On paper, this is a mismatch.
The top team in the Eastern Conference versus the eighth seed. When you look at the stats, the New York Rangers are head and shoulders above the Ottawa Senators.
Thank God hockey is not played on paper.
Looking around the experts are all picking the Rangers and on the surface of things it is a sound choice. Many are saying Ottawa has the ability to give the Rangers a run but not enough to get them over the top. Of course, the experts also predicted the Senators would finish 15th in their conference. We all know how that worked out.
Ottawa won the season series three games to one. Playoff hockey is different, but the fact remains Ottawa knows they can beat their opponent. Throw in the Sens record in New York since the lockout, 11-1-2, and a picture emerges. Ottawa has confidence going into MSG.
Let’s break down some of the areas that will play a role over the next week or two…
Both teams have depth, and both teams have scoring up front. The Rangers might have a little more scoring depth though. Jason Spezza and Brad Richards had essentially the same amount of points and both squads have a winger or two that can score. Ottawa might have a little more toughness amongst their forward group, but the Rangers as a team had more hits than Ottawa. Sens have six forwards that won the Calder Trophy with the Binghamton Sens last year, experience they can draw on.
Ottawa has perhaps the Norris trophy winner in Erik Karlsson, who leads a group of D that can put up points. Ottawa’s D also have three players who are experienced in Chris Phillips, Sergei Gonchar and Filip Kuba. The Rangers boast a young blue line that is physical and block shots. Dan Girardi was an All-Star this year, and his game will translate very well in the postseason. He, Ryan McDonagh and Marc Staal will be counted on to shut down Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson and all. The Rangers depth might come into play in this series.
Advantage: Rangers (slight)
Clearly in favor of New York. Now that is not to say Craig Anderson, who is healthy again, isn’t capable of winning a series or two. But he is not in the same class as Henrik Lundqvist. Hank is in the running for the Vezina this year after a stellar season. He has the ability to be the Conn Smyth winner. However…he hasn’t done much in the playoffs in the past. This is the post season where we will have to see the true Lundqvist.
Advantage: New York
This is an interesting spot. Paul MacLean had a great first season in Ottawa, pushing all the right buttons. MacLean spent years as an assistant with the Red Wings, but has never won a Stanley Cup as a head coach. John Tortorella has. He has done a great job building his team over the season to put them in this position. He has to keep his team focused on winning this series and making sure the Rangers don’t look to far into the future.
Advantage: New York
And yet, I see Ottawa winning this series. New York plays a certain style and for whatever reason, Ottawa matches up with them. The Sens can play an unstructured structured game. If the Rangers get off their game, loose forechecking, taking too many chances with odd man rushes, then Ottawa will capitalize on their chances. Of course, the great equalizer here is Lundqvist. If he is on his game, he could carry his team through the 16 wins needed.
Senators in 6.