NHL playoffs

Capitals vs. Rangers

Series: Best of seven games. Season series: Rangers won 3-1-0. Prediction: Capitals in five.

Records: Capitals (No. 1 seed, first place in Eastern Conference) 48-23-11, Rangers (No. 8 seed third in Atlantic Division) 44-33-5.

Capitals: Stats | Roster | Results Rangers: Stats | Roster | Results

Forwards

Both teams have struggled to create offense consistently this year, but while they are close statistically – New York's 2.73 goals per game to Washington's 2.67 -- the Capitals have arguably the greater amount of explosive options up front. Only Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Mike Knuble posted more than 20 goals this season for the Capitals. Washington will need contributions from all of its lines but particularly from Semin, who has eight goals in 28 career playoff games and hasn't scored in the postseason since the series against the Rangers in 2009. Meanwhile, the Rangers are well balanced with five 20-goal scorers but will be without its second leading scorer, Ryan Callahan, who will miss the first round with a broken ankle. This all puts more pressure on $7.5 million man Marian Gaborik, the enigmatic winger has 12 goals in 29 career playoff games, to produce.

Defense

Once again, the Capitals and Rangers are close when considering defensive units. Washington went through it's greatly publicized transition to a more defensively sound system this year and over the last 20 games allowed only 1.85 goals per contest. The Capitals should get a boost from the expected return of Mike Green after he missed 20 games with a concussion. But wunderkind pair of John Carlson (plus-21, 22:38 minutes per game) and Karl Alzner (plus-14, 20 mpg) will likely continue to serve as the Capitals' shutdown pair. New York, meantime, has an established reputation as a shot-blocking machine led by the pairing of Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, who have spent their young careers shutting down Ovechkin.

By Katie Carrera - The Washington Post. Published April 13, 2011.