A special treat for all the Blue Line Station faithful.
After a rousing Game 7, the New York Rangers advanced to Round 2 and have a date with their playoff nemesis Washington Capitals. It should be a great series to watch, but if you ask Dennis Bernstein—senior writer of The Fourth Period—he has a different take on it.
To give you some background, Bernstein is also the Director of The Fourth Period hockey magazine. Born in the Bronx and now residing in Los Angeles, the veteran of game Bernstein is also a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Associaton and the co-host/Executive Producer of The Fourth Period Live show on Sirius/XM NHL Home ice.
Here’s Bernstein tweeting earlier today his prediction for all the second-round series:
2nd round: STL 7 NSH 5 NYR 4 NJD 6. Rest of @TheFourthPeriod crew picks along with series MVP guess later on website.
— Dennis Bernstein (@DennisTFP) April 27, 2012
For Rangers fans, reading that has to make you perk up quite a bit. If you’re a Capitals fan, you’re incensed! But, this a Rangers blog and we don’t care much for Capitals fans and their “feelings.”
Dennis was gracious enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions and back up why he feels the Rangers can pull off the four-game sweep of the Capitals.
James: We all read the tweet. Were you trying to tweak Caps fans in your predictions, or do you really feel the Rangers can sweep Washington? What makes you so confident in saying so?
Dennis: I’ve not been a fan of Caps all season and believe the only reason they’re in the 2nd round is that the Bruins severely underestimated them. Alex Ovechkin is miscast as their captain and it shows when Dale Hunter chose to give Jay Beagle more ice time than Ovechkin in an elimination Game 7. Rangers have big advantage in coaching and you can bet that John Tortorella is hammering home the fact that they took the Senators lightly. The Rangers fought through major adversity and showed huge character by winning Game 6 in Ottawa and holding off the Senators at MSG. New York has the advantage in every facet of the game, from the forward wall to between the pipes. And of course, I picked Rangers in 4 to tweak the Caps fans—that’s entertainment.
James: Braden Holtby was phenomenal in the opening round against Boston, playing excellent in net and displaying the confidence needed to be a No. 1. Is he a flash in the pan, or is Holtby the real deal?
Dennis: Unlike Cory Schneider, Braden Holtby has actually won a round in the playoffs. He played with great confidence and I expect him to be the incumbent in net next fall. I see all the tools necessary in Holtby’s game for him to be a successful No. 1 in the league in the long term and Caps fans should be buoyed by the prospects that their long search for stable goaltending may be at an end.
James: In your mind, what will be the key matchup of the series?
Dennis: Rangers defense vs Washington forwards. The key will be how effective Nicklas Backstrom will be and assume that he’ll see a ton of Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh throughout. I expect Alexander Semin and Ovechkin to be taken out of this series early and the task of winning the series will be in the hands like veterans like Brooks Laich and Troy Brouwer. Additionally, I’m assuming that Marian Gaborik is now embarrassed to the point where he will respond far better this round.
James: Carl Hagelin and Chris Kreider played very well in their first ever Game 7 last night, particularly using their excellent speed to make things happen. Will that be tough for the younger Capitals defenders to handle?
Dennis: A simply fantastic game by Kreider, you heard all the great things but for a rookie to perform in that manner in the spotlight was hugely impressive. Hagelin’s suspension really jammed up his game and he needs to get back on track early in the series. The Rangers have a definitive advantage in the speed game and Kreider and Hagelin are main reasons why.
James: What has to go right for the Capitals to win this series?
Dennis: Can’t fathom Capitals summoning the same effort in two consecutive playoff series. They would have to slow down the Rangers down significantly and only if Brian Boyle doesn’t return at all, then perhaps the Caps could grab a game at home. Simply put, I don’t see the Caps best players outplaying the Rangers best ones.
Once again, huge thanks to Dennis Bernstein for the interview. Make sure to give me a follow on Twitter and to check out The Fourth Period online. An exceptional source of hockey material, cover stories and, of course, Ice Girls.