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Rangers Face Familiar Ground in Game 5

There's a sense of deja vu to the series with the Capitals

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    The same thing over and over again, even if the results differ.

    At least the Rangers can't claim inexperience when they take the ice on Monday night.

    The series with the Capitals is playing out almost exactly the same way that their series with Ottawa played out in the first round. Scoring is low, defense is paramount and every game comes down to a couple of breaks one way or the other.

    On Saturday, the break was like the one that the Rangers felt in Game Two. Carl Hagelin was called for a penalty in the third period, just as Brad Richards was at the Garden last week, and the Capitals capitalized with a game-winning goal on the power play.

    It was a questionable call in light of the fact that Alex Ovechkin got just two minutes for launching himself at Dan Girardi's head. At least Hagelin wasn't suspended this time, as he was against the Senators while Chris Neil was allowed to run roughshod on the ice without any discipline coming from the league office.

    There's nothing the Rangers are going to be able to do about the officiating, outside of avoiding the urge to take out some revenge on Ovechkin. We're also not sure how much they are going to be able to do about the way the games are played, either.

    At this point in the season -- hours before a second Game Five of a series tied at two -- it is impossible to expect to see anything from the Rangers other than what we've seen over the first 93 games. The Rangers are going to sell out defensively, let Henrik Lundqvist do his thing and struggle to find a way to turn those first things into goals. 

    Chris Kreider's situation illustrates just how fine a line the Rangers have to walk right now. Kreider's poor defensive play was a root cause of both Caps goals on Saturday afternoon, which led John Tortorella to bench him for most of the rest of the game.

    That's nothing new from Tortorella, who will bench anyone not taking care in his own end, but the team definitely missed Kreider's presence on the offensive side of the ice. There simply aren't enough other weapons up front for the team to lose Kreider's skill while still generating enough quality scoring chances on Braden Holtby.

    There's talk about putting more pucks on net, something that sounds quite familiar from the series against the Senators, but the Rangers aren't going to become the Wayne Gretzky Oilers overnight. The team has an identity that they wear proudly and it simply isn't one of a team that is going to have a lot of easy nights on the ice.

    We're 11 games into this playoff run and the script is pretty clear. It's not going to be pretty and it's not going to be fun, but it's certainly going to be exciting. 

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.