Reporting David Elfin
The good news for the Washington Capitals when it comes to their history with home ice advantage in a playoff series is that their opponent in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals is the New York Rangers.
In the six playoff series in which the Caps had the home ice edge since their surprising run to the 1998 Stanley Cup finals, Washington is a ghastly 1-5.
It didn’t matter if the uniforms were red, white and blue or bronze, blue and black or if their top sniper was Peter Bondra, Jaromir Jagr or Alex Ovechkin, the Caps found a way to lose.
Except against the Rangers. Two years ago, Washington limped to New York for Game 3 down 2-0 and came home from Madison Square Garden 3-1 but still found the gumption to win the series 4-3.
Otherwise, home ice has been barren of smiles for the Caps, who have managed to lose three straight Game 7s at Verizon Center which is really what having the home ice advantage gives a team.
Thirteen of the current Caps, who rallied to finish first in the East again, were part of that superb comeback against the Rangers. That group includes Washington’s top four scorers in those 2009 playoffs: Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin and Mike Green as well as the goalie who backstopped the triumph, Semyon Varlamov. And of course, coach Bruce Boudreau, the mastermind behind the Caps’ rise from laughingstock to powerhouse, remains behind the bench.
On the other hand, it has to be a concern that Washington’s two most lopsided defeats this year were 7-0 and 6-0 shutouts at the hands of the Rangers, who took the season series 3-1.
However, the Caps are 15-4 since that 7-0 home ice embarrassment while the Rangers are more a pedestrian 11-8 and just lost No. 2 scorer Ryan Callahan to a broken leg. Meanwhile, the Caps expect to have Green back in the lineup for the start of the series tomorrow for the first time since he played briefly in that Feb. 25 pasting by the Rangers during which he suffered a concussion.
Ultimately, the Caps don’t want this series to go the distance despite the home ice advantage and the loud, sellout crowds on 9th Street. Why deal with the ghosts of a 2-7 record in home playoff games for all the marbles?
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the former President of the Pro Football Writers of America. A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March.