The New York Rangers barely made it into the playoffs, squeezing into the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. Their first-round rival is the quick and deadly Washington Capitals.
There are superstars by the bundles in this series: Just look at names like Ovechkin, Lundqvist, Drury, and so on. Getting lost in the buzz is one giant factor, though, and that is Sean Avery.
I'm sure by now every hockey fan knows what impact Avery had in last season's first-round series against Brodeur and the Devils. In case you missed it, Avery used foreign and questionable tactics to screen Marty and spark the creation of the "Avery Rule."
So, what does Avery have in store for Ovechkin and the Caps here in '09? Who will be the target of his antics?
I think by now Avery's role in the postseason is clearly defined. He won't be depended on as a goal scorer, but instead as an agitator.
It would be easy for anyone to argue that the player of focus for Avery in this potentially seven-game battle would and should be Ovechkin, but really, Avery would be wasting his time if he were to key on Ovechkin solely. Ovechkin will be far too focused on putting the puck in the net to buy into Avery's tactics.
Since Ovechkin won't be the "King of Pests'" main victim, the next best target is Mike Green.
Green led all defensemen in the NHL in goals (31) and points (73), so it is obvious that getting him off his game would be a huge advantage for the Rangers.
One thing on Avery's side is that Green is still young; it's not unreasonable to believe that his immaturity and inexperience could get the best of him. His age for sure will play a factor and will be Avery's ally in regards to getting under Green's skin.
But, going against Avery is the fact that Green has shown discipline during the regular season. Green has recorded just 68 penalty minutes in 2008-2009, and none came from fights.
Green does a lot of his damage on the power play, too: This past campaign, Green recorded 18 power-play goals. This may be to Avery's disadvantage, as he does not see time on the penalty kill for the Rangers. Avery could be left just screaming from the bench in order to get Green off his game in these situations.
But, when both players are on the ice together, you can bet Avery will be trying to target Green.
There is no doubt the intensity of the game is greatly increased once the postseason begins, and the Rangers (along with their fans) are hoping Avery can harness this intensity to throw Green or another major Capitals player off his game.
Will we see anything as drastic as the actions that created the "Avery Rule?" I highly doubt it. But you can bet Avery will attempt something unorthodox to give New York a leg up.