The stage is set. The New York Rangers will come face-to-face against the familiar Washington Capitals. If it wasn’t for the Rangers stellar April performance, they would not be in this position. They would probably be sitting in their apartments and houses wondering where everything went wrong.Instead. they are one of the 16 teams that have a chance at lifting the most valuable trophy in sports.
After a rigorous 3 days of practice the Rangers have boarded their plane to D.C and they are ready to get going against the red-hot Caps. Even though the Rangers season was sub-par many experts are still picking them as the sure favorite to make a run at the Stanley Cup. How can this be? A team that only won 7 games out of 15 in the month of March is the #6 seed in the Eastern Conference? Your answer is: April. Glen Sather knew he had to do something so he went out and acquired Ryane Clowe, Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett, and John Moore. Clowe, Brassard, and Moore made immediate impacts as all 3 players scored in their Rangers debut against the Penguins on April 3rd. The Blueshirts went 10-3-1 in the month of April and moved into the 6th spot in the East.
How Far Can They Actually Go?
At the beginning of the season the Rangers had heavy expectations hanging over their heads. After reaching the Eastern Conference Finals in the midst of a magical playoff run many pundits and experts predicted that they would win the cup. But a guy named Adam Henrique poked the puck into the net and the Rangers’ season was over just like that. You were able to see the disappointment in their eyes as they were frozen in disbelief. They respectively shook hands and the Rangers moved into the summer trying to forget about what had just happened in front of them.
Now, they find themselves with the same opportunity as last season: a shot at winning the Cup. With much more depth than last season, the Rangers have a realistic shot at perhaps competing for the championship. Which is why many writers and hockey analysts are picking them as the favorite. I truly believe that this is the team that can do something magical this post-season. Here is why:
After a stellar Vezina-winning 2011-12 season, Lundqvist entered 2013 as the league’s best. He followed up with a 2.05 GAA (6th in the NHL), a .926 save percentage (tied for 5th) and tied for the lead in wins with 24. Although his workload got heavy towards the end of April (14 straight starts) John Tortorella reassured the media that the Capitals will be facing the same goalie they saw last May. If that is the case, the Rangers will be a very tough out as the #6 seed.
One big advantage that the Rangers have over the Capitals is defense. The Blueshirts have one of the best and youngest defensive cores in the league. Even with the absence of Marc Staal, they still have the same shut-down defense with Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi and even John Moore who has been a pleasant surprise since his arrival in New York. If Marc Staal returns at any point in this series Ovechkin will be cramped, he will get frustrated and the Capitals will be sent back home.
Finishing with 21 goals and 21 assists, this man has shown that he can do just about anything with the puck. Although he went through a bit of a goal drought at the end of April, it will be interesting to see how Rick responds to being on the brightest stage on Broadway. If Tortorella gets the same Nash he did in the regular season the Rangers will not only have Lundqvist and their defense, but they will also have tremendous offensive support. Something that the Blueshirts lacked in last year’s postseason.
Series Predictions (sorry I am a little late on these):
Pens in 7
Sens in 6
Rangers in 6
Bruins in 5
Hawks in 5
Wings in 6
Canucks in 7
Blues in 6
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