Deprecated: Automatic conversion of false to array is deprecated in /var/www/ on line 243 - Jan Levine - Rangers-Capitals meet again, though for first time since 2015, in playoffs
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Rangers-Capitals meet again, though for first time since 2015, in playoffs

April 17, 2024, 3:20 AM ET [564 Comments]
Jan Levine
New York Rangers Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The Rangers have a first round match up. As a result of some wackiness in the last few minutes of the Philly-Washington game, with coach John Tortorella pulling the goalie, resulting in the Caps scoring and getting the win, Washington earned the eighth seed. Detroit rallied again, for the second straight night against Montreal, winning a shootout, but was denied a playoff berth by the Caps win.

You can argue that any of the teams might have been dangerous. Pittsburgh because of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Erik Karlsson, but especially Sid. Detroit would have youthful energy with a devil-may-care, we have nothing to lose attitude, so let's play fast and lose. Philly was not expected to be here at all and found a way in. To me, Washington, because of the presence of Ovi and others and the type of style they play, physical and grinding, is not an easy opponent. Add in the Tom Wilson antics and history and it adds to the intrigue. Artemi Panarin gets to bury that storyline while Will Cuylle has said he modeled his game after Wilson, here is his first chance to show it. Winning Game 1 will set a big tone in this series. Second will be taking care of business in less than seven games and avoid the mistakes of 2012 and 2015. If New York thinks they are an elite team, here is the first chance to show it. 

Washington looked to be dead in the water earlier this year. Alexander Ovechkin looked old. The Caps traded Anthony Mantha and Joel Edmundson, then waived and dealt Evgeny Kuznetsov and appeared to be playing out the string. But Ovi found the fountain of youth, John Carlson regained his prior form, T.J. Oshie returned from his string of injuries and Charlie Lindgren started standing on his head. In addition, the kids under Spencer Carbury found their footing while Dylan Strome continued to show why he was the third overall pick in the draft.

The Capitals clawed back into contention by going 9-5-2 in March, aided by the collapse of a few of the teams in front of them, especially the Flyers. A late rally by the Penguins fell just short while the Red Wings got hot again too late. Washington went just 4-4-2 in April, but it was barely enough to squeak in as the eighth seed. In the past, the Capitals was a team that relied on the openness of the offense. This year, under Carbury,, they grind you down low, relying on physicality to create space and chances near the goalmouth. Washington won a lot of close games, but also finished with a negative 36-goal difference, by far the worst of any playoff team.

The two teams have met nine prior times in the postseason with the Rangers winning five of those matchups. It's been almost a decade since the last go-around, with New York rallying from 3-1 down to win Game 7 in 2015 on Derek Stepan's overtime goal. The below set of tweets really spells out how crazy this rivalry was. The contests were epic, two heavyweight teams facing off. During that stretch, neither team won a Cup, but the hockey was as intense as it could get played at an elite level.

Two sub-stories will of course be the focus. First, the Lindgren brothers, Ryan and Charlie. Bragging rights are on the line besides a berth in the next round. Charlie somewhat came out of nowhere to take over the Caps #1 goalie from Darcy Kuemper, carrying the team to the playoffs. He finished the season with a 25-16-7 record, .911 save percentage, 2.67 goals-against average and six shutouts, which tied for the NHL lead. He's also posted a .955 SV% and 1.35 goals against average in three career appearances against the Rangers, including a 4-0 Caps' win Dec. 9.

Second, is Peter Laviolette facing one of his former teams. If New York gets to the next round, the same story will be the case. But, this will certainly be spoken about, largely because Washington was his prior stop before coming to New York. He spent the previous three seasons in D.C. Lavy went 115-78-24 but his tenure was marred by a pair of first-round exits followed by missing the playoffs entirely last season. 

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