At the start of the season, it looked like the Rangers would breeze into the playoffs. However, 82 games later, and one can only breathe a sigh of relief that the season didn't end on Masters weekend… Yes, it was that close. Thanks in large part to some shrewd deadline acquisitions and a coaching change, the Rags did manage to crawl into the post-season, finishing 7th in the Eastern Conference, and are now set to face the Washington Ovechkins Capitals.
So, what can we expect in this series? Will we get the Rangers squad that is happy to lay back waiting for a lucky turnover to begin thinking about generating offence? Or will we be treated to the team that Tortorella has playing like rabid dogs – always on the attack?
My guess is we'll see something in between. Tortorella realized later in his abbreviated season behind the Rangers' bench that the team simply doesn't have the horses on the blueline to challenge opposing players at both ends of the rink. Thus, he called for his blueliners to fall back into repel-mode whenever the opposition gathered the puck. It seems to work, as evidenced in the final game versus the Flyers.
Offensively, the Rangers will be looking towards some of the big money players to step up their games. Chris Drury is a clutch performer, and hopefully will at least earn a small fraction of what he's making on his ridiculous contract. Ditto Scotty Gomez, who has all the speed in the world, but a bad habit of not taking shots from quality scoring positions. Nikolai Zherdev will also be under heavy scrutiny, as he has never come anywhere close to his potential – at least with New York.
What we're really going to be watching is a team who can't score playing against a team that can't stop others from scoring.
Yes folks, we're talking about the impotent Rangers' offence against “propecia boy”, Jose Theodore…
While all the attention will no doubt be focused towards a certain #8 from Washington, the real test for the Caps will be between the pipes, where Jose Theodore adds an element of uncertainty. Some nights he's good, some nights he's like a sieve. In either case, he makes fans nervous any time a puck is fired his way.
It doesn't help that Washington's defence is a motley assembly of spare parts (other than Mike Green), but I truly believe that this will prove Washington's undoing. The Rangers, while terrible throughout the regular season at putting the puck in the net, still have enough talent to get to Theo, and with Tortorella's new, up-tempo gameplan, they should be able to beat him with some degree of frequency.
At the other end, we have the brick wall known as Henrik Lundqvist. Yes, Henke's numbers have been less impressive this season than in his previous three, but the realist in me attributes much of that to the Rangers having Wade Redden as their marquee defenceman for much of the year. Now that he is getting second-pairing minutes, things should be easier for Lundqvist.
I personally don't like to over-analyze matchups, so I'll leave my preview at that. I'll be checking back in periodically through the series to update things, but until then, my fearless prediction is RANGERS IN 6. The rest of my first round predictions are in the forums: HERE
The stats pack, courtesy:
Rangers @ Capitals 7pm TSN
– WSH was 3-0-1 vs the NYR this season
– Teams last met in the playoffs in 1994
– Washington finished 13 points ahead of the New York Rangers. From 1939 through the 2008 NHL Finals, when NHL teams led their best-of-7 playoff series opponents by 13 regular-season points, they have posted a 10-7 (.588) best-of-7 series record in those series against those opponents
– WSH has not won a playoff series since 1998 when they went to the Cup final (0-4) since
- This is the 4th straight season that the NYR have made the playoffs, they have advanced to the 2nd round in the past two seasons
– WSH had the leagues #2PP during the regular season, NYR had the leagues #1PK
– Ovechkin had 4G, 5A in 7 playoff games last season
– NYR defencemen combined to score 25G this season, Mike Green had 31 for WSH
– NYR were 12-7-2 under Tortorella, NYR never faced WSH with Tortorella behind the bench
– Antropov had the most goals (28) and points (59) of any NYR entering the playoffs
– Gomez had 10P in last years playoffs to lead all active NYR in playoff scoring a year ago (Jagr had 15P)
– Lundqvist has been in the net for 23 of the Rangers’ 24 playoff games over the last three post-seasons
– Theodore was 4-6 in the playoffs last season with COL, with a 3.15GAA
About the Author
Written by Dan Rakusan
A huge Rangers (NHL), Falcons (NFL), PGA Tour and soccer fan, I have been writing semi-professionally for about 7 years now. I try to impart information with some degree of humour, and always have an opinion. PSB is another feather in my cap, and am really proud of the team assembled here, and look forward to the long-term journey PSB is embarking on in terms of establishing itself as the best sports blogging collective on the net! Look for articles such as 4-Play, Rangers blogs and PGA Tour updates, along with my NFL handicapping service!