Stanley Cup betting action hasn’t exactly been kind to the Washington Capitals of late, as they have suffered a ton of crashes out of the second season after great regular seasons. This year, the quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup begins against the New York Rangers, who are just happy to be here after becoming the last team in the East to clinch a slot in the dance.
#8 New York Rangers
How they got here: The Rangers came into the last game of their season on the outside looking in at the NHL playoffs. New York was tied with the Carolina Hurricanes at 91 points, and the Hurricanes held the tiebreaker. That left the Rangers to need at least a point against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday and preferably a win to move ahead of the Canes for the last playoff spot. The Rangers did their part by cruising to a 5-2 win over New Jersey, while the Tampa Bay Lightning handed Carolina a 6-2 loss to put Head Coach John Tortorella’s team in the playoffs.
Player to Watch: LW Brandon Dubinsky had the best year of his young career and led the team in goals (24), assists (29), and points (53) despite playing with a stress fracture in his left leg for much of the season. Dubinsky has been especially important with line mate Ryan Callahan out for the rest of the year in all likelihood with a broken ankle.
Goalie Outlook: Henrik Lundqvist is one of the best net minders in all of hockey and the Rangers will need him to be on his “A” game if they hope to knock off the Capitals. Lundqvist finished the year with a 35-27-5 record and a 2.28 GAA to go with a .923 save percentage, finishing in the Top 10 in the NHL in all three categories. This is the one area of the game where the Rangers look to have a definite advantage.
Key to Victory: The Rangers will be heavy underdogs and will need standout performances from Lundqvist, Dubinsky, and C Eric Staal if they are going to move on the second round. New York was the fifth best team in the NHL in goals allowed per game and will need to slow down the high powered caps offense as much as possible.
#1 Washington Capitals
How They Got Here: For the second straight year, the Capitals have clinched a No. 1 seed and home ice throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs. They didn’t look like they would get the top seed through much of the season, looking up at the Philadelphia Flyers, amongst other teams. The Capitals seized the opportunity allowed by the Flyers and the other big boys in the East, and they won 16 of their last 20 games to clinch the Southeast Division title and the best record in the East.
Player to Watch: Could it be anyone under than the uber-talented Alexander Ovechkin? Ovechkin failed to record his fourth straight 100 point season, but did finish in the top 10 in the NHL in points with 85 on the season. Ovie’s 32 goals and 53 assists were tops on the team as well. For all his accomplishments though, Alex the Great is still searching for his first Stanley Cup.
Goalie Outlook: The Capitals lack a star goaltender of the caliber of Lundqvist, but have a solid combination in Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth. Varlamov missed most of the last month with a knee injury but came back strong over the last few games and posted an 11-9-5 record on the season with a 2.23 GAA and a .924 save percentage for the whole of the season. Neuvirth looks to be the starter in Game 1 and posted a 27-11-4 record with a 2.49 GAA and a .913 save percentage.
Key to Victory: If the Capitals hope to not repeat last year’s embarrassing first round knockout at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens, they will need a dominating performance from Ovechkin and solid goaltending, the latter of which has been sorely lacking for the Capitals in previous years.
2010-11 Regular Season Meetings
February 25th – Washington 0 – New York 6
January 24th – Washington 1 – New York 2
December 12th – New York 7 – Washington 0
November 9th – New York 3 – Washington 5
Season Series Notes: The Rangers and Capitals squared off four times in the regular season, with the Rangers winning three of the four, including 7-0 and 6-0 shutouts. Interestingly, the team with the most shots went 1-3 in the four meetings.
The Final Word: New York looks to have the edge between the pipes, while Washington probably has the offensive advantage. Expect a hard-fought series, but one the Caps will triumph in six. The Rangers just don’t have the guns to keep up with Washington and will need an other-worldly effort from Lundqvist to get to the next round. Don’t expect it to happen for the whole series.
Stanley Cup Free Picks: Washington in 6
Aaron Ryan has been in the sportswriting biz since the late-90s, and he has worked side by side with some of the best and brightest in sports gambling. Always searching for the best trends in sports, Andrew uses his brilliant math mind to his advantage to beat the books.