Are you ready for a steady diet of Rick Nash, Henrik Lundqvist and the oh-so-loquacious John Tortorella?
The Capitals’ playoff picture narrowed into focus Saturday night when the Ottawa Senators were beaten in regulation by the Flyers, keeping the New York Rangers locked into the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
That means the No. 3 Capitals will face the No. 6 Rangers in the first round of the playoffs, likely beginning Tuesday night at VerizonCenter.
The Rangers knocked the Capitals out of playoffs last season in Game 7 of the conference semifinals. The Rangers were considered favorites against the Devils in the conference finals but Adam Oates helped lead the Devils past New York as an assistant with New Jersey.
Oates makes a habit of not addressing his players after games but he made an exception Saturday night.
“We know who we’re going to play and how soon we’re going to play so we talked about focus from now on,” he said. “We’ve come a long way to get this far and we obviously want to go a lot farther. We talked about rest and focus.”
The Caps went 1-2-0 against the Rangers this season, losing 2-1 in New York on Feb. 17 and 4-1 at home on March 10 before winning 3-2 in a shootout in New York on March 24 on a shootout goal by Alex Ovechkin.
The Rangers [26-18-4, 56 points] won five of their final six games to clinch a playoff spot and climb to sixth in the standings. They base their entire game on playing sound team defense and blocking shots in front of Lundqvist.
“It’s going to be tough hockey all the time,” Ovechkin said. “We have to play simple and play our game. If we play our game we’re going to have success.”
Braden Holtby said the sting of last year’s Game 7 loss remains, but the Caps need to treat the Rangers as they would any other opponent.
“We weren’t really worried about one or the other,” he said of the possible first-round draws. “I think they’re all very good teams, but we think we match up with them very well and we’ll control our own fate.”
As for paybacks, Holtby said there’s time for that later.
“There is and there isn’t,” he said. “I mean, once you start playing into that it creates more problems. We have a goal in mind and that’s the Stanley Cup.
“Whatever opponents we have to play we’re going to respect and do the things we need to do to win. If that has to be looking at last year than so be it.”