The Prediction: (3) Washington Capitals v. (6) New York Rangers

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by Chesapeake Charlie

Annapolis Correspondent, White Cover Magazine

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The Setup:

And, here we have it… two of the hottest teams in the league, two of the most attractive underdogs to bank on, and the two most dangerous (almost solely) offensive squads in the Eastern Conference will meet in the first round, and only one will make it out. Given that there’s a playoff history here (the two faced off in 2012, 2011, and 2009), this could easily be an enjoyable Eastern Conference Final.

Both teams were supposed to be better than they started, and both teams currently are.

They’re peaking at the right time, and either could be a fashionable pick for the Stanley Cup contender only you really believe in.

It’s a shame one of them has to go down before the dance even begins, but it’s nice to know at least one is guaranteed a little longer of a life on our television.

The Key Players:

Rick Nash and Brad Richards are a formidable twosome, and they’re finally figuring out their sh*t. Add in Ryan Callahan and Derek Stepan and the rest of the essentially same crew that led these Rangers to a No. 1 seed in 2012, and New York is neither an easy out nor the right team to overlook.

Of course, Washington has rediscovered their true identity, and it’s fair to say that credit lies with first-year coach Adam Oates. The Capitals look like they’re playing instinctive offensive hockey for the first time since Bruce Boudreau clipped his own nuts.

Alex Ovechkin is once again the best goal scorer in hockey, and Nicklas Backstrom is the Eastern Conference’s Patrick Kane.

After a depressingly disastrous start, Braden Holtby has looked every bit as good as he did during his stunted audition in last year’s playoffs.

Safe to say, this is a fantasy hockey player’s dream series.

The X Factor:

John Tortorella.

I dunno why. I just think he’s been too quiet lately, and I don’t think he can keep that up for too much longer…

Washington Wins If…

Alex Ovechkin can crack Henrik Lundqvist.

New York Wins If…

Alex Ovechkin can’t crack Henrik Lundqvist.

Prediction:

Two meteors are heading toward each other, and they’re extremely familiar with each other.

At the beginning of the season, the Rangers were Stanley’s Vegas favourite and, even though they finished in the bottom half of the Eastern playoff bracket, it wasn’t far-fetched.

I’ll say this one flips in the opposite favour of last year’s result, when the No. 1 Rangers fought off a No. 7 Caps team in a full-length seven game series. I can’t see it ending early, and I can’t see Washington forgetting the events of 2012, or how close they were to sending Henrik Lundqvist packing.

Washington in 7.