The Washington Capitals are once again the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference for the 2011 NHL Playoffs and they will look to vanquish their playoff demons from the past two years when they square off against the No. 8 seed New York Rangers. Game 1 will take place on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. on Versus and Comcast SportsNet, according to the 2011 NHL Playoffs Schedule.
In Part I of our preview, we'll take a look at the Capitals' new-look offense v. the Rangers' deceptive offense.
For several years, the Capitals have been known throughout the NHL for having one of the highest-scoring offenses. That didn't happen this year. Last year's league-leading 313 total goals and 3.82 goals per game was replaced by an average of 219 total goals and 2.67 goals per game. Alex Ovechkin had a career-low 32 goals, Alexander Semin went three months without scoring a goal and Nicklas Backstrom's point production dropped 36 points. Despite all of that, the Caps still found a way to win the East.
The Rangers' offense, despite scoring more total goals (224) and goals per game (2.73) than the Caps, tended to disappear on occasion throughout the season. New York easily scored five or more goals in some games (which they did against the Caps twice this season), but also struggled to score two or three goals in other games. The Rangers have several forwards capable of changing a game (Marian Gaborik, Derek Stepan, Brandon Dubinsky), but will be shorthanded with Ryan Callahan out with a leg injury for the rest of the season.
If the series becomes a shootout, the Capitals outmatch the Rangers. A high-scoring game plays into the hands of Washington, regardless of New York's 18-6 scoring advantage in the season series.