After an incredible win in Washington last night, the Rangers have met their second round opponent; the Boston Bruins. For the first time since 1973, these two will be battling it out for a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals.
It doesn’t get any better than this. 2 very physical original six teams pitted against each other in a playoff series. This second round will be filled with blood, sweat, and tears. The Bruins will be looking to spoil the party for the Blueshirts, but here are 5 keys to a New York Rangers series victory:
1. Henrik Lundqvist:
For the second straight year, Lundqvist is once again in the running for the Vezina Trophy. He will be going up against Sergei Bobrovsky (Columbus) and Antti Niemi (San Jose). All three goaltenders had stellar seasons.
Just think about it. If the Rangers did not have Lundqvist, they probably would not be in the second round right now. Henrik gives them a chance to win every night. Facing elimination for two straight games, Hank backed it up with 2 straight shutouts of the Washington Capitals. So he has definitely proven that he can come through in the clutch. Which is a characteristic you need out of a Stanley Cup winning goaltender (cough cough).
By the Numbers:
- Lundqvist posted a 24-16-3 record, a .926 save percentage, and a 2.05 goals against average in the regular season.
- In 30 career starts against Boston, Henrik is 21-7 with a 1.67 GAA, a .943 save percentage, and 6 shutouts.
2. Rick Nash
I soon figured out that it is not always the top guys who carry you through the playoffs. Sometimes your bottom 6 has to chip in, and that is exactly what they got. Arron Asham and Taylor Pyatt both tallied goals in last night’s contest that turned out to be very confidence boosting.
Asham’s snipe got them started, then Pyatt scored a dirty goal off the rebound after sitting in front of the net. It’s nice to get production from your bottom 6, but shortly after, you look back at your top forwards for offense.
In the 7 game series against Washington, Nash only totaled 2 points. 1 assist in Game 3, and another assist in last night’s Game 7. Let’s face it, Nash was brought in to New York to produce in the playoffs. To me, he looks a bit tentative. He has been struggling to find open ice and he has had very little time with the puck.
Boston is going to be no different. With the defensive depth that the Bruins have, it is going to be even harder for Nash to find open ice and score some goals. But, that’s what separates the good from the elite. Nash is a good player, but is he an ELITE player?
Only time will tell. Boston is going to give him little breathing room. His destiny is in his hands. Only he himself has the power to control it.
We saw it in the series against Washington. Alex Ovechkin was said to be the difference maker. After heating up towards the end of the season, the Caps’ captain finished with 32 goals. He was held to 1 in the opening round of the postseason which came back in Game 1. After that, many of Ovechkin’s shots were either blocked, went wide, or were saved by Lundqvist.
This season, we saw the defensive line tighten even more. After a blockbuster trade involving Marian Gaborik, the Rangers acquired John Moore, a former first round pick from Columbus. At 22 years young, Moore is turning into a huge positive for the team. He has the skating abilities of McDonagh and has a rocket of a shot. What boggles me is that the 22 year old defenseman sees very little powerplay time. A defenseman as good as he is should be seeing those crucial minutes. He could easily take over Brad Richards‘ spot, who has been invisible for the past couple of weeks now and has now even been demoted to the teams 4th line.
As always, the defense along with Henrik Lundqvist will have to carry this team against Boston. Although they gained more offensive depth after acquiring Derick Brassard and Derek Dorsett, the Rangers are still built around their defense and as they say, defense wins championships.
4. Special Teams
Many times in a playoff series the deciding factor is special teams. Penalty killing and power plays most of the time sway momentum and can change the series for good or worse.
As they have showed many times in the past, the Rangers’ penalty kill seems to be getting better and better with each opportunity. That can probably be attributed to the fact that they have the best goaltender in the net. Throw a little McDonagh and Girardi and you have yourself one of the most successful penalty kills in the league.
Coming into Round 1, the Capitals were red-hot. Ovechkin was playing out of his mind, Holtby was warming up, and not to mention their power play was one of the most dangerous in the league, ranked first in the league during the regular season.
However, the defensive-studded Rangers somehow managed to shutdown the Caps man advantage. The Capitals only converted 3 times out of 16 chances in the series.
For the Rangers to win the series against the Bruins, their penalty kill has to be as equally successful. Boston probably has the best roster up and down the lineup. They have a plethora of offensive weapons, and not to mention Zdeno Chara blasting 100 mph slapshots from the blue line.
But hopefully it will be business as usual for the Rangers. In one of the last games of the season a few years back, Ryan Callahan broke his ankle blocking Chara’s shot. Ranger fans DO NOT want a repeat of that as Callahan is one of the most hard-working and dedicated players in the league.
After the incredible run to the ECF last year, this team is now battle-tested. They have been here before. They know what it takes to win a Cup. I believe that this is their year. If Lundqvist can play like he did last postseason but even a little bit better, he will finally get his taste of the Stanley Cup Finals. However, before the Rangers can drink champagne, they will have to go through formidable opponents like the Boston Bruins (obviously), Pittsburgh Penguins, Ottawa Senators, and if they get to the Cup final they may have to go up against Chicago, San Jose, or even Los Angeles who are defending their place on the NHL throne.
The anxiety attacks aren’t over yet. This Rangers-Bruins series will be extremely physical, exciting, and stressful. So be sure to have plenty of beverages and Xanax on hand. It’s going to be a bumpy ride to our final destination.
As always, thanks for reading us here at Blue Line Station. Be sure to follow me on twiter @a_graz24. Also like our facebook page here! I am always willing to talk anything Rangers and NHL related! Also make sure to leave a comment below using the variety of sign-in methods.