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Capitals vs Rangers

(Page 4 of 5)
Capitals vs Rangers - 2013 SCP Conference Quarterfinals

Rangers' duo getting first taste of playoff hockey

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

WASHINGTON -- With gauze stuffed in his right nostril and his soaking-wet equipment hanging above him inside the New York Rangers dressing room Thursday morning, defenseman John Moore looked like someone who already had been through a postseason battle.

Derick Brassard
Center - NYR
Goals: - | Assists: - | Pts: -
Shots: - | +/-: -
Turns out the gauze was for a nose bleed, the kind Moore has been getting in dry weather since he was a kid, and the equipment was wet from his sweat after a routine morning skate at Verizon Center.

Moore joked that he already was putting on his playoff face, but of course he doesn't quite know what that will look like because he never has played a game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That changed Thursday, when Moore, Derick Brassard and Kris Newbury made their NHL postseason debuts in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Washington Capitals (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN).

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Hull knows Oates was perfect coach for Ovechkin

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Washington Capitals coach Adam Oates checks his phone after games and occasionally sees a text from a familiar name.

"Hullie still texts me after games," Oates said, referring to former teammate Brett Hull. "He sees himself in Ovi [Alex Ovechkin]."

It's true, Hull told NHL.com, he absolutely sees himself when he watches Ovechkin, Washington's captain and star forward. Hull also said he believes Oates was the only person who  had any chance of helping Ovechkin rediscover his scoring form because Oates understands a goal-scorer's mentality.

Oates helped Hull score 212 goals over parts of three seasons when they were teammates with the St. Louis Blues in the early 1990s. Oates also helped Cam Neely score 50 goals in 49 games with the Boston Bruins in 1993-94 and Peter Bondra get 52 with the Capitals in 1997-98.

"[Ovechkin's] will to win and things like that, that will make him do all the little things. But if he's not scoring, he's not happy. That's a goal-scorer," Hull said. "You may not see it outwardly, but inside we're not happy. You don't want to use the word depressed, but it is, and the rest of the game is tougher because of it."

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Oates' approach has earned his players' respect

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Toward the end of Washington Capitals practice Wednesday, when some players were skating around and having a few laughs, there was Alex Ovechkin at center ice. He was down on one knee, head up, eyes focused on coach Adam Oates, who appeared to be demonstrating to the superstar how to position himself for a good shot to a goalie's glove side.

Oates pretended to shoot. Ovechkin watched intently. Oates pretended he was the goalie waving his glove. Ovechkin watched intently. When the demonstration was over, the two chatted briefly before Oates let out a laugh, tapped Ovechkin on the shoulder and skated away.

Why is this important? Why does it matter that the coach and his superstar player were having a chat like this one day before Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals between the Capitals and New York Rangers?

Simple.

Oates' brand of 1-on-1 communication helped put the fun back in Ovechkin's game, and in turn created a new and intoxicating brand of winning hockey in Washington that has the Capitals thinking their time finally has come.

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Capitals' Ribeiro excited to be back in playoffs

Ben Raby - NHL.com Correspondent

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Washington Capitals say they have bigger goals than winning the Southeast Division, but for Mike Ribeiro, finishing in first place was a long time coming.

"Yeah, I kept that T-shirt they gave us," Ribeiro said of the division-winning paraphernalia he received for the first time in his 14-year professional career. "It took a while."

A total of 783 NHL regular-season games, to be exact.

It also has taken a while for Ribeiro to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, something he will do Thursday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the New York Rangers.

The Capitals' key offseason acquisition last appeared in the playoffs in the 2008 Western Conference Finals as a member of the Dallas Stars.

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Rangers confident for postseason after strong finish

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The New York Rangers would be watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs if April had not been their best month of the season. It was, and now they feel they are good enough to play well into June.

It sure is amazing what some offense and a balanced lineup can do for a team's confidence.

"All of a sudden you start feeling good," left wing Carl Hagelin said Tuesday, two days before the Rangers open the playoffs at Verizon Center against the Washington Capitals. "Most guys got into a rhythm. Before it was maybe three or four guys that played well, but we never had a full team effort. All of a sudden a lot of guys started feeling good about their game and this is what happens."

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Nash excited for return to postseason

Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- Rick Nash admits he doesn't have any distinct memories from his lone experience in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It was a brief appearance in 2009, one that saw his Columbus Blue Jackets swept by the Detroit Red Wings in the first round. Nash had a goal and two assists in the series, which started with three games in which the Red Wings outscored the Blue Jackets 12-2.

"It was quick," the five-time all-star said after the New York Rangers defeated the New Jersey Devils 4-0 Saturday to clinch the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference and a first-round date with the Washington Capitals.

Rick Nash
Left Wing - NYR
GOALS: 21 | ASST: 21 | PTS: 42
SOG: 176 | +/-: 16
Following the regular-season finale, in which he scored twice, Nash said he was eager to get back to the playoffs. In his quest to earn the first postseason win of his career, the power forward did his part to put the Rangers in a position to make a playoff run. After being acquired from Columbus in July, Nash led the Rangers this season with 21 goals in 44 games. In the four games he missed due to injury, New York went 0-3-1.

After closing the regular season with seven points in his final six games, Nash is ready to make an extended playoff run under the bright lights of New York City.

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Capitals vs. Rangers series preview

Corey Masisak and Dave Lozo - NHL.com Staff Writers

Capitals

  Seed: 327-18-357Pts.

Rangers

  Seed: 626-18-456Pts.

The Washington Capitals appeared headed for a playoff-free season when they visited the Winnipeg Jets for back-to-back games on March 21-22. Washington won both and never looked back, going 15-2-2 in its final 19 games to win the Southeast Division going away. Alex Ovechkin led the NHL with 32 goals, including 19 in that season-ending stretch. Braden Holtby emerged as a solid No. 1 goaltender, and the return to form of defenseman Mike Green helped give the Capitals the NHL's most dangerous power play (26.8 percent).

The New York Rangers also ended the season on a roll, going 10-3-1 in April to climb all the way to the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. Henrik Lundqvist is a rock in goal, the top four on defense is as solid as anyone's, even without injured Marc Staal, and the forward lines have sorted themselves into a working order. The unit of Rick Nash, Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin has been one of the hottest in the League, and Brad Richards' revival has given New York a second unit that can put the puck in the net.

The teams played a memorable second-round series last season; every game but the first was decided by one goal. The Rangers won twice in overtime before taking Game 7 at home, 2-1. If the teams go to a seventh game this time, the third-seeded Capitals will be at home.

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Five Questions: Caps must handle better competition

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

Six weeks ago, there seemed to be only two questions worth asking about the Washington Capitals: Would they trade pending unrestricted free agent Mike Ribeiro, and what top prospect would they select in the 2013 NHL Draft?

Alex Ovechkin
Left Wing - WSH
GOALS: 32 | ASST: 24 | PTS: 56
SOG: 220 | +/-: 2
Halfway through the 2012-13 season, the Capitals were almost cooked. They finished the first half at 10-13-1, then proceeded to get smoked by the Carolina Hurricanes, who pushed their lead in the Southeast Division to 10 points with a 4-0 win against Washington on March 12.

Since then, the Capitals have been lighting up the Eastern Conference. They went 17-4-2 to finish the regular season, claiming the division title for a fifth time in six seasons (in part because Carolina and the Winnipeg Jets faltered), and no team outside of the Pittsburgh Penguins enters the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the East with as much momentum.

This will be Alex Ovechkin and Co.'s sixth crack at the postseason puzzle. They've not been able to reach the second half of the tournament in their first five tries. Here are five questions that could determine if the sixth time will be a success:

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Why the Capitals will win the Stanley Cup

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

For so much of the previous five postseasons, there was an incredible amount of focus on how the Washington Capitals play hockey.

So many words written and uttered about the team's style of play, and whether or not it was conducive to succeeding when the stakes are at the highest -- in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. When Bruce Boudreau was in charge, the team was considered too offensive. When Dale Hunter was in charge, the Capitals were thought to be too passive.

With Adam Oates in charge, the Caps are ... well, they're a normal hockey team, and no pundit -- be it on television or in print -- is saying much of anything about how Washington plays. That's the biggest reason the Capitals will win the Stanley Cup, ending years of regular-season success followed by playoff failure.

The Capitals don't spend time answering questions anymore about "the system." They don't waste time trying to defend the philosophies of their coach, because they don't have to.

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X-Factor: Backstrom at center of Capitals success

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

For all of the criticism Alex Ovechkin received during the previous two seasons and at the start of this one, his good friend and usual Washington Capitals linemate Nicklas Backstrom also saw his offensive production slip.

It dipped dramatically in 2010-11 and was coming back toward previous levels last season before an elbow to the head left Backstrom with a concussion and sidelined him for nearly half a season.

Ovechkin's renaissance during the second half of 2012-13 has been one of the top storylines in the NHL, and he may earn another MVP trophy because of it. Yet, when the Hart Trophy candidacy of Jonathan Toews or Sidney Crosby is mentioned, the "other teammates are too good" excuse to not vote for them is often floated.

That is showing some pretty serious disrespect to Backstrom. Though Ovechkin has led the Capitals back into the Stanley Cup Playoffs after a slow start, Backstrom is not exactly a passenger. In fact, at one point this season Washington coach Adam Oates told reporters, "[Backstrom] drives the bus for us."

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