Let's pretend it is the eve of the first Rangers game of the season. A time traveller comes back from April and tells you the fates of several members of the team.
Marian Gaborik will miss 20 games with injury and will show next to no scoring punch for the majority of the season. Ryan Callahan will suffer two big injuries, including a broken ankle with just two games left to play in a season that was still hanging in the balance.
Michael Del Zotto will regress from his rookie season, Vinny Prospal will miss two-thirds of the season and the team won't add a significant bit of scoring help at any point during the season. Chris Drury will score just one goal while playing in only 24 games.
If someone came and delivered such a report, you probably wouldn't be putting too much money aside to spend on playoff tickets. Of course, you also wouldn't be expecting to like this Rangers team more than any other since the 1994 champions.
That's just what happened, though. The team played with a spirit that's not normally associated with the Rangers and became beloved as a result of their efforts.
That didn't make it any easier to predict what they'd do. Just look at the close of the season, going from the hideous loss to the Islanders to the thrilling comeback win over the Bruins to the dismal shutout loss to the Thrashers and, finally, to the win over the Devils that helped push them through the door.
Wildly inconsistent results like that make it very hard to make any kind of predictions about what they are going to do against the Capitals. At this point, it would barely raise an eyebrow to learn that the series ended in a sweep in either direction.
Their relentlessness when it comes to blocking shots and the presence of Henrik Lundqvist create a very plausible upset scenario in which they frustrate and oust the number one seeds. It is equally plausible to see the more talented Capitals skate around a Rangers team that can go through baffling stretches when they are unable to put the puck in the net.
Feel free to file a prediction about how things will play out, but it seems like a much better idea to simply be ready for anything and everything.