New York Rangers Set to Square Off Against Capitals in NHL Playoffs

The New York Rangers will face off against Alexander Ovechkin once again in the postseason as the first round matchups are set
Jan 14, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers left wing Artemi Panarin (10) celebrates his
Jan 14, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers left wing Artemi Panarin (10) celebrates his / Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers are once again set to face off against the Washington Capitals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, marking the fifth time the Rangers will face Alexander Ovechkin in the postseason. The Capitals won the first two matchups in 2009 and 2011, with the Rangers winning the last three matchups all of which in seven games.

The last time the Rangers played the Capitals in the playoffs, Derek Stepan sent the Rangers to the third round with his iconic overtime game-winner. These two teams have faced off four times this season with the Rangers and Capitals each winning two games.

Only Chris Kreider remains for the Rangers from that matchup while the Capitals will still have Alexander Ovechkin and John Carlson. The recent forms of these two teams have their own bad blood stemming from the Tom Wilson-Artemi Panarin incident of 2021.

There will be a house divided in this series as Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren faces off against Capitals goalie Charlie Lindgren. Lindgren has been incredible for the Capitals this season with a 26-16-7 record with 2.71 GA/G and a .911 save percentage. Lindgren's feeling it over his last five starts, allowing just seven goals on 137 shots faced allowing the Capitals to win low-scoring affairs.

On the other end of the ice, the Rangers will send out a red-hot Igor Shesterkin as they look to make a deep postseason run. The former Vezina award winner finished the season 36-17-2 after an abysmal start while posting a .913 save percentage while allowing 2.58 goals per game. On paper, the Rangers have the goaltending advantage, however, in the playoffs it's all about a hot goaltender and Lindgren looks the part as of late.

Offensively, the Capitals are powered by Dylan Strome and his 67 points and the timeless Alexander Ovechkin coming off his own 65-point season with 31 goals. The Rangers will have much bigger scoring threats starting with Artemi Panarin coming off a career year with 120 points, while his linemate Vincent Trocheck posted a 77-point year.

Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad continue to be a solid pairing as well combining for 65 goals and 82 assists. The Rangers have been the superior offensive team this season, scoring 3.39 goals per game to the Capitals 2.64 goals per game.

The Washington Capitals will need their second defense group to return for the playoffs as Nick Jensen and Rasmus Sandin missed time while the team pushed for the playoffs. The Rangers are dealing with their own injury issues on the back end with Jacob Trouba, Ryan Lindgren, and Erik Gustafsson missing time down the stretch with injuries.

If the Rangers are to win this series, it's because they perform to their caliber as they're top to bottom a better team than the Capitals. The Rangers are better line by line and at goaltender giving them a massive advantage in this Series. The Rangers will need Igor Shesterkin to be the Vezina Caliber goalie he's shown to be and they'll have no issue.

If the Rangers are going to lose this series, it's because they fall back into the bad habits that have cost them games all season long: coming out slow, being too pass-happy, and making mistakes in the defensive end. The Rangers' biggest chance at losing this series is if Charlie Lindgren stands on his head as he's done down the final stretch of the season.

A First-Round Series Loss Will be Unacceptable

After a franchise record-setting season ending with the Rangers winning the President's Trophy, losing this series would be an utter failure. The Rangers' talented core is aging and this may be the group's best chance at a Stanley Cup. If the Rangers don't make it to, at minimum, the Conference Finals, the regular season will be forgotten as once again a talented Rangers core fell short.

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