The Ottawa Senators will be meeting up with the New York Rangers in the first round of the playoffs, which means that the Sens can put off an encounter with Tim Thomas for awhile. It’s hoped that ‘awhile’ doesn’t mean until the start of next season, but beating the top-seeded Rangers isn’t going to be an easy task. There’s nothing easy about the playoffs, and while the regular season can be tossed aside in the next match ups, the numbers indicate that Ottawa has a fair chance.
In four meetings with the Rangers, Ottawa beat them 3 out of 4 times. Their most memorable game was a shoot out win on October 29th where Michalek scored to tie the game late in the third and then went on to win it with the lone shootout goal. It was the same game where Wolski laid out a big hit on Captain Daniel Alfredsson that should have been a 5 minute major. Ottawa has found ways to win against this strong New York team and they will need the same tricks in their bag next week.
There is no magic formula to beating the Rangers, but the main advantage of facing off with New York over Boston is the psychological factor. Ottawa’s poor showings against Boston indicate that there is a very real notion that Boston, armed with Thomas, can’t be beat. Ottawa regularly throws everything but the kitchen sink towards the net in those games and regularly comes up short. Henrik Lundqvist is no less impressive in net, but he has style, which Thomas does not have. Thomas free styles in net and is utterly unpredictable, which makes him hard to figure out for any team. He befuddles Ottawa completely.
Ottawa’s defensive core has struggled, and they will need to strengthen their game and concentrate on shutting down Richards and Gaborik. New York’s offensive firepower stems primarily from these two players and they will need to be tightly contained. The Rangers like to hit the ground running and take an early lead, but Ottawa has been king with comebacks this season, playing their best hockey in the third period, saving the best for last and surprising teams along the way. This is not a team that you walk out on in the third period. The trick will be for Ottawa to not let the first period phase them if they get behind and to rely on their defense to prevent that gap from getting too wide.
Anderson will do his part in between the pipes, but the real trick will be to not make him do too much. He needs to focus on his crease and his defense needs to play the puck more and let him know when they do. Ottawa and New York do have one thing in common; they both have dismal power plays. The man advantage may end up being a non-factor in this series, unless one of the two teams can find a way to kick-start it.
The Senators will hit the big Apple for the playoffs in a season where they weren’t even supposed to make it. Expectations are huge for New York, as they won the Brad Richards sweepstakes this summer and finished on top of the Eastern Conference. It’s going to take grit and patience from Ottawa if they want to take a bite out of this one.
About the Author
Written by Mika Oehling
Office worker and sports nerd. Cannot play a professional sport to save my life, but love to write. Prone to rants, raves, snarky humour and caustic commentary. My team's the Ottawa Senators. Author of Armchair Hockey, a work of humourous fiction released this year and available for sale online at Chapters and Amazon.