ARLINGTON, Va. -- Braden Holtby is ready for the bright lights of New York -- even though, he says, the lights aren't actually that bright after all.
"It's just a different color in there," Holtby said of playing in New York's Madison Square Garden. "It's almost a yellow."
Holtby spoke Friday about his limited experience playing in "The World's Most Famous Arena" as the Washington Capitals prepared for the opener of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the top-seeded New York Rangers.
The rookie goaltender started the Caps' regular-season finale in New York and turned aside 35 of 36 Rangers' shots in a 4-1 Washington win. The loss kept the Rangers from claiming the Presidents' Trophy.
Exactly three weeks after his first career start in New York, Holtby will start again for the Capitals in Game 1 on Saturday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC). Holtby believes his having played in New York once before will make him feel more at ease with the surroundings.
"Especially with getting used to the lighting and whatnot and the different confines," he said. "It's not exactly your typical building. It was good to play in it… Darker buildings usually it impact the goalies more than usual."
Holtby says that he's confident that the arena lightning won't be a distraction and that he's not worried about the hostile environment that will greet the Caps in New York.
"It doesn't bother me that much," he said. "That's what everyone pays the money for is to have their two cents. It's good. It's not motivation, but it's definitely fun… If someone was playing the [Toronto Blue] Jays in the playoffs or something, I'd probably heckle them, too. That's what happens. It's hockey. It's fun. It adds to the intensity and it's a good thing."
Holtby became the third rookie goalie to backstop a team to a series win over the defending Stanley Cup champions when the Caps eliminated the Boston Bruins in seven games in Round 1. The 22-year-old stopped 31 shots in the Caps' 2-1 overtime win in Game 7, and he enters Round 2 with a 2.00 goals-against-average and .940 save percentage.
"I don't feel more comfortable or anything," Holtby said of his confidence now compared to before the Stanley Cup Playoffs began. "Not that I felt uncomfortable before. It's still the same. We're still a confident group in here. I still feel confident in my abilities that I can give this team a chance to win. It doesn't change much. It's still the Capitals vs. Rangers."
NEW YORK -- For the third time in four years, the Rangers will face the Washington Capitals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Things have not gone well for the Rangers in those matchups, both of which occurred in the first round. In 2009, the seventh-seeded Rangers let a 3-1 series lead slip away and lost in seven games. Last year, the eighth-seeded Rangers lost in five games to the top-seeded Caps.
The shoe is on the other foot this time around -- the Rangers enter the series as the No. 1 team in the East with the seventh-seeded Capitals as the underdogs.
None of that matters to Henrik Lundqvist, the losing goalie in those previous two encounters.
"The past is the past," Lundqvist said after the Rangers won Game 7 by beating Ottawa 2-1 on Thursday. "I don't think about what happened last year or whatever. It's different teams. We're in a different place and they're in a different place. I'm going to approach it the same way I approached this one, not overthink it or try to do too much. Their top guys are really talented and can make some big plays out of nothing, so we have to be ready."
The Caps have won four of the previous six postseason meetings between the teams. But both of the Rangers' wins have come in this round -- New York upset Washington in 1986 and beat the Caps in five in 1994 on the way to winning the Stanley Cup.
The teams split four games during the regular season, with team earning a victory in the other's building.
"I don't know honestly how much is going to change game-wise," Lundqvist said. "It's the playoffs. It's more physical. It might be similar, maybe not, who knows, but for me personally it doesn't really change. I'm going to approach it the same way and I have to play my game the same way. So, yeah, it doesn't change for me."
Both teams are coming off seven-game series and won't have much rest entering the conference semifinals.
"They went seven games as well and have very confident players," Rangers forward Marian Gaborik said. "We have to get ready for those guys and play our game. It's going to be another tough series."
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter; @DaveLozo
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