Rangers at Capitals Picks and NHL Game 1 Betting Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 5/2/2013
The Rangers were not planning to open the playoffs on the road. In fact, heading into the season they were the favorites to win the Stanley Cup. They have fallen far short of expectations, though, and are frankly lucky to be playing at all. It was only in the last couple of weeks of the season that it became reasonably certain that the team would be in the postseason. The problems are clear — despite massive investments in offensive talent they have not produced at the level they should. Only the Senators scored fewer goals among playoff teams in the Eastern Conference.
Washington is very familiar with the struggles the Rangers are having. Just last season they were in a similar situation — favored heading into the season, they struggled badly and narrowly made it into the postseason as the seventh seed. This year the Caps looked like they were going to fall even deeper into a pit of despair. At the start of the season their collective attitudes were lousy, they weren’t responding to coaching, the play was poor, and they seemed destined to occupy the league’s cellar. They underwent the most dramatic transformation of the season, though, and amassed the best record in the league through the last 10 games to comfortably win their division.
Rangers at Capitals Betting storylines
As the saying goes, this series is deja vu all over again. This is the fourth time in five seasons that these teams have met in the playoffs. Last year the Rangers won in seven games. In 2011 it was the Capitals in five games. In 2010 the Rangers failed to make the playoffs, and in 2009 they again lost to the Capitals in seven games, and they did so after opening up a 3-1 lead.
While there is plenty of familiarity between these teams, there are still some key differences this time around. The Rangers have added Rick Nash — hardly a veteran of playoff action — and Ryane Clowe. Washington doesn’t have Alex Semin anymore, and they have a new coach. These are largely the same teams, but there are differences, so we can’t rely heavily on last year to teach us about this year.
The Capitals have two big assets going for them right now. For starters, Alexander Ovechkin is playing his best hockey in a couple of seasons. As the team was closing the season out with an 8-1-1 record over their last 10, Ovechkin tallied 15 points. He’s confident and dangerous, and that is all but certain to carry over to this series. More significantly, Adam Oates has done a spectacular job of coaching this team. Things looked very rough for the first-year coach at the start of the season as he was facing a team with attitude issues, was forced to make big changes, and had no real preseason and no offseason contact due to the lockout. As the season has progressed, though, Oates has not only implemented a system that suits his roster, but he has done a stellar job of getting his players to buy in and commit to a defensively-sound system — a real accomplishment for a team that had been increasingly selfish over the last two years.
Rangers at Capitals NHL Game 1 Odds and Betting Trends
The Rangers won two of three meetings with the Capitals this year, but both wins came when the Capitals were well under .500 and struggling, so they aren’t indicative of what to expect now. The Capitals are 7-1 in their last eight home games. The home team has won five of the last seven meetings in this rivalry.
Rangers at Capitals Picks and Game 1 Betting Predictions
The Rangers were strong down the stretch this season. They are not a strong road team, though — New York and Washington are the only two Eastern Conference playoff teams with losing road records. That’s a big concern against a team that is playing with as much confidence as the Capitals are, and which was a very solid 15-8-1 at home. The Rangers have a couple of key players banged up in Marc Staal and Ryane Clowe, and that’s a concern in this matchup. Washington is hungry and focused and will be looking to make an early statement in this series. Washington is the comfortable pick here.
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