It might have been an uphill battle but the New York Rangers managed to make it to the 2011 NHL Playoffs.
But now that the dust has settled it's time to preview the Rangers opponent: the Washington Capitals. Here is what New York has to do if it wants to pull of the upset:
Shut down Alexander Ovechkin: Easier said than done has been a theme these past few weeks here on SB Nation New York, and this bullet point is filed under that category. There is no doubt that John Tortorella will want his top defensive pairing, Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, out whenever Ovechkin is. That's the easy part. Staal and Girardi actually shutting him down? That's the hard part. Ovechkin is one of those rare players who is dangerous no matter where he is on the ice, which makes covering him extremely difficult. Staal has shut down Ovechkin before (when these two teams met back in 2009) and now that the young defenseman has another two years of experience under his belt this should be a fun matchup.
Don't forget about the rest of the Capitals: Ovechkin will certainly be the big name on the docket, but that doesn;t mean the Rangers can forget about Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin, Brooks Laich and company. Washington has a plethora of players who can hurt a team, so the Rangers defense will have to be on their toes (even if Ovechkin is taking a breather).
Marian has to be Marian: Marian Gaborik just finished one of his worst statistical seasons of his career. But now that the Rangers have made the playoffs his slate has been wiped clean. Gaborik is one of the few players in the NHL who can match Ovechkin's danger level on the ice, and he absolutely has to be on his game once the puck drops in the post-season. An on-his-game Marian Gaborik can throw the Capitals defense into chaos all series, giving other potent Rangers' scorers a chance to do some damage.
Henrik Lundqvist has to be the better goalie: The New York Rangers have a luxury most teams in the NHL don't. They have an all-world goaltender, with big game experience under his belt. Lundqvist is easily the biggest edge the Rangers have in this series. He has to play that way, however, for the Rangers to cash it in. This is one of those series that Lundqvist can steal if he's on his game, and with the way he played down the stretch; that's not an insane possibility. He can't do it alone though, he'll need some help from the offense, but if Lundqvist is playing big then the Rangers are in good shape.
Pressure, pressure, pressure, wait, did I say pressure yet?: When New York has been at its best this season, its been pressuring other teams relentlessly. Offensive zone forecheck, defensive zone pressure even neutral zone pressure. For the first time in a long time the Rangers have a fast young team that can overpower oppositions by simply skating them into the ground. We all know about Tortorella's grueling pre-season workouts, this is when those skates come in handy. You might question a lot of things about the Rangers this season, but their stamina is not one of them. They need to use it to their advantage this season.
Steal a game in Washington: A playoff atmosphere in Madison Square Garden is going to be an intimidating one wether the Rangers are down 0-2 or up 2-0. But the difference between a 0-2 Garden crowd and a 1-1 Garden crowd is astounding. If the Rangers can steal a game in Washington they will come back to a zoo in New York, and we all know how hard it is to play in a rocking Madison Square Garden.
So there it is, six ways the Rangers can win the series against Washington. Sounds easy right?