For the second consecutive season, both the Washington Capitals and their American Hockey League affiliate, the Baltimore Skipjacks, will be in the playoffs.
The Capitals will meet the New York Rangers beginning tomorrow in Madison Square Garden in New York in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. This is the ninth consecutive season the Capitals have been in the National Hockey League playoffs.
The Skipjacks will begin the Calder Cup playoffs Friday in Binghamton, N.Y., against the Rangers' top affiliate, the Binghamton Rangers. Both the Capitals and Skipjacks finished third in their respective divisions, the Capitals in the NHL Patrick and the Skipjacks in the AHL Southern.
"Third place feels very good," said Capitals coach Terry Murray. "From the start of the season, we have gone through a lot of adversity on this club, and the guys showed a lot of character the last two months. We came from six points out of fourth place a little over a month ago to finish third."
Former Capital Mike Gartner, who scored 49 goals, is one of the keys for the Rangers, who lost last season to the Capitals in the Patrick Division championship series. Another key is goalie Mike Richter, who apparently has won the starting job for the playoffs from John Vanbiesbrouck.
John Druce had a big playoff against the Rangers last year, and Murray is wondering who will step up and do the job offensively this year. Don Beaupre, who has been outstanding in goal down the stretch, could be dominant. Beaupre leads the NHL in shutouts with four and has the second-best goals-against average in the league.