Heading into the second round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, one would most likely assume that the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers would eventually meet in the third round, the Eastern Conference finals, as they are the two teams most favored in the East this postseason.
After the first games of both Eastern Conference semifinal matchups, it is clear that none of the three remaining teams—the New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals—have the firepower or deep enough teams to overpower the New York Rangers.
The Rangers have to be the favorite in the Eastern Conference to represent the East in the 2012 Stanley Cup finals. They are the most complete team from their top line through to their sixth defenceman and backup goaltender.
Although it isn't always the most complete team that wins the Stanley Cup, and anything can happen in the NHL playoffs, on paper the New York Rangers appear to be the Stanley Cup favorite in the East.
With that being said, you can essentially knock the Washington Capitals off the list of potential teams who can beat the New York Rangers in a seven-game series and narrow it down to either the New Jersey Devils or Philadelphia Flyers.
The Flyers and Devils just closed out Game 1 of their series with the Flyers, winning it in overtime, 4-3. These two teams are pretty evenly balanced and the series could go either way.
A matchup between the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers means another chapter in the Battle of the Hudson.
The Devils simply just don't have the depth to keep up with the Rangers. The Rangers' speed and defensive responsibility would kill the Devils.
Although the Devils have veteran presence throughout their lineup in the likes of Martin Brodeur, Patrick Elias and Petr Sykora, and added youth of an Adam Henrique and Stephen Gionta, they do not have enough to roll with all four of the Rangers lines.
Travis Zajac, Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk are formidable weapons, but the defensive core of the Rangers is too strong and with Henrik Lundqvist backstopping the team, he would get the better of Martin Brodeur in a seven-game series.
Will the New York Rangers represent the Eastern Conference in the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals?
The Rangers, like the Devils, have a lot of scoring prowess and having three lines that can put the puck in the back of the net at any given time along with a defence that can jump up and provide offense would prove too much for the Devils to handle.
For the Philadelphia Flyers, the aspects of their game that could hurt them against the New York Rangers include their inexperience in their lineup by way of seven rookies, not enough depth on the back end and inconsistent goaltending in Ilya Bryzgalov.
Philadelphia's physical game, however, could be beneficial against the Rangers and provide them with an opportunity for victory. The Rangers' game is too complete for the Flyers to defeat them in a series, however, and if anything, King Henrik Lundqvist could steal the series for the Rangers.
The Rangers are also able to keep up in the physical aspect of the game and their shot-blocking ability would limit any second chances the Flyers had for goals.
The Rangers have shown they can win by just one goal several times, and this series would be no different.
The New York Rangers just have an answer to anything and everything any remaining teams in the East can throw at them. The opposition has a strong goalie, the Rangers have Henrik Lundqvist. The opposition has two of the top scorers in the postseason, the Rangers have blocked the most shots in the playoffs and have three scoring lines. The opposition loves the physical game, the Rangers do too.
At this point in time, it looks as though the New York Rangers are unbeatable on their run to the Stanley Cup finals. Sure, they are beatable in the sense that they could lose some games, but it doesn't appear as though they will be losing a series in the Eastern Conference playoffs right now.
John Bain is a Bleacher Report Featured Columnist
Follow John on Twitter: @JohnBainSports