Yesterday, I did a round table with Joe over at Rock the Red. Here are his anwers to my questions about the Capitals…
The Capitals decided to change their style of play to more of a grinding game to better compete against teams like the Rangers in the playoffs, do you feel this will work?
Yes, changing the style of play will help in the playoffs. Not that the Capitals’ style was a huge issue in the past, the problems they’ve had in the playoffs were twofold- the inability to adjust when things weren’t going their way and (2) not being mature enough to put opponents away. They don’t have those problems now, and they definitely still have the firepower to cream an opponent, they are much more difficult to play against. Jason Arnott is the piece the Caps needed last year and didn’t have, it was the lack of a #2 center that cost them the series against the Canadiens, nothing else.
Tell us why the Capitals goaltending will not be a problem?
The Capitals goaltending has been a strong suit for much of this season, why would it be a problem now? The goalies are young- but they haven’t been overworked. While Varly’s health is always a question, he never seems to be “ailing” in the Spring. His first (and only) career NHL playoff series victory came against the Rangers – and I believe there’s a certain level of comfort and confidence for him with the idea of returning to that same situation. If Varly’s unavailable, Michal Neuvirth is more than ready to take the reigns, and statistically, he’s always played better in the postseason than in the regular season. He’s one of those guys that seems to have no problem getting “up” for a big game or a new challenge – so my confidence in his abilities to perform well under the pressure of the situation is well founded. Oh, and there’s that Holtby guy in case something goes horribly wrong.
Alex Ovechkin’s goal total was down significantly this year why was this and do you think he’ll revert back to form in the playoffs?
Ovechkin isn’t playing in the same system in which he scored 65 goals in 2008, but he’ll have a decent playoffs anyway. He doesn’t have to carry all of the scoring any more, either, which is another reason he’s not scoring as much, and he’s not playing 25 minutes a night any more. Although he’s been on fire as of late (scoring 23 points in the 17 games since the Rangers shut the Caps out on February 25th), I don’t expect him to blow the Rangers away in this series as he traditionally doesn’t score as much against Lundqvist.
Who’s an under the radar player that might have a big impact in this series?
Matt Hendricks was a force throughout the regular season series against the Rangers, and there’s no reason to think he won’t do it again. He had a big year and his confidence is as high as ever. While this is Hendy’s first year as a Capital, Bruce coached him in Hershey and knows how high Hendricks can elevate his game in pressure situations. Going back to that year in Hershey (2006-2007). Hendricks scored 18 goals and added 26 assists in 65 games played. Come playoff time, he scored 8 goals and 4 assists in just 19 games. Good hands, huge heart, tough as nails. Those are the guys that help win series when the stars are shut down by top rated defense.
Are Capitals fans nervous given the results against the Rangers this year?
I think many of the fans are nervous, especially after the two drubbings the Caps received. The two other games were close, competitive games, though, a 5-3 win for the Caps that included an empty net goal and basically a 1-1 game that went to extra shots in the shootout that the Caps lost. The other important thing to mention is all 4 games were before the trade deadline when the Caps plugged their biggest hole on the roster: #2 center.
For my answers to Joe’s questions click here.
I was also lucky enough to put together a Rangers playoff preview for Nick over at Case and Point which you can check out here.