There’s always been a feeling when it comes to the Stanley Cup playoffs that Game 2 is a significant contest for all the obvious reasons. The team that lost in the opener will be desperate to avoid falling into a two-games-to-none hole, while the victors look to withstand that urgency and capture back-to-back wins to open the series.
The Capitals understand that they will see even more hunger and motivation from the Rangers tonight at Verizon Center than they did in Game 1 on Wednesday. Washington needs to match that intensity and step up its own play in order to take advantage home ice.
“We know we’ll get a better effort out of them, we know we’ll see a different team,” Mike Knuble said. “We can do things better as well. We can finish better around the net, we can generate more scoring opportunities and keep trying to wear their defense out and wear their players out — just lean on them, be physical and do those sorts of things, and over time that weighs on people.”
The difference between a tied series and two-game lead is obviously only one contest, but the emotional swing and distance from taking significant control of a series can build up one team and demoralize the other.
While the Capitals' attention must be focused first on their own execution, they at the same time try to prepare for what New York might throw at them in response.
“The Rangers are going to be a lot better tonight,” Brooks Laich said. “Some of their guys were making their playoff debut -- we’ve got a few too — they’re a very good team and they’re very aggressive. They’re going to be more physical tonight and work as hard as they ever have tonight and we have to be prepared for that.”
There’s already one known change that Rangers Coach John Tortorella confirmed to reporters after the morning skate, as noted pest Sean Avery will make his series debut tonight while Mats Zuccarrello will be scratched. Two years ago when these teams met in the first round, Avery was a factor both on the ice and creating some drama off it, so it will be interesting to see what he does tonight.