At this point it seems like the New York Rangers are the Capitals’ playoff rivals. Thankfully we will face them in the 1st round, where we always beat them!
(knocks aggressively on wood)
As it turns out, we would be seeded higher than them anyway, as they have a mere 56 points to our princely 57.
Like last season, it will be a battle of goaltending. Henrik Lundqvist has a GAA of 2.05 and a sv% of .926; however, Holtby is no slouch himself, with 2.58 and .920. And this time we have another ace up our sleeve: Alexander Ovechkin is back to his old, amazing goal-scoring himself, bagging a 3rd Rocket Richard and leading the Caps in points. His 56 points is also good for 3rd in the league, though it is slightly embarrassing that he is tied with Crosby, who only played 36 games.
In fact, with Ovechkin’s 56 points, Ribeiro’s 49, and Backstrom’s 48, our top three scorers each have more points than the number one guy on the Rangers (Derek Stepan). And that’s on a team with Rick Nash and Brad Richards. Then again, the Rangers are built with a more conservative style in mind; Dan Girardi leads the league in blocked shots with 125 — though John Carlson is not far behind with 123 (T3) and 22 points to Girardi’s 14.
It’s difficult to see this match-up in a light other than revenge, but the Capitals are very much not the same team they were last year. They have an entirely new tenor thanks to Adam Oates, and though they went through the same slump-streak pattern as in 2011-12, this one seems to play out much more optimistically. Ovechkin would be on track for 95 points in 82 games if he scored consistently at this pace, compared to the 65 of last season (though of course that doesn’t account for Backstrom’s time out). Mike Green also looks like he’s regaining some of his old magic. All this nostalgia makes you kind of wonder how Alex Semin would be doing right now…
(I would also like a moment of smugness where we acknowledge that I said 54 points would guarantee a playoff spot, and it was with exactly 54 points we clinched the Southeast title. Admittedly it took 55 points for the number 8 seed to squeak in, but then I never claimed to be a stats whiz.)