The Washington Capitals have pulled the New York Rangers for their opponent in the second round of the playoffs (check the schedule here). This will be the sixth time in history that the Caps and Rangers will square off in a best-of-seven series. But unlike recent years, the Rangers are no underdogs. They finished in first place in the Eastern Conference, just barely missing the President’s Trophy after a loss to some no-name team in the final game of the regular season. Meanwhile the Caps are the scrappy team that no one expected to slay the dragon in round one. It’s going to be a big series between two old Patrick Division rivals.

In preparation, we peaked back at last year’s quarterfinal series between the Caps and Rangers in hopes that it might give us a glimpse at the future. No matter their predictive value, these five games were a freaking blast. Join me for some good memories behind the jump.

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Blues beat Caps 2-1, Dale Hunter’s Debut as Coach

 Photo credit: Nick Wass

Photo credit: Nick Wass

Dale Hunter hoped to lead the Washington Capitals to victory in his first game as head coach. He’d have to go through Jaroslav Halak to get there, but more importantly he’d have to get a flagging Capitals offense moving.

Alex Ovechkin threaded the needle, setting up Nick Backstrom to record the first goal of the game. T.J. Oshie cleaned up a Alex Steen’s slapshot to tie the score at 1-1. Matt D’Agostini caught a lucky bounce and wrapped it around to give St. Louis the lead. Despite a late-game flurry, it ended like that. Blues beat Caps 2-1.

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St. Louis Blues Pregame: East St. Louis Toodle-Oo

Jamie Sabau

David Backes. (Photo credit: Jamie Sabau)

Doug Johnson of the PuckBuddys writes. Follow @PuckBuddys on Twitter.

The Unhappy and Unfunny Edition

The Pre-Game Practice

So. Anything happen over your holiday weekend?

Oof. Coach Juggles was jiggled out of the Caps hierarchy sometime late last week, so go the reports. But those who wielded the ax only announced it Monday morning. As if on Sunday we didn’t suspect our Regent would be decapitated; or that on Monday, after the quartering, they would all just expect us to blandly melt back into the blah-blah of our desperate little lives.

There’s been plenty of blah online in the last 36 hours, and in general on the Caps bench this season. Fine. But do not number us, your humble PuckBuddys, as among those celebrating the call for Boudreau’s head.

It is the right of every sovereign to decapitate those they wish…or at least was, in Elizabeth’s days. But who are we kidding? Today, it’s the unquestioned right of every sovereign owner of an NHL franchise – your Majesty – to chop off the head of any servant they see fit. Assuming they can buy out their contract.

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Have You Heard? The Caps Are Back.

I feel like I’ve seen this person before… (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

Fans enter Verizon Center before the season-opener. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)

One hundred fifty-seven days. That’s a long summer for Caps fans. And Saturday night at 7:09 P.M. Eastern Time when six ounces of vulcanized rubber tumbled toward the ice sheet it was finally over.

“The atmosphere was great,” Alex Ovechkin told reporters after the game. “The fans push us forward all the time. It’s nice to play at home, especially the first game. I know everybody was missing hockey here so it’s nice to come back.”

The trademarks of Caps hockey were all there last night: Sam Wolk pursed his lips to his horn and let lout three loud blasts at the drop of the puck; Wes Johnson bellowed out the name of Alexander Semin (heavy on the “r”) after Washington lit the lamp for the first time this season on Sasha’s tally; William Stilwell, better known as the Goat, let out a thunderous roar of “Let’s Go Caps!” as he stomped the metal beneath his feet when shown on the big screen in the second period.

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A Primer to the Washington Capitals 2011-2012 Season

Primer to the 2011-12 Capitals Season

If you took a break from hockey after May 4th, when the Tampa Bay Lightning swept the Washington Capitals out of the playoffs, we completely understand. It was rough. But the new season is here, along with reasons for renewed hope. So in case you’ve been avoiding hockey in general and this blog in particular, we’ve prepared a primer to catch you up.

Here is everything you need to know about the Washington Capitals but were afraid to ask (2011-2012 edition).

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Brooks Laich is Back; Ladies, You Can Exhale Now

Brooks Laich

It looks like six more years of high-fives and tire changes are on tap. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)

As all of you Brooks Laich fans kept hitting refresh instead of working Tuesday morning, the Capitals announced that the soon to be unrestricted free agent had re-signed with the team to the tune of six years and $27 million.

“There was never a serious consideration to go anywhere else,” Laich said. “The main core of this team is very young and if you can keep that together, you’re looking at a chance to win a championship for potently the next 10 years, rather than just a window of two to three years. That was a great motivator to get me re-signed.”

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A happier time. (Photo credit: Greg Fiume)

Less than a day after the Caps dropped their second game of the series to Tampa Bay, Bruce Boudreau was asked to assess the state of his club:

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Actor Michael Douglas takes in the game with his daughter Carys (Photo credit: Bruce Bennett)

Sigh. (Photo credit: Kathy Willens)

This could be the pivotal game in the series. Up 2-0 Washington had the chance to all but put the Rangers away. But all it took to derail those plans, however, was one bad bounce off Karl Alzner’s shoulder.

The first period was scoreless and fairly even with Caps holding a 5-4 advantage in scoring chances. Despite not having a lead after 20 minutes of play the frame had to be considered a positive for Washington after killing off New York’s one and a half minute five-on-three power play late.

The Rangers opened the scoring at 5:30 in the second period when Erik Christensen threaded the needle, firing a sharp-angle wrister from the corner over Michal Neuvirth’s shoulder on the man-advantage. The Capitals remained down by one until Bruce Boudreau juggled the lines, putting Alex Ovechkin, Jason Arnott and Mike Knuble together. It would pay dividends just minutes later when Arnott fired a shot from the corner before Ovechkin potted it home to tie the game.

Eight minutes into the third, Vinny Prospal gave New York a 2-1 advantage, putting the rebound from Eric Marc Staal’s blast from the point into the back of the net. But when in comes to scoring gritty goals in front of the net, no one can outdo Knuuuuuuuble, as he whacked home the loose puck after Nicklas Backstrom’s one-time rocket on the power play. You might want to stop reading now.

With just 1:39 remaining in the game Brandon Dubinsky fired shot on Neuvirth, hitting Alzner. Before Neuvirth could react, six ounces of vulcanized rubber were in the back of the net. The Czech netminder hung his head in dejection and Ovechkin lay face down on the ice. Rangers shock Caps, 3-2.

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Is Arnott happy or angry he scored? (Photo credit: AP)

Thanks to tallies authored by the two Alexes Wednesday, the Capitals opened up their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series against the Rangers with a 2-1 overtime victory. Who would pot the goals in game two? Um, obviously the Jasons.

After a scoreless first period, Brooks Laich decided to hold a forechecking clinic at 2:11 of the second period, taking on towering Rangers’ defenseman Matt Gilroy. After being knocked to his keister not once — but twice — Laich pushed the biscuit with only one hand on his stick to Marcus Johansson. Mojo — acutely aware of all of his surroundings — immediately sent a tape-to-tape pass to Jason Chimera, who roofed the puck high and glove side past a stunned Henrik Lundqvist.

1:57 later while on the power play, Jason Arnott would win a face-off. Alex Semin then passed it back to Alex Ovechkin at the point. Ovechkin, when pressured by a Ranger penalty-killer, skated across the blue line with the puck and fed Mike Green who was rotating down to the slot. Green then wound up to the sky with all his fury and released a slap shot. Gilroy blocked the attempt both with his skate and stick. Unfortunately for him, the muffed puck then deflected across the ice directly onto the blade of Jason Arnott’s twig, who was skating towards the net already looking for a rebound. As Lundqvist panicked and made a quick move to block the right corner of the net, Arnott made a veteran move and waited as he fell down and then shot the puck past. ANGRY SCOAR FACE.

That would be all she wrote. Michal Neuvirth would get his first career playoff shutout. Caps beat Rangers, 2-0!

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Sasha and Sasha go wild after Ovi nets the game-tying goal. (Photo credit: Alex Brandon)

We all know Alexander Semin can be unpredictable. Wednesday night though, #GoodSasha was out in full force as he picked up the game-winning overtime goal and the primary assist on Alex Ovechkin’s wack-a-riffic third period tally. Sasha Minor even had the ability to control human consciousness. After the game, Semin spoke to the media and appeared more relaxed than usual with microphones around. At one point a reporter even asked him if Jason Arnott provided him with gas money. Since this is not something that happens very often I transcribed the interview.

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