Inspired By Sean Avery, Rangers, Wolf Pack Both Lead Playoff Series

Martin AverySenior Writer IApril 18, 2009

UNIONDALE, NY - SEPTEMBER 24: Artem Anisimov #55 of the New York Rangers skates against the New York Islanders during their NHL preseason game on September 24, 2007 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Both the New York Rangers in the NHL and their affiliate team in the AHL, the Hartford Wolf Pack, lead their playoff series, 1-0.

Things are looking good for the Rangers organization now, next year and in the future.

The Rangers upset the Washington Capitals, 4-3, in their first game and the Wolf Pack beat the Sharks.

The Wolf Pack were favored to win their first round playoffs and take a serious run at the Calder Cup. The Rangers upset the Caps and finished seventh in the Eastern Conference while the Caps finished second.

The most optimistic Rangers writers have gone from predicting the Rangers would upset the Caps and win the series to saying they might sweep the series, but nobody has yet predicted a Stanley Cup victory for the Rangers.

The Wolf Pack went on a six-game winning streak when Sean Avery joined the team, playing his way back into game shape so he could rejoin the Rangers.

The Pack extended the streak to a seventh game before taking a loss.

The Wolf Pack had a tremendous regular season, winning the Atlantic Division title by five points over the Providence Bruins with a 46-27-3 record and opened the playoffs in a 2-0 shutout victory against the visiting Worcester Sharks.

The Rangers went on a three game winning streak when Avery joined them and had three three-game win streaks before the regular season was finished. They are currently on a four-game winning streak.

Nine of the Wolf Pack’s top 10 scorers have contracts with the Rangers and six are Rangers draft picks, including their scoring leader, Artem Anisimov, who played one game with the Rangers this season.

Anisimov, the Rangers’ second-round pick in 2006, had a breakout year with the Pack, scoring 37 goals and eight points in 80 games to finish among top scorers in the AHL.

Avery upstaged the Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin in the first game of the New York-Washington series. Neither Avery nor Ovechkin scored a goal. Ovechkin attempted close to 30 shots and half of them were stopped by Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

Avery set up a goal by Scott Gomez, drew half the Capitals penalties, including one that led to another Rangers goal, and battled with the Caps' star defenseman Mike Green.

Green was kept off the scoreboard, was a –2 in the game; Avery made him the goat on the Gomez goal and later sent him cartwheeling into the Rangers box with a hit in the third period.

Avery has been called a villain but he has changed and is now trying out a new role as hero.

The Rangers were called “vanilla” before he joined the team but now are called the best bet to pull off an upset in the first round of the playoffs.