NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2012: Previewing New York Rangers vs. Ottawa Senators

Joe Maloney@@JoeMaloneyNYRContributor IIIApril 10, 2012

NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2012: Previewing New York Rangers vs. Ottawa Senators

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    Cue the "Because it's the Cup" commercials and throw away your razors, it's the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs!

    New York Rangers fans have high hopes entering into the postseason having clinched the Eastern Conference's first seed. The Ottawa Senators exceeded expectations this season by securing the eighth seed following last year's rough campaign. 

    The Rangers look to rebound following the devastating loss to the Capitals at the end of the season, failing to grasp the opportunity to clinch the Presidents' Trophy. The Senators also suffered a rough patch at the end of their season, dropping their final three games.

    While this series will prove to be closer than many fans expect, the Rangers should still advance due to their advantages in all areas of play.


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    Henrik Lundqvist is the King. Craig Anderson is the goalie who will wish he was king in about two weeks. 

    It is fair to say that the Rangers would not be where they are without Lundqvist between the pipes. Lundqvist is in strong contention for the Vezina Trophy after a stellar season which left him ranking among the league leaders in every goaltending category. 

    Lundqvist posted a career-high 39 wins with a 1.93 goals against average and .930 save percentage. While he did surrender three losses in four opportunities against the Senators, look for him to outplay Senators goalie Craig Anderson.

    While Anderson has had a decent season in net posting 33 wins with a 2.83 goals against average and .914 save percentage, he will need to reach a new level to match the play of Lundqvist.


    Advantage: New York


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    Both teams have 12 players over the 20 point mark this season, but New York has the slight advantage in scoring.

    The Senators have proven veterans with strong playoff experience, which will need to continue to keep pace with the occasionally potent top two lines of the Rangers. 

    Seasoned veterans Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Sergei Gonchar will need to find their youth in the grittiness of the playoffs to keep up with the speed of Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards. 

    There is no denying the Senators have scoring depth from forwards and defense, and New York will need to play at their defensive potential to keep them irrelevant.


    Advantage: New York 


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    Despite the offensive capabilities of the Senators' defense, the Rangers' defense is just too good to ignore. The six men in front of Lundqvist every game have formed a formidable wall of body checking and shot blocking. 

    The Rangers have had a solid core in addition to revolving additions Steve Eminger, Anton Stralman and Jeff Woywitka throughout the season. The maturity of Ryan McDonagh and Michael Del Zotto have been catalysts for New York's defense this season lead by gritty Dan Girardi.

    Ottawa boasts two of the strongest blueliners in the league in Erik Karlsson and Sergei Gonchar. The two have combined for a whopping 115 points (24 goals, 91 assists) on the season. 

    The Senators also have Filip Kuba watching the back-end, but the Rangers defense has given teams trouble all season, and players cannot score when the pucks hit shot-blockers instead of Lundqvist.


    Advantage: New York

Special Teams

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    Power play has to be the focus in this matchup of special teams. These special teams are fairly evenly matched in terms of the penalty kill and the power play balancing out.

    Ottawa boasted the eleventh ranked power play in the league at 18.15 percent while the power play has been the weak point for New York all season. At only 15.71 percent, the Rangers' power play is only ranked 23rd in the league despite having Brad Richards leading the charge.

    The Rangers have a clear edge on the penalty kill ranking fifth in the league at 86.15 percent. The Senators only hold the 20th ranked unit at 81.61 percent.

    While New York's penalty kill should be able to shutdown Ottawa most of the time with their willingness to shot-block, occasionally that also hurts the Rangers. Too often this season Lundqvist saw a puck deflect passed him off a teammate's skate or body. 

    While special teams may be put in neutral in this series, a power-play goal is much more beneficial in the playoffs than the regular season which favors Ottawa.


    Advantage: Ottawa


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    The man above funded the NHL Coaches Fund all by himself this season with a 50 thousand dollar donation. There is one thing about Rangers Coach John Tortorella, he will always stand up for his players.

    Tortorella's verbiage critiquing the referees after this year's Winter Classic cost him $30,000 before his recent comments regarding the Pittsburgh stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin netted him another $20,000. 

    Between his fiery demeanor during games to the level of accountability he holds all his players to, Tortorella just cannot be matched in this year's playoff by any other coach.

    No offense to Ottawa coach Paul MacLean who has a successful resume in the National Hockey League from his years in Ottawa and as an assistant in Detroit. He will just have fewer people attending his postgame press conferences than Tortorella will.


    Advantage: New York