NHL Playoffs: 5 Reasons to Believe the Rangers Will Beat the Senators in Game 7
Two of the three game sevens in the Eastern Conference take place on Thursday evening in the first round of the 2012 NHL Playoffs. The one with the most intrigue is probably the battle between the No. 1 and No. 8 seeds in the conference.
No one expected this series to be as tight as it is. Sure, the Ottawa Senators came in on a hot streak, but the New York Rangers are far superior to the Sens on paper ,and most thought they would run away with the series and skate away with a series sweep.
Instead, puck drop on Thursday will be sudden death. One team will move on, and one will take their game to the golf course.
In the end, we believe the Rangers will take this one, with home ice being a big reason why. The Garden is going to be going off tomorrow night in the Big Apple.
So far these 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, no team has come close to the New York Rangers to block shots. Through six games this postseason, the Rangers have 132 blocked shots compared to just 72 by the Senators.
Despite Ottawa averaging 31.8 shots per game, the Rangers have more recently been able to minimize scoring chances and come up with huge shot blocks during key points of the game. Whether it be the last minute or during a key penalty kill, head coach John Tortorella can always count on his guys to lay it all out there and sacrifice their body in front of the puck.
The Rangers' team toughness has allowed them to win three games in this series, and their ability to block shots will aid them in victory in Game 7.
If there were a perfect captain in this year's postseason, it would probably be Ryan Callahan. Callahan embodies everything that a Stanley Cup-winning captain should have.
Callahan has the heart, soul and willingness to put everything on the line no matter what the consequences. Much like fellow captain and American Dustin Brown of the LA Kings, Callahan combines the ability to be an offensive weapon, while remaining physical and under control despite his size.
Callahan has just three points in six games, but it is his pride and leadership that has kept him and the Rangers in this series. Callahan could very well be receiving the Stanley Cup from Gary Bettman in June.
Brian Boyle has been the thorn in the Ottawa Senators side all series long. Whether it is his physical play or blocking Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson's view, Boyle could very well be the MVP of this series.
Boyle has 19 hits in the series, and has just less than 20 minutes of ice time per game. Every time he sets foot on the ice, Boyle is immediately recognized by the Sens and blanketed by whoever is on for Ottawa at that given moment.
After a tough first playoffs for Boyle in 2010-11 that saw him finish with zero points in five games played and a minus player, Boyle has three goals so far this postseason including two game winning goals. Don't be surprised if he get's a third GWG on Thursday night in New York.
Ability to Shut Down Erik Karlsson
Entering the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Erik Karlsson was the leading defenceman in the NHL in 2011-12 season with 78 points and is a Norris Trophy candidate as best D-man in the league.
In this series, however, Karlsson has been completely shut down in this series. He has just one goal in the series, and has not been able to make the stretch pass work in the Senators favor throughout the six games of the series. The stretch pass was a key to both the Sens and Karlsson's success in 2011-12, and without it, Karlsson is hardly effective.
So long as the Rangers can keep up their tight play on Karlsson, they will diminish the Sens chances in Game 7.
One huge advantage over the Senators that belongs to the New York Rangers is their goaltender. The King, Henrik Lundqvist, got nominated for yet another Vezina Trophy in 2012 on Wednesday, and has had a terrific year in 2011-12.
His regular season numbers were amazing, but his playoff numbers have been no different. With a GAA of just 1.82, .942 save percentage and one shutout, he is among the best goalies in this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The veteran experience Henrik Lundqvist has gives the Rangers an edge as well. Although he does not have a winning record in the playoffs, Lundqvist has played in 41 postseason games, and has won an Olympic Gold Medal with Sweden in the past.
Over the past few seasons, King Henrik has proven that he is arguably the best goalie in the NHL, and he is most definitely the best tender in this series. Sorry Ottawa, but Hank can steal Game 7 on his own.
John Bain is a Bleacher Report Featured Columnist
Follow John on Twitter: @JohnBainSports