The first round of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs is officially over with last night’s series-deciding Game 7 between the Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning concluding the Conference Quarter Finals. The Lightning were victorious with a 2-0 shutout victory over Detroit in what could very well be Mike Babcock’s last game as the Head Coach of the Red Wings. We are now down to eight teams and the Conference Semi-finals kick off tonight with the Washington Capitals taking on the New York Rangers on the East side while the West brings us the Calgary Flames going up against the Anaheim Ducks. For tonight’s pick I am going to go East and take a look at Game 1 between the Caps and Rangers.
Washington Capitals @ New York Rangers
My Pick – OVER 5 (+110)
Game 1 between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers takes place this evening from Madison Square Garden in New York City and it should give us a real idea of what playoff hockey is all about. Washington managed to knock off the New York Islanders in Game 7 of their first round series, but it certainly wasn’t easy as that was the most physical series of the first round. Washington has a lot of big bodies that can play both a physical and a speed game that should match up better with the Rangers than most people are thinking heading in to tonight’s Game 1. The Rangers disposed of the Penguins in five games in their first round series but it’s not as if this was a romp by any means as every Rangers victory was won by just a one-goal margin with two of those victories coming in overtime. The Rangers are a fast team and it should be real interesting to see if they can keep up with the physicality of the Capitals. New York only had two players with more than one goal in the first round but with the up-tempo pace I am expecting tonight I feel there will be more chances to score than there were against the Penguins. Rick Nash was near the top of the league in goals scored in the regular season and although he had just one in the first round I am expecting big things from the power forward in this series. Same goes for Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals. Ovi did tally two goals and three assists in the first round but he was held without a powerplay goal after leading the league with 25 in the regular season. The Washington powerplay was the best in the NHL this season by a significant margin as their 25.3% clip on the powerplay was thanks in large part to the Great 8. Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom are the league’s best powerplay duo and I have a hard time seeing the Rangers keeping these two quiet. While both goaltenders played solid first round series’, they were up against teams that limped in to the playoffs due to their inability to score. Pittsburgh barely made it in to begin with, while the Islanders offense tapered off significantly as the year progressed and mustered just 11 shots in Game 7. I don’t care how well the Caps defense played, a good offense does not produce just 11 shots with their season on the line. Henrik Lundqvist and Braden Holtby will be tested a lot more in these upcoming games as both of these teams can score. The Rangers were third in the regular season with 3.02 goals per game and the Capitals were 6th with 2.89 per game. I expect both teams to come out with a fire lit underneath them and a high-tempo pace will produce some goals in this one. Take the OVER 5 at a great price and enjoy the beginning of what will be a fantastic series.