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Rangers Playoffs Schedule 2012: Odds & Predictions for Opening Series vs Senator

OTTAWA, CANADA - NOVEMBER 9: Chris Neil #25 of the Ottawa Senators battles for position against Artem Anisimov #42 of the New York Rangers during an NHL game at Scotiabank Place on November 9, 2011 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images
Jeff ChaseSenior Analyst IIApril 8, 2012

The New York Rangers are the top seed in the Eastern Conference as they pursue this year's Stanley Cup, but they won't have an easy task in getting there as they first must get passed the No. 8 seed Ottawa Senators.

Just because this is an eight vs. one situation, it doesn't mean the Rangers are in the clear just yet.

These two played one another four times this season, with the Senators actually walking away with the series, 3-1. The Rangers are the top team in the conference for a reason though, but they will have to prove that with their championship hopes encountering an early obstacle.

 

Stanley Cup Odds

According to sports betting Web site Bovada, the Rangers currently stand to have the second-best odds of taking the title, sitting at 11:2.

The Senators actually are complete polar opposites, as their odds rest second to the bottom at 35:1.

 

Series Analysis

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 12:  Carl Hagelin #62 of the New York Rangers skates with the puck against Erik Karlsson #65 of the Ottawa Senators at Madison Square Garden on January 12, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

As stated earlier, the Senators have already defeated the Rangers three times this season. In those series combined, the Senators have outscored the Rangers 13-8, as well as winning the first matchup in a shootout.

While the Rangers have seen strong goal play from Henrik Lundqvist all season long, he struggled in this series allowing nine of the 13 goals. His backup Martin Biron also started one game, in which he allowed four of his own.

Their most recent matchup came on March 8, as the Senators took care of the Rangers 4-1, capitalizing on a tough matchup that kept their playoff hopes alive.

The Rangers are going to need to see some strong goal play from their goalies if they want to stay alive, but the offensive attack will need to do their job as well.

Right winger and lead point-getter Marian Gaborik will need to continue to make things happen, despite being held without any points in the team's last two matchups of the regular season. That shouldn't worry anyone, as he has been strong all season long, but they definitely need him to continue to lead the attack and rack up points.

Same goes for center Brad Richards, who has recorded just two points in his last four outings. He was kept off the ice a bit more than usual, but nonetheless, his contributions will be quite important as the team tries to get past a rather difficult opening-round opponent.

 

Prediction

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 07: Brian Boyle #22 (second from left) of the New York Rangers celebrates his goal with teammates against the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden on April 7, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

While it is hard to argue the history of this season, the Rangers are here for a reason. With Lundqvist likely back in full health, the team should have their goalie rejuvenated and ready to propel their team to the next round.

Of course, they are going to have to really step up their games to make sure they don't get upset. In the end though, the Rangers will likely escape this one in a close, five-match series.

 

Jeff Chase is a Featured Columnist for the Chicago Cubs and Arizona State football.

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