COACHING CHANGES TRANSACTIONS POWER POLL DEPTH CHARTS CURRENT ODDS
Dan Di Sciullo, NHL Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
At this point, the frustration level of Alex Ovechkin has to be at an all-time high.
The Rangers are now one win away from pulling off a significant upset in the opening round, and that's almost entirely due to Lundqvist's stingy play between the pipes. New York has been consistently outshot by the second-seeded Capitals and, without Lundqvist, the Rangers would certainly not be holding a three games to one lead in this series.
Still, it doesn't feel like this series is over when one considers how much offensive pressure Washington has put on the Rangers, and also the fact that the Capitals have outscored New York by an 8-7 margin over the four games. But, Lundqvist has bailed out his skaters on more than one occasion in the series, especially in Games 2 & 4, which were both victories for New York despite the fact that the club managed a total of three goals in those outings.
The trick for Ovechkin and the Caps is to keep the same approach and to hope that Lundqvist's armor can be cracked, like it was in Game 3 when Washington notched a 4-0 victory.
The Capitals could also build off last year's opening-round loss to Philadelphia, a series in which they were down 3-1 before forcing a Game 7, which the Flyers won in overtime.
But, the Rangers have to feel good about their current situation. With three chances to win one game, it would be hard to believe that Lundqvist wouldn't be able to steal another victory to send his club into the conference semifinals.
HOW SWEEP IT IS
Making quick work of an opening-round opponent is always a good way to keep your team fresh in the playoffs, although sweeps are usually tough to come by. That being said, two teams have already completed sweeps and another club has a chance to end their series in four games on Thursday night.
Vancouver was the first to pull of a sweep, ending St. Louis' playoffs with Tuesday's victory, and Boston followed the next night by capping its set against Montreal in four games.
The Detroit Red Wings, defending Stanley Cup champs, have an excellent shot at sweeping Columbus with a 3-0 lead heading into Game 4 in Ohio. Not to count the Blue Jackets out completely, but it's hard to imagine Columbus extending the series to a fifth game considering the club has been outscored by a 12-2 margin in the first three tests.
There is the belief that a sweep could also hurt a team in the next round, as the club could get a bit rusty waiting for another opponent. However, a good coach or a veteran club should be able to prevent that from happening.
In Vancouver's case, injuries to key players like Mats Sundin and Sami Salo made sweeping the Blues a godsend. However, with their goaltender Roberto Luongo posting a .973 save percentage and a .087 GAA against St. Louis, the layoff could conceivably have a cooling-down effect on the Canucks, who could possibly have 10 days off in between playoff games.
Historically, close to 19-percent of NHL playoff series end in sweeps and it's doubtful any player on a sweeping team has bemoaned the fact their team is going to have too much time off in between games. Then again, getting too comfortable with one's situation could be what leads a team to have a disappointing series following a sweep, after all.