[Ed. note: As part of the build-up to the first round playoff series between the Capitals and the Rangers, Japers' Rink will be looking at some of the important but lesser-known players on the Rangers and how they might impact the series.]
#18 / Defenseman / New York Rangers
Jan 13, 1987
Thunder Bay, ONT, CA
12th overall in 2005
|Strengths||Has a very active stick and long reach, which make him very effective in the defensive zone. Skates well and is extremely cerebral.|
|Weaknesses||Could stand to utilize his 6-4 frame more often so as to keep opposing forwards honest. Needs to make better decisions on offense.|
Why you should know who he is - In just his second year in the League, Staal has emerged as a solid defensive defenseman and plays the tough minutes against the top competition for the Rangers. In the four regular season games against the Caps, he was on the ice against Alex Ovechkin more at even strength than any other Blueshirt blueliner and the match-up between the two will be one to watch all series long.
How the Caps can stop him -
Beat him like a drum Ovechkin had five points in four games against the Rangers this season, three of which came at even strength, so how well Staal can contain AO remains to be seen. It's also worth noting that while the Rangers closed the season with an 8-5-1 mark, Staal was minus-5 over that stretch, perhaps an indication that the big minutes are wearing him down. If the Caps can bang him a bit on the forecheck, they can force him into making some mistakes.