NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
#8 - Ottawa Senators
#1 - NEW YORK RANGERS
33rd Street at 7th Avenue
NEW YORK RANGERS: Find Somebody to Hit! Otherwise, I'm With Coach. I Believe Ignorance is Bliss.
Call me what you will. Just make sure you include the word consistent.
The New York Rangers Hockey Club is still in the process of rebuilding. We are good. We've built this core right. And our younger skaters have remained surprisingly resilient all season long. I was adamantly opposed to altering this team at the trade deadline. And today, I'm very thankful we didn't do anything hasty or disruptive.
This may not sit well with my fellow Ranger Fans, but winning a Stanley Cup this season has not obsessed me. It never really has. Not this season. And I stressed that numerous times over the season; especially near the trade deadline. I do not say this because I lack confidence in this team. To the contrary, we've shown we can beat just about all comers. I just do not believe that's where we are yet. We had a plan. I believe in the plan. We stuck to that plan. And it's up to us to follow through with that plan to the very end. And I specifically mean that for us Fans especially. At the moment, the rebuilding of the Rangers is near complete; but not fully complete. So don't go getting all bent out of shape if things don't go our way. This team is being built for future long term success; not just tonight.
But as presently constituted, I'm still anxious to see how far the Rangers can go in these upcoming playoffs. And yes, I do have expectations. But I couldn't be in any more agreement than I am with Coach Torts when he says, right now ignorance is bliss. I do not want the Rangers thinking about sixteen wins. I merely want their minds on the next three periods. That's where our success has been.
Consecutive losses to Pittsburgh and Washington to end the regular season do not concern me. Nor does not winning the President's Trophy. None of that would have changed anything. The 2011-2012 regular season will still go down as one of the greatest campaigns ever in Blueshirt history.
Having said all that, - Let's Go Rangers!
I expect this team to get beyond the second round! At a minimum, that's the kind of step forward we should expect from a team that has spent the majority of the season in first place of both the Atlantic Division, and the Eastern Conference. And if you believe in natural progression, then getting beyond the second round is also the next logical step for this club.
Ottawa is probably not the first round opponent everyone had in mind. They are a team that gave the Rangers a lot of trouble. The Blueshirts were 1-2-1 against them this season. And the Sens do not seem to have any reluctance playing in Madison Square Garden. In fact, they have flourished over the last three seasons here.
Ottawa is a team that loves to skate around and make quick passes that get opposing heads turning in different directions, and make defending bodies skate in figure eights. As Rangers, we all know we have but one answer for that.
Hit them. Hit them hard. Hit them often. Hit them in their zone. Hit them in our zone. Hit them at mid-ice. Hit them into the boards. Then do it again. If the Sens are too busy picking themselves up off the ice, they can't make plays. The Rangers must make Ottawa's ICEcapade come to a grinding halt and make it as if they were skating in sand. Our fore check will have to be relentless, and our back liners will have to wipe-out anyone who decides to get in front of Henrik.
It may all sound very crude. But that's the way this team won during the regular season. And now the playoffs demand more. Any real analysis at this point is really pointless. We spent a whole season doing that. The playoffs simplify things for us. It's all about Henrik now; Defense; our fore check; and scoring on the power play. Period.
Let's drop the puck on Game One and start finding some bodies to hit.
* It was in last season's playoffs when we thought Brandon Dubinsky had finally arrived. He had a masterful playoff in what was ultimately a losing effort to the Capitals. After a tremendously sub-par regular season this year, it is now time for Brandon Dubinsky to re-materialize and be the player of last April again.
* There is also the matter of Mike Rupp. In the playoffs, his fisticuffs play a much lesser role. I expect Coach Torts to limit hit ice time, save for some situational hockey. There are minutes to be had now. Who will Coach award them to?
* Which Carl Hagelin will we be seeing? Will it be the dynamo who played over the first half of his call up? Or, will he be the slower, seemingly worn (?) Hagelin of the last two weeks of the regular season?
* The Rangers really need Marc Staal to be the Marc Staal of old. We need him to wipe-out any over zealous forwards intent on giving Henrik a hard time.
* We need to score on the power play!!!
* Let's Go Rangers!