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Rangers vs. Capitals matchups, NHL playoffs predictions

Rangers vs. Capitals matchups, NHL playoffs predictions

NHL

Here lies the end of the Rangers' most successful regular season in franchise history, which also marks the beginning of their most important playoff run in recent memory.

The Capitals are the first team the Blueshirts will have to take on in their quest for their first Stanley Cup in three decades.

And to say the Rangers are the favorites in this first-round series would be a massive understatement.

The Rangers captured the Presidents' Trophy this season. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

In a complete reversal of the 2011 interclub series, when the No. 1-seeded Capitals beat the Rangers in five games after the Blueshirts reached the postseason at the last minute, the result is expected to be much the same with teams coming in under choppy conditions. .

But no team should be underestimated when Lord Stanley is on the line, so Rangers will need to take care of that as soon as possible.

The Post's Molly Walker takes a look at how the teams match up:

Goalkeeping

There are only a few teams that rival the Rangers in goaltending, and the Capitals are not one of them. Igor Shesterkin has been near the top of his game for about a month, which no doubt helped the Blueshirts have the strong finish to the regular season that they did.

The Russian goaltender will be a fixture in each series, as he has been since his first legitimate playoff run with the Rangers in the 2021-2022 season. Waiting in the wings for future Hall of Famer Jonathan Quick is not a fallback option.

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Igor Shesterkin will be key for the Rangers. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

Capitals goaltender Charlie Lindgren — brother of Rangers player Ryan Lindgren — will make the NHL playoffs for the first time in his career at age 30 after a breakout season. He has caused Rangers problems before, such as when they beat them 4-0 on December 9, but they should be able to step up their game offensively and get the better of him.

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defense

The Rangers have a D-Team that has played together for years now, and that always counts for something. Aside from a weakness in defending one-man rushes, the Blueshirts finished with the fifth-lowest goals against average (2.76) and had the fourth-most points (201) from their defense this season.

Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson is making his presence felt on the offensive side. AP

Adam Fox has been at his best of late alongside his long-time D partner, Ryan Lindgren, while the newly formed duo of K'Andre Miller and Braden Schneider has looked solid in their sample size of games. After bumping into the bottom pair with Erik Gustafsson, temporarily or not, captain Jacob Trouba sees this as more of a new role than a demotion.

According to NHL Edge, the Capitals spent just over 4 percent more time in the defensive zone than the Rangers this season. John Karlsson is a standout, attack-minded defenseman, ranking third on the team with 52 points, while Nick Jensen and Rasmus Sandin are working their way back from upper-body injuries.

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straight ahead

There's no doubt that the Rangers have more star power among their forward group, but their Capitals counterparts shouldn't be overlooked.

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Washington Capitals' Alex Ovechkin, left, reacts after scoring a goal against Philadelphia Flyers' Samuel Ersson. AP

Led by a 120-point campaign from the most dynamic version of Artemi Panarin this season, along with teammates Vincent Trocheck and Alexis Lafreniere, the Rangers enjoyed relatively consistent production from their top-six forwards and finished the season with the seventh-highest goals-per-game average. From 3.39. Who knows if Filip Chytil will be available after his recent medical clearance, but he would add to an already deep group that includes Alex Wennberg and Jack Roslovic, as well as Kaapo Kakko and Jimmy Vesey.

Alex Ovechkin is still one of the league's greatest scorers at 38 years old, while TJ Oshie still has a great shot and can be an offensive force at 37. The Capitals may be better in low-scoring games, but players like Dylan can be for Strome, Tom Wilson and pickup Max Pacioretty are out for the season to make an offensive impact.

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Special teams

The Rangers dominated on special teams all season, finishing in the top three in both categories. Several blueshirt players contribute on both ends, such as Chris Kreider, who continues his reign as one of the most dangerous forward presences in the league on the power play. Plus Mika Zibanejad, a consistent penalty kill contributor and one-time killer with the man advantage.

After finishing in the middle of the pack on both special teams, the Capitals could have a tough time against the Rangers here.

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Peter Laviolette had a solid regular season with the Rangers. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

Training

Experience isn't always everything, but in this case it might be.

Capitals coach Spencer Carberry gets his first NHL coaching start this season, while Rangers coach Peter Laviolette makes his 22nd career start. Both Chiefs may be benched in their prime years with their teams, but Laviolette will enter the series with 154 playoff games experience and a 78-76 record.

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Post predictions

The Rangers should beat the Capitals easily. There's no reason to take more than five or six games. Considering how far they hope to continue, the shorter the series the better.

Rangers at 5

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