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Rangers-Caps, Game 1: 5 Things to Watch For

Chris Drury

Chris Drury Photo Credit: Getty Images

1. An early wave from the home side. The Caps have a loud crowd, they have a boisterous leader in Alex Ovechkin and they have a desire to erase last season's first-round flameout. That all adds up to a big surge off the opening draw from the Caps that the Rangers will need to withstand. That's where Henrik Lundqvist's experience and the Rangers' ability to not get rattled will come in handy.

2. Hard hits from the Rangers. The way to take away a home team's mojo in the postseason -- other than scoring a ton -- is to be as physical as possible. So it's incumbent upon every Ranger, not just the usual suspects (Brandon Prust, Ruslan Fedotenko, Brian Boyle, Brandon Dubinsky), to get in on the forecheck and pound away at the Caps' good, but not terribly mobile, defensemen.

3. Take away Ovechkin's space -- but don't overdo it. John Tortorella pointed out that the neutral zone will be a big area in this series; it's a place where the Rangers need to keep Ovechkin and his talented mates from gathering speed on the rush. "You have to get up on him as fast as possible," Marc Staal said. Staal and Dan Girardi will be counted on to shut down Ovechkin's line, but the danger on the road, with the Caps having the last change, is trying too hard to get the Staal-Girardi duo on. Ryan McDonagh and Michael Sauer have each played on the top pair against the Caps this season, so they know what's required against No. 8 as well. "We can't panic into bad changes," Staal said.

4. Shoot, shoot, shoot. Caps goaltender Michal Neuvirth said he could "outplay anyone" on the Rangers; the visitors tonight need to toss pucks on the Caps' rookie to see if that's true. The Rangers must embrace their identity as the greasy, grind-it-out squad and charge Neuvirth at every opportunity to find rebounds and holes in his confidence.

5. Let the leaders lead. Chris Drury's presence in tonight's lineup is a good-luck charm -- he's 8-0 in his career in first games of the postseason -- and a boon to the quiet confidence the Rangers project. Drury, Ruslan Fedotenko and Vinny Prospal are all in their ninth postseasons; if any of the many playoff rookies on the Rangers get overwhelmed, they have guys to point them in the right direction.

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