Steve Zipay's key matchups for Rangers-Capitals Metro Division Final:
World-class netminder Henrik Lundqvist is playoff-tested, rested and determined. Braden Holtby, 25, appeared in 73 games during a high-quality season and six against the Islanders in the first round. He is 13-14 in the playoffs and 6-8 against the Blueshirts.
With right wing Mats Zuccarello out indefinitely with a head injury, the Rangers lose a little creativity and balance. Martin St. Louis moves to center Derick Brassard's line with Rick Nash. The second line -- Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller -- remains intact, but must produce. Jesper Fast joins the third line with Kevin Hayes and Carl Hagelin. For the Caps, nobody is under 6-1, but eight regulars are 29 or older. Alex Ovechkin scored five goals against the Rangers during the season and Nicklas Backstrom scored three against the Islanders. Evgeny Kuznetsov, 22, who also scored three times against Isles, is a sleeper. Caps should win most faceoffs.
The addition of Keith Yandle in March and the return of Kevin Klein for the second round strengthens the top six. Captain Ryan McDonagh has been playing his best hockey of the season in the last month, and Marc Staal and Dan Girardi will team up to mark Ovechkin and Backstrom. Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik changed the look of the Capitals' defense. John Carlson and Karl Alzner are quality blueliners. Mike Green and veteran Tim Gleason are past their prime.
In the first round, the Rangers and Capitals were fairly close on power-play percentage (2-for-13, .154 for the Caps and 3-for-20, .150 for the Rangers). But Washington's power play, thanks to Ovechkin's 25 goals, ranked No. 1 in the league and scored 30 percent of the time against the Blueshirts during the regular season. Using four forwards and one defenseman, the Rangers' power play is inching upward in creating chances. The Rangers' penalty-kill was No. 6 in the league; the Capitals held the Islanders scoreless (0-for-14) in the first round.
They were different two years ago (John Tortorella, Adam Oates) when the Rangers won in seven games. Teams under Alain Vigneault and underrated Barry Trotz have faced each other once in the playoffs: In 2011, the Canucks won a series, 4-2, against the Predators. Vigneault, who has taken two teams to the Stanley Cup Final, instituted an up-tempo speed game with the Rangers; Trotz demanded tighter defense and more physical play in his first season. He took the Predators to the playoffs seven times in 15 years.
Rangers in 7: Blueshirts were 3-1 against the Capitals during the season, have home-ice advantage and were the league's best road team.