If the Rangers play the same way, a trip to the Stanley Cup Final possible
Whether it was by luck or design, the Rangers finishing in the 1st wild card spot might have been the break they needed this season. By taking the path of least resistance so to speak through the Atlantic, the Blueshirts could find themselves in the Stanley Cup Final.
Let’s Not Get Ahead of Ourselves
My opening paragraph was written with trepidation and a grain of salt. It’s obvious almost every expert analyst and fan felt this was the best route for the Rangers. Simply stay out of the brawl in the Metro.
Pittsburgh won their series in 5 simply because Bobrovsky was horrible allowing over 4 goals per game on average. Still, there was plenty of rough and physical play in that series also. The Pens are also without Letang and key players like Kunitz and Hagelin are nursing injuries.
The Caps shockingly struggled with the Leafs. In what many thought would be a sweep, wound up taking 6 games and several OT nail biters to win it. Both the Caps and Pens are allowing over 2.6 goals per game so this series should be a barn burner with plenty of rough stuff.
Facing the Senators
The Rangers and Senators will look a little different than the last series. Ottawa can be real tough and stingy on defense, as they allowed 2.17 goals against Boston. Plus goaltender, Craig Anderson is one of the best stories in the NHL, taking time off to help his wife battle cancer. Not to mention, he sometimes plays like a brick wall against the Rangers.
With that said, this is still a very winnable series for the Blueshirts. Henrik Lundqvist has posted a 1.70 goals against average and should be the difference. Only Pekka Rinne of Nashville (0.70) and Jake Allen of St. Louis (1.60) have posted better this post season. The good news there if you’re thinking longterm, is that they both play each other in rd 2.
While we will see the Senators do more trapping to slow down the game in their favor, the Rangers showed enough smarts and resolve to change it up and use dump ins effectively. This should be yet another low scoring series but possibly with a little more breathing room then the last. If we are being honest, the Rangers are a deeper and more talented team and that should be enough to advance.
Can They Get To The Finals?
The answer is yes! If the Rangers can dispatch Ottawa with relative ease, say 5 games, they can rest their bodies and watch the Caps and Pens duke it out. The Capitals should be able to beat Pittsburgh but this could take 7 games and multiple OT’s to boot.
It is possible by simple luck of the draw and some injuries to their opponent, that could give the Rangers just enough of an advantage to beat a better team in the ECF. That goes for facing either Pittsburgh or Washington. If they can do that, the Rangers may even get home ice advantage in the Finals should either Nashville or St. Louis get there.
Regardless, almost any opponent would seem less daunting than either the Caps or Pens…but nonetheless still someone the Rangers would need to put maximum effort to beat.
One last thing, I can play around and think about the path to glory all day. I am not the one involved in the playoffs. The good news is that the Rangers are not looking ahead…they are taking it one game at a time and it could all add up to the grandest prize in sports.