp-, -dubi-, -artie-, -clowe-, -boyle-, -stawwl-, -halpern-, -bickel-, *Cally*

    Shots: 1 if they win, 5 if they lose…

  12. The keys to this series are Staal coming back and scoring the first goal. I have no idea why, but my gut tells me that the Rangers not only will win this series but will have an easier time with the Caps then they did last year.

    DROP THE PUCK!

    NO SOUP FOR OVIE!

  13. Caps have their lineup out already:

    Marcus Johansson, Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Ovechkin
    Martin Erat, Mike Ribeiro, Troy Brouwer
    Jason Chimera, Matthieu Perreault, Eric Fehr
    Matt Hendriks, Jay Beagle, Joel Ward

  14. I hope you’re right, Yev. I have that gut feeling too but I try to ignore it. I really, really think that the Rangers will be OK if they get Staal back.

  15. If I wouldn’t be so superstitious when it comes to hockey, I’d participated in beard contest sending picture of fully bearded me under title BEFORE and cleanly shaved under AFTER first round.

  16. @JimCerny 1m Sorry #NYR fans…looking like Wolski and Poti scratched for #Caps tonight!

  17. My pipe-dream is to see Licic – Clowe matchup in a second round with 5+2+10 for each.

  18. Interesting Fact – 2012 Game 1 vs Caps, Rangers had the following lineup:
    Hagelin – Richards – Gaborik
    Kreider – Stepan – Callahan
    Fedotenko – Anisimov – Prust
    Rupp – Mitchell – Eminger

  19. Gravy, You Know You Want Some Marty on

    Call me crazy, but the key to this series is the Rangers scoring more goals than the Caps. Also, letting in less goals than them will help as well.

  20. Gravy, I wouldn’t call you crazy- i’d call you NBC Sports’ analysis…

  21. I am recording the game tonight. 1 of my daughters has a playoff LAX game out here in Calif. SO I will add mycommentary now before the game.

    Shoot the puck.

    Richard no backhand slop at the blueline.

    Shoot the puck on the PP.

    Go rangers.

    WOW Pyatt is slow, wow BOyle is invisible.

    GO Rangers.

  22. Gravy, You Know You Want Some Marty on

    I’d only be as reputable as an NBC analyst if I knew what high school everyone went to.

  23. Gravy, You Know You Want Some Marty on

    Looks like Dubinsky was absent from KAR! 2012 lineup.

  24. best part of me going to the game tonight is not having to watch/listen to the idiots on TV. good seats i’m pumped!!!

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