NHL Playoffs 2012: 5 Best Players During the Rangers-Senators Series

Brad Kurtzberg@@sealshockeyContributor IApril 27, 2012

NHL Playoffs 2012: 5 Best Players During the Rangers-Senators Series

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    The New York Rangers managed to advance to the second round of the NHL Playoffs, but it wasn't easy.

    Despite being the lowest seed in the Eastern Conference, the upstart Ottawa Senators pushed the Rangers to the limit, falling by just one goal in the seventh and deciding game at Madison Square Garden.

    Here is a look at the five best players in the Rangers-Senators opening round playoff series.

5. Chris Neil, Ottawa Senators

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    Neil was the heart and soul of the Senators on the ice.

    He was second on the team with 27 hits and generally upset the Rangers concentration by playing a physical and disruptive style of play. He made his teammates braver and bolder, chipping in 22 penalty minutes.

    Add a pair of goals, including one game-winner, and you have a player who was a difference-maker for his team in Round 1.

4. Brian Boyle, New York Rangers

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    Brian Boyle scored in the first three games of this series for the Rangers and played a gritty physical game as well. 

    In addition to his surprising goal scoring, Boyle took the body and stuck up for his teammates. He had 19 hits in five games and a one fight.

    Two of his goals were game-winners including the only goal in a 1-0 win in Game 3.

    Boyle picked up his game at the right time. The Rangers definitely missed him when he missed the final two games of this series due to a concussion.

3. Dan Girardi, New York Rangers

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    Other players may be more glamorous and get more attention, but Dan Girardi is one of the most valuable Rangers and he showed that during the opening series against the Senators.

    Girardi led the Rangers with 30 blocked shots and added 20 hits while averaging a team high 28:03 of ice time for the Broadway Blueshirts. 

    He was also on the ice to face the Senators' top offensive scorers and did a pretty good job of that.

    The icing on the cake for Girardi was scoring the game-winning goal in Game 7. Overall, a very solid series for the Rangers' young defenseman.

2. Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators

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    People gave the Rangers a big edge in goal entering this series, but Craig Anderson nearly matched Henrik Lundqvist save-for-save throughout this series.

    If not for Anderson, the Senators would not have pushed this series to the limit. He finished the playoffs with an impressive .930 save percentage and a 2.01 GAA. Add a shutout, and you have a very impressive postseason performance.

    More importantly, Anderson came up with big saves to keep his team in games at key times. The Senators were in all seven games because of Anderson. That's what an underdog team needs from its goalie in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

1. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

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    Let there be no doubt who the Rangers' MVP is: goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

    "King Henrik" is up for both the Vezina Trophy, as the league's top goalie, and the Hart Trophy, as the league MVP.

    In this series, Lundqvist finished with a 1.70 GAA and an impressive .945 save percentage. He registered a shutout in Game 3 and helped keep the Rangers in games when they were badly out-shot and outplayed by the Senators.

    If the Rangers are going to make a run at the Stanley Cup, Lundqvist has to continue his high level of play.