Getting To Know The New York Rangers

Over the next couple of days, I’m going to be writing previews for the first round of the playoffs seeing how each team matches up against each other. Since this is a Caps blog, I will likely have more than one post regarded their series against the New York Rangers and go into more detail about them starting with this segment where we get to know the Broadway Blueshirts a little more.

Quick Facts:
16th in goals per game
5th in goals allowed per game
18th ranked powerplay
10th ranked penalty kill
+.5 shot differential
Record vs. Washington: 3-1-0
Clear Victory Record: 18-12
Leading goal scorer: Brandon Dubinsky (24 goals)
Leading point getter: Brandon Dubinsky (54 points)

Most Caps fans probably know the Rangers well already since we’ve faced them a lot of times over the years and in the playoffs two years ago where they gave us quite a scare in the first round. We also know them as the team that shut out and embarrassed us twice this season, once on home ice and once on the road. I’ll have a post on the season series a little later but for now, let’s examine our opponent for the next couple weeks.

The Rangers have had a very “up-and-down” season this year and it’s evidenced by Blueshirt Banter’s look at their scoring chances in 2010-11. Sometimes, you’ll get the team that lit us and the Maple Leafs up for 6+ goals and other nights you’ll get the team that was shut out by Atlanta. It’s hard to predict what exactly will happen but I’m sure most of us know that this Rangers team is very dangerous when it’s clicking.

First, let’s check out their balanced corsi numbers:

NAME POS OZ% Balanced Corsi Balanced Corsi Rel
Brian Boyle C 40.7 2.10 0.38
Artem Anisimov C 50.1 0.99 3.76
Brandon Prust RW 43 0.70 -0.69
Wojtek Wolski LW 58.5 0.40 2.94
Ryan Callahan RW 47.4 0.08 2.06
Brandon Dubinsky C 48.7 0.02 2.61
Ruslan Fedotenko RW 42.6 -0.20 2.06
Derek Stepan C 65.3 -2.02 7.88
Sean Avery LW 52.6 -3.43 -2.10
Marin Gaborik RW 63.6 -9.04 -4.23
Erik Christensen C 53.8 -15.42 -13.49
Mats Zuccarello RW 67.1 -12.31 12.91
Vinny Prospal LW 67.2 -16.01 -15.3
Michael Sauer D 52.7 -1.18 1.17
Ryan McDonagh D 50.6 -1.24 -1.71
Marc Staal D 48.4 -2.89 -5.21
Bryan McCabe D 55.3 -4.22 -3.03
Matt Gilroy D 61.5 -4.65 -0.55
Dan Girardi D 47.6 -5.60 -8.31
Steve Eminger D 52.2 -6.20 -2.72
Michael Del Zotto D 52.7 -7.68 1.67

Up front, the Rangers have a pretty solid group of forwards but losing Ryan Callahan is a huge blow. He has the second most goals on the team and the third most points and on top of that, he plays a lot of tough minutes, was on their top penalty kill and 2nd powerplay unit for most of the season. The pain might be eased a little bit with captain Chris Drury returning to the lineup but his aged has really showed this season, but he could do well in a penalty killing role this post-season. New York’s penalty kill is already ranked 10th in the league and there are plenty of other solid two-way guys here in Brian Boyle and Brandon Dubinsky who do very well in their own zone. I know that  Dubinsky leads the team in points, but the biggest scoring threat the Rangers have is Marian Gaborik. He has a lethal shot and would have a much higher point total if he wasn’t hurt all the time. He’s healthy now and that’s what matters, especially since he has 6 goals in 13 games against Washington. Who else on here is a Caps killer? Brian Boyle. Somehow, he scored 21 goals this season despite being a grinder for his entire career and seven of his 35 points this season are against Washington, including three goals. I’m sure everyone remembers Dubinsky and how he broke Jeff Schultz’s ankles in the playoffs two years ago. Vinny Prospal has done his damage against the Caps in the past, as well. Wolski, Anisimov and rookie Stepan are three other guys I would keep my eye on, too. Especially since Stepan will likely get more minutes in the playoffs.

Marc Staal and Dan Girardi are one of the more underrated defense pairings in the lead. Both are buried with defensive zone starts and while the corsi numbers don’t show it, they usually do a great job at limiting their opponents, especially Staal. Ovechkin in particular has had trouble in the past against him. Another thing about Staal’s game is that he brings a considerable amount of offense to the table and has 7 goals and 29 points this season. Offense from the blue-line was something the Rangers lacked with Michael Del Zotto spending a lot of time in Hartford this year, which is why they traded for Bryan McCabe and he has somewhat delivered so far. Mike Sauer and Ryan McDonagh are both solid young blue-liners too that are arguably already a great compliment to Staal and Girardi. Either Eminger or Gilroy will be sitting and Gilroy has a higher upside so we might see more of him. Either way, New york has a good young defense corps that doesn’t surrender too many shots and most of the ones they do surrender get stopped by our next subject.

Every Caps fans knows all about Henrik Lundqvist. He stoned them in games 1,2 and 4 in 2009’s first round and shut them out twice this season but the Caps have gotten to him in the past before so we know he isn’t unbeatable. Lundqvist has 11 shutouts on the season and has the 7th highest GAAA in the league so this has all the makings of a repeat of last season against Montreal, correct? Not exactly. Yes, Lundqvist is an elite goalie, Neil Greenberg demonstrated that teams who have crashed the net against him have had success. It should also be noted that while King Henrik has 11 shutouts, he has also given up 4 or more goals in 11 games, as well so he’s prone to being lit up on any given night and the Caps can’t let him get in their heads. He also plays over 70 games a year and is known for getting worn out come playoff time (.906 career playoff save pct.) so he isn’t unbeatable, but he can still steal any game and he might be what gets the Rangers through this series if they win it.

I’ll have matchups and other peripherals in another post but for now, I’ll say that this Rangers team is very good and outperformed a lot of people’s expectation’s this season. When I made my Eastern conference playoff post a couple months back, I saw them getting into the playoffs over the Canes and it held up because they were relying more on just their goaltending to win games. I think it might change with Callahan out but it’s still a very solid team that doesn’t take a lot of penalties or make a lot of mistakes so they are going to make the Capitals work hard to win any games this series. I can easily see this going to six games.


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