5. Give us your prediction – who wins and in how many games?
Rob: I think the games will all be close, and I think the series will be very close (even that 5 game series victory a couple years ago was closer than the series score indicates). Acknowledging that the Rangers are better than last year and playing very good hockey, I think the Caps are the better team. I’m also high on Oates. In a close series, I think a guy that focuses on adjustments the way he seems to will be able to make a difference. I don’t recall Tortorella ever making any big adjustments to help the Rangers in a series.
The first 7-game series the Rangers were spotted a couple wins by a bad game from Theodore, and then a shutout from Lundqvist. Last year’s 7 game series the Rangers didn’t really have to make adjustments. Hunter hockey was Hunter hockey, and there was no mystery (and very little Ovechkin) to it. I think Oates will make the Rangers adjust more than they’ve had to in the past, and with the increased skill on the Caps’ roster this year, I like their chances. It won’t be easy, but Caps in 7.
Becca: Both teams are hot, both have their flaws, both are missing key guys due to injury... tough call. I’ll agree with Rob that history - recent and otherwise - tells us that these teams match up pretty evenly, and even with a rejuvenated Rangers team and a revamped Caps team, that will probably not change. That said, I think the Caps have the edge in top-six talent, a slight edge in top-four defensemen, and a goalie who can hold his own even against a Henrik Lundqvist-type (or, you know, Henrik Lundqvist) - to say nothing of a coach who seems willing to (gasp!) adjust on the fly, so... Caps in 6.
JP: On the one hand, this is a much better Caps team than the one that pushed the Rangers to a Game 7 at MSG last year. On the other hand, the Rangers are probably better, too. It’s a tough call, but the Caps’ good fortune has to run out at some time, and that time tends to be when they are a favorite to win a playoff series. Rangers in six, and I hope like hell that I’m wrong.
Kareem: In my mind, the Rangers are the favorite. They have more proven goaltending, play as solid a team game as anyone else, and are better than the Caps at even strength, which comprises 80% of game situations. Every brain cell tells me that the Rangers are going to win. But I just can’t bring myself to pick them. The Caps blew last year’s series against the Rangers. The Rangers will find a way to blow it this year. Caps take it in 7.
Geoff: Special teams aside, the Rangers’ top line (and to that point Washington’s defensive acumen against) will determine who takes the first round series. Home ice advantage, Adam Oates behind the pine, and what I expect to be a grounded and prepared Braden Holtby, the Capitals will take the Quarterfinals, but expect a full series to get there. My money is on Washington in six games.