Gametime: 7:30 EST TV: NBC Sports Network
Eastern Conference Semifinals
New York leads Washington 3-2
Before this series began, Capitals 101 published three keys that the Washington Capitals needed to concentrate on in order to defeat the New York Rangers. One of those keys was dominating in the face-off circles.
The Rangers entered round two dead-last in the NHL by winning 45.2% of their draws, while the Capitals held the NHL's best face-off team in the regular season (Boston at 54.5%) to a success rate of 48.9% in the seven game series.
Through five games, the Rangers and Capitals have been just about dead-even at the dot. New York has 159 face-off wins and Washington has 157.
However, it seems as though this stat has played a vital part in determining the winner in each game so far. (among many other factors)
The team that has won the face-off battle is 3-1 through the first five games. The only outlier was the Game 3 marathon in which the Caps won 38-of-72 draws. The two teams tied for 34 face-off wins in Game 2, but Alex Ovechkin's game-winning power play goal was thanks to a clean face-off win by Nicklas Backstrom.
Still don't think face-offs are that important?
In Game 5, a clean win off the stick off John Mitchell created Marc Staal's overtime winner to put the Rangers up 3-2 in the series. Heck, even the game-tying goal by Brad Richards began with a face-off win by Richards following the Ward double-minor with 21.3 seconds left.
In a game of bounces, the Capitals must do whatever it takes to win the face-off battle Wednesday night.
Without face-off guru Jeff Halpern, guys like Jay Beagle (54.0% in the playoffs) must continue to be successful at the dot. Nicklas Backstrom and Brooks Laich have to figure out a way to win their battles as well. There really is no telling which face-off could create the difference in the game.
On the brink of elimination, the Caps are likely to showcase some seriously desperate hockey in front of their home crowd Wednesday night.
Here's to hoping that it's not the last time a sold-out Verizon Center crowd cheers on the 2011-12 Washington Capitals.
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