Friday, April 27, 2012

N.Y. Rangers ~ Bring on the Capitals!





Washington Capitals
33rd Street at 7th Avenue

Here We Go Again!
Alex Ovechkin during warm-ups,  2008-2009 Playoffs versus Rangers.

2008-2009 Quarter Finals:
Washington Wins Series 4-3

2010-2011 Quarter Finals:
Washington Wins Series 4-1

NEW YORK RANGERS:  The Kids Are Alright!  Eliminate Ottawa in Game Seven.  On to the Semi-Finals Versus Our Recent Playoff Nemesis.

Dan Girardi will be twenty-eight years old in two more days.  Marc Staal just turned twenty-five.  They are still relatively young.  But ask some of the younger member of the Rangers, and they're liable to tell you Staal and Girardi have been protecting the Rangers' back lines forever.  At this point in their careers, that assessment might not be too far off; in Ranger years that is.  They are now both veterans of five complete regular seasons in a Blueshirt.

To the second wave of younger Blueshirts, Dan Giardi and Marc Staal are unofficially the savvy veterans.  Girardi and Staal came up as part of the new wave of 21st century Blueshirts along with Ryan Callahan, and Brandon Dubinsky.  They, along with Staal and Girardi, are completing their fifth full seasons as Rangers together.  Ryan Callahan is now the Rangers' Captain, while Brandon Dubinsky is representative of the team's soul.

And then there is Henrik Lundqvist; the goalie.  He must seem like Father Time to more than just a few of the newer Rangers.  But most of us just refer to him as The King.  Henrik was here before Callahan, and Dubby, and Staal, and Girardi.  Henrik was here before them all.

Against Ottawa in Game Seven of the quarter-final round, Marc Staal struck first.  Five minutes into the second period, Staal's five year team mate; Ryan Callahan; along with Second-Gen Ranger; Derek Stepan; assisted on the Rangers' first goal of the game.

Just under five minutes later, the other ancient blue liner; Dan Girardi; gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead, with assists from old guard forward; Brandon Dubinsky; and from Brandon Prust; the beloved adoptive member of the Blueshirt Family whom the Rangers rescued from Phoenix during the 2009-2010 trade deadline.

Two goals were all the Rangers needed to defeat the Ottawa Senators.  Henrik Lundqvist took care of the rest.  And with their Game Seven victory, they gained another crack at the Washington Capitals.

The King, and member Rangers who roughly started their odyssey together back during the 2007-2008 season know the Washington Capitals far too well.  The core of players Coach Torts said he would build the Rangers' future around - Henrik, Callahan; Dubinsky, Staal, and Girardi, will all tell us, it is time for them to seize the moment by finally overwhelming their 21st century playoff nemesis.

But didn't they just seize the moment in Game Seven against Ottawa?  Indeed.  But now it is time for the Rangers to have their day over the Capitals just like Washington has enjoyed against the Rangers in playoffs rounds of yore.  The biggest difference between now and the last two encounters against Washington is this time, the Rangers' Core Five will be the one's leading their Band of Blueshirts onto the ice.  For they are followers no more.  Long gone are the days of Jagr, Gomez, Drury, and having the young-lings follow their lead.  Today, the club members imported from other places to be Rangers fall in line with The Core, Coach Torts, and the new Rangers' Way.

Seven games against Ottawa may just have been exactly what this team needed - Adversity.  Being pushed to the limit was a quick and effective way to grow up.  Having faced adversity and won, the Second-Gen Boys in Blueshirts are now men.  The younger Rangers might be follicular challenged with regards to growing playoff beards.  But upon closer inspection, they may have sprouted a gray hair or two after facing elimination in consecutive games against Ottawa.  Their gruff however, is undeniable.  Even the youngest Blueshirt Blue Chipper; Chris Kreider; played like a grizzled vet.

Guys like Fedotenko, Brad Richards and Coach Torts, have experience winning a Stanley Cup together elsewhere, and can draw from their experiences, and even guide these young, and even younger Rangers, through the ensuing round(s).  They can..., with CAN being the key word.  Aside from Coach Torts who is the perfect Alpha-male for this young hungry pack of players, I honestly do not think there is much Richards or Feds can impart on this group, and not for lack of intangibles or credibility.  Instead, this Rangers team seems intent on forging ahead their own way; the Blueshirt Way; the only way they know how.  It's heads down and push forward.

All these Blueshirts will now set out together, and try to exorcise the organization's largest demon of the last few years, the Washington Capitals.

Dale Hunter versus John Tortorella.  This is going to be good!

Every player on the Capitals is responsible for getting Coach Bruce Boudreau fired.  Why?  For trying to get them to play a more defensive oriented style of hockey, similar to the style John Tortorella has ingrained into the Rangers.  After being nothing short of resistive, what the Caps wouldn't do early in the season for Boudreau, they are finally doing for Dale Hunter.  They rode a late regular season surge to gain one of the last playoff spots the way the Rangers used to prior to this season.

It is the Rangers who come into the series as the dominant seed now.  But that only reads well on paper.  Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, and Jason Chimera remain major scoring threats.  But even by Washington's standards, their overall goal scoring was down in the recently concluded regular season; finishing with 220 goals scored.  That's the price they had to pay for a better defense.  That's what Boudreau was trying to tell them.  However, his dictates fell on deaf ears.

Alex Ovechkin ended the regular season with thirty-eight goals.  He scored two goals and assisted on three others against the Bruins.  Alexander Semin is Washington's leading playoff scorer so far with three goals.  A new comer to this playoff rivalry; Troy Brouwer; scored twice against Boston.  He was also Washington's fourth leading goal scorer with eighteen, while appearing in all eighty-two games of the regular season.

The Rangers should be able to match that.  If you're a Rangers fan, there's no need to delve into our stats.  You should know them already.  But what's closer to the truth is, the Rangers, Coach Torts, and most of us fans, don't really care.  Blueshirt Hockey is all about winning the moment.

So, Let's Go Rangers!


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