PUCK DROP: 7:30PM ET (12:30AM GMT)

HOW WILL IT GO DOWN? This should be a good one.  The high scoring Capitals versus the well rounded Rangers.  Neither team’s season went down quite how anyone expected.  Washington started slowly but caught fire mid-way through and didn’t stop, led by terror-of-goalies Alex Ovechkin.  New York started slowly too, and were in a dog fight right to the end of the season to even make the playoffs, but a relatively strong finish got them in.  Washington has many scoring threats, Ovechkin and Backstrom being the most obvious, but they also have more depth to their roster than past years.  Their defence has a quality top four, although there is a distinct drop off after that.  It’s the same with their 4th line too, though if Ward and Laich come back that’ll help greatly.  This team can pretty much score at will, and new coach Adam Oates appears to be at ease with letting the team’s stars roam free, unlike Hunter last year.  Those offensive stars are the keys when going up against the Rangers’ strong defence and goaltending.

The Rangers certainly didn’t hit their potential this year, but Rick Nash and Derek Stepan are highly dangerous scorers, whilst Brad Richards has had playoff success in the past.  Those players don’t have quite the star power of the Capitals’ top players, but they’re not far off.  It’s the defence where the team really shines, possessing some of the best young talent at that position in the game.  However, they are young, and despite a deep run to the Conference Finals last year they still haven’t hit their full stride yet.  Without leader Marc Staal they are a little depleted, but they are still very, very good.  Henrik Lundqvist appears to have found some form after a rough start to the year; perhaps not back to his Vezina-winning form yet but getting there.

PREDICTION: This is a funny combination, the Rangers with their better depth but slightly less star power up front, the Capitals with their star power up front but slightly less depth.  Before the season started if I knew these teams would be up against each other I’d have taken the Rangers every time, but now I’m not so sure.  I think with the form that Ovechkin has shown in the last couple of months, he’ll lead his team past New York in 7 games.


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