Capitals-Rangers Eastern Conference semifinals preview

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Sports,NHL,Capitals,Brian McNally

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The recipient of harsh criticism early this season from all corners, Alex Ovechkin forced his way into the Hart Trophy discussion by year's end. A move to right wing sparked a league-best 32-goal season and his third "Rocket" Richard Trophy.

Unsung hero

Capitals defenseman John Carlson was himself a pinata early in the year. He couldn't seem to get out of his own way. But he has been steady in his own end for weeks now and quietly finished with six goals and 22 assists.

Pressure is on ...

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who is capable of stealing any playoff series. He might have to with a team that averaged 2.62 goals per game -- 15th in the NHL. His .926 save percentage ranked fifth in the league. Lundqvist has started 19 playoff games vs. the Caps.

Behind the bench

In his first season, Adam Oates kept the Caps focused despite a 2-8-1 start and got Ovechkin to buy into the switch to right wing. Washington finished 25-10-2 over its final 37 games to win the Southeast Division and earn the No. 3 seed.

There was speculation that the fiery John Tortorella finally had lost his team this season. New York came in as a Stanley Cup contender with the addition of star forward Rick Nash but had to fight even to qualify for a playoff spot.

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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