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Before Game 5, John Tortorella was quoted as saying that he had a good feeling about the club and that the team would be ready to play. It's quite possible they came ready to play -- that's still up for debate -- but one thing is for sure: the Washington Capitals came with a killer instinct and they came ready to prove why they were the East's best team this year. The Blueshirts season is over after their 3-1 loss to the Capitals, in a game that the Rangers really had no chance of winning from the get-go.
If all you caught was the first shift of the game, then you might've thought it was going to be a good one for the Rangers. The Brandon Prust-Brian Boyle-Sean Avery line came out with energy and created a scoring chance right off the bat. After that, though, the Caps, along with their fans chanting "We are louder!" took it to the Rangers. Mike Green scored a power-play goal six minutes into the game. The first period basically seemed like a continuation of Game 4's third period in which the Rangers choked away a three-goal lead. The Rangers couldn't win a single puck battle and they rarely were able to start their forecheck which they need to be successful. The Caps outshot the Rangers, 13-6, in the first period and took nearly 30 shots on goal that were either blocked or missed the net. It was a miracle that this period ended with the away team only one goal down.
So many times this season you saw the Rangers play a bad period and bounce back with a heightened effort the next period. The Caps were too good in this one, however. Despite the Rangers holding a 10-6 shot advantage in the period, the Caps blanketed the Rangers' forwards, not giving them a chance to really generate anything high quality and flustering their cycle down low. Alex Ovechkin lit the lamp seven minutes in on a partial breakaway when he caught Marc Staal pinching and it seemed like an impossible deficit to overcome.
As the third period began, the Rangers had 20 minutes left in their season and while we've seen them so many times come out with a vengeance, it wasn't the case this time. When they did get chances, Michal Neuvirth made some key saves. The problem was that for the majority of the game any shots the Rangers had were from far out, with nobody in front and in clear view for Neuvrith. Alexander Semin scored in the third (16:23) when the Rangers were trying to throw everyone up in the offensive zone and Wojtek Wolski scored a garbage goal with the Henrik Lundqvist pulled and 32 seconds remaining in the game.
While this is not the outcome any Blueshirts fan wanted to see, let's be completely honest with ourselves. When this season started, what were your expectations? Nobody really expected the Rangers to even make the playoffs (I know they barely got in) and with all the injuries they had to endure this year, they did prove one thing: for once, their youth prevails. The Rangers have a great core of young, blossoming players and a nucleus that should be around for quite some time. The front office needs to find a top-line center, but cannot overpay for Brad Richards, or sign him to crippling long-term contract. The top four defenders are set (and promising) -- maybe a veteran could be brought in to aid the third pairing, but the Rangers have enough youth in the back end to bring a few guys up next year as well.
For the first time in quite some time, despite the disappointment, Rangers fans can say that this 2010-2011 New York Rangers teams was a team to be proud of and that their team is on the right track.
It's pretty simple at this point: the New York Rangers need a win against the Washington Capitals on the road Saturday night or their season is toast. But, really, if you've watched this team all year, is there a reason to just give up now?
With the way the Rangers have played this season, fighting adversity seemingly every single night with a multitude of injuries to core players, their reliance on youth and a gameplan hinging on being physical and out-working opponents, this is a team that's impossible to write off, even in a 3-1 hole. Do we even have to mention their season came down to their last game, then the last game of the NHL season? You just can't count this Blueshirts team out.
John Tortorella has been composed and relaxed this year when compared to his others in the NHL and he remained that way heading into this 3:00 p.m. tilt against the Caps at the Verizon Center. Despite the gut-wrenching loss to the Caps in Game 4, he's confident that the team will ready for this game and has a good feeling about the club. When you look at the performance of the Rangers in this series, despite being down 3-1, on a whole they haven't been dominated -- the Rangers dominated the second period in Game 4, while the Caps controlled the third period and much of overtime, but really, the Blueshirts are not as far off as the series indicates.
What do the Rangers need to do to get a win? First, as Tortorella has preached, take it as one game at a time. Don't look at the big picture, the fact that they must win three straight. This team has been great at only concentrating on one game at a time the entire season and it's a must in this one. No. 2 is to continue the play from the first 40 minutes of Game 4 -- hard forechecking, using the body, blocking shots and creating chaos near the net. Michael Neuvirth can't have an easy day in the net -- the Rangers need to get traffic in front, get shots on goal from all angles and make contact with him with him (within the rules). New York choked away the lead in the last game because they got away from the forechecking part of their game. They weren't aggressive, they looked tentative and nervous and they sat back. The team knows how they have to play to win and they'll have to get back to it in Game 5 if they want to live another day. They aren't going to change their style now just because they had a rough period. The final must is the power play, which has gone 1-for-18 in the series. Let's be realistic and say that if it doesn't score, it needs to not sabotage any of the momentum generated. Lately it's been so bad and disoriented it's sucked some of the life out of the team. It can't do that anymore.
The Rangers had a great record on the road this season (24-16-1) and that will be tested against one of the better home teams (25-8-8) in all of the NHL, in what's going to be a wild atmosphere. There is no point in worrying about what could have been. There's three games left in their season right now and they need to just take it one period, followed by one game at a time. If they don't come ready to play, they'll be packing their golf bags Saturday night.
Saturday, Apr 23, 2011, 3:00 PM EDT
posted by Jimmy Hascup about 7 hours ago
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The Rangers didn’t lost a game this season when leading after two periods. In Game 4, they led 3-0 heading into the final period, on their way to evening their series with the Capitals. They picked a heck of a time to blow a lead.
Jason Chimera scored in the second overtime after the Capitals completed a thrilling comeback. Chimera’s goal came on a miscommunication between Henrik Lundqvist and Marian Gaborik. Gaborik tried to clear a loose puck that Lundqvist came out to cover. Gaborik accidentally knocked the puck to Chimera, who was standing in front of the crease and an open net. It was a disheartening loss for the Rangers, as they now need to win three straight games to extend their season.
The first period went scoreless again but both teams came out physical, setting an early tone. The second period is perhaps the best 20 minutes the Rangers have played all season. Just over five minutes in, the Rangers scored another one of their ugly goals, as Artem Anisimov scored his first career playoff goal from behind the Caps’ net, banking the puck in off Matt Bradley. Then, in seven seconds, the Garden hit a fever pitch.
With under six minutes to go in the period, Ruslan Fedotenko skated out from behind the net to the circle with the puck on his backhand, sweeping the puck to the doorstep. Gaborik couldn’t miss if he tried, knocking the puck past Michal Neuvirth for his first goal in 12 games, and his first in the playoffs as a Ranger.
On the ensuing faceoff from center ice, the Capitals actually won the draw. But Fedotenko intercepted the puck and skated in on goal, firing a shot just wide of the net. He hustled to the loose puck behind the net, and with another slick backhand pass, fed the puck out to the slot where Dubinsky one-timed it past Neuvirth.
Whatever Boudreau said in his second intermission to his team worked. Just minutes in, Alexander Semin intercepted Ryan McDonagh’s clearance and puched the puck past Henrik Lundqvist. Then, before the blink of an eye, it was a one goal game when Marcus Johansson redirected a Jason Arnott pass in. It all seemed to happen so quick, and right after the Rangers killed off Sean Avery’s penalty, Johansson deflected a shot past Lundqvist. The game was tied, and the Garden was now quiet. The game went to overtime, where Chimera ended it.
The Rangers went 0-for-6 on the power play, being gifted a chance in overtime when the Caps were called for a bench minor for having too many men on the ice. The Rangers’ sorry power play is one of the main reasons their season appears to be all but over. The Rangers are a young, gritty, hard working team, but in the end they are one short on talent, especially offensive talent. Throughout the overtime, they forced Neuvirth into a few tough saves, but never really threatened to win the game. In the third period, their lack of experience showed as they scrambled around and essentially froze up, choking the game and their season away.
Lundqvist was brilliant. It’s a shame the game ended on a play where he was helpless.
The New York Rangers did everything they had to for two periods Wednesday night. But it was what they did, or didn’t do, in the third period that cost them game four, and likely the series against Washington.
The Rangers blew a three-goal lead in the third period, and had a complete mental breakdown allowing Jason Chimera to bury the game winning goal.
For New York it’s an awful loss to take, and might be too much to overcome. Now the Rangers need to win out, including games five and seven in Washington.
John Tortorella will certainly have his work cut out after this one. He’ll have to figure out how to keep this team upbeat despite taking the toughest loss of the season at the worst possible time.
Henrik Lundqvist, who’s been fantastic this entire season, was great again tonight; and absolutely cannot be blamed for the overtime goal.
After tonight’s overtime goal the Rangers have lost both extra stanza games this series thanks to defensive miscues. That’s not the way you win series, especially when you’re playing the best team in the East.
More when we have it.
Despite having a chance to even their first round series with the Washington Capitals tonight in Game 4, the New York Rangers have scored just four goals in the series thus far. Sure, it’s playoff hockey, games are supposed to be low-scoring (just don’t tell that to the Blackhawks, Sharks, Kings, Canucks, Sabres, Flyers….wait, nevermind).
The Rangers third goal on Sunday was dramatic, but Brandon Dubinsky’s late winner was both vintage and fortunate. Vintage in the 2011 Rangers-John Tortorella-let’s play in the corner and cycle-hard working sort of way. Fortunate in that, let’s face it, the puck was heading towards the side boards off of Dubinsky’s stick.
Earlier this season, Tortorella preached a shoot from anywhere approach. but sometimes we don’t see that from the Rangers. Tonight would be the right time for the Rangers to get back to that aggressive tactic. Take Erik Christensen’s power play goal on Sunday, the Rangers’ first tally. That goal was strictly on Neuvirth (and also proved that Christensen does have a good shot if he can get it off). While Neuvirth has played good, the young net-minder hasn’t really been asked to do too much yet. If the Rangers want to even up this series, their best chance is to make Neuvirth a focal point. He can’t simply be a piece of the puzzle. The Rangers need to make that happen, and they can with more pressure in front of the net, and less in the corners and behind the net.
How about it, Marian Gaborik? We’ve all given up on counting the games it’s been since he scored (OK, it’s 12). Imagine if Gaborik woke up? It would open up the ice for others, and suddenly the Rangers wouldn’t look like such an inept offensive team for stretches. An on-form Gaborik and a shaky Neuvirth equals a Rangers Game 4 win, a 2-2- series, and advantage Rangers.
A few goals early in the game would help the Rangers in so many ways. The Caps, who blew last year’s first round series, might start overcompensating and could revert back to their more natural, free flowing style. That style saw the Rangers beat the Caps to the tune of 7-0 and 6-0 in two games this season.
Some early strikes from the Blueshirts could also disprove Bruce Boudreau’s idiotic claim of Madison Square Garden being a quiet building, sparking what will already be a raucous crowd.
(Sports Network) – The New York Rangers will try to even the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinals tonight, when they host the top-seeded Washington Capitals in Game 4 at Madison Square Garden.
The Capitals won the first two tilts of this series on home ice, but New York responded with a thrilling victory in front of its fans this past Sunday. Brandon Dubinsky’s tally with 1:39 left in regulation lifted the eighth-seeded Rangers to a 3-1 victory in Game 3, cutting Washington’s series lead to two games to one.
Washington will try to keep recent playoff history from repeating itself, as the club has coughed up 2-0 series leads to lose its last two postseason sets. The Capitals also won the first two contests of the 2009 Eastern Conference semifinals before losing to Pittsburgh and last spring Washington held a 2-0 lead over Montreal and was ousted in seven games by the Canadiens.
The Rangers, meanwhile, have come back from a 2-0 deficit to win a seven-game series just once in their history and that was against Montreal in the 1996 conference quarterfinals.
"We have to make sure we don’t get too excited about this. We’re still down in the series and there’s still a lot of work to be done," said Dubinsky. "We have to make sure we get back to work as usual and correct mistakes we made and be ready for a tough Game 4."
Dubinsky’s game-winner started by carrying the puck along the goal line to the left of the Washington net. After a stick move near the crease, his shot popped in the air, and appeared to slide off Caps defenseman Karl Alzner before floating up and over Michal Neuvirth.
"We had too many guys in the corner in a 4-on-4 situation. Then, they come out and Dubinsky throws it at the net, it hits our guy in the shoulder, bounces over our goaltender and goes in the net. It counts," was all that Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau offered about the deciding goal.
Ovechkin has two goals and two assists in this series to lead Washington in playoff scoring. The Russian superstar has 22 goals in 31 career playoff games.
The Rangers, who were 20-17-4 at MSG this season, will try to even the series tonight or Washington could get a chance to close the set out when the clubs meet for Game 5 in D.C. on Saturday.
The New York Rangers came into their afternoon tilt with the Washington Capitals down 2-0 in the series and needing a win to stay alive. For the second time in the series the Rangers scored first, twice they held leads in Game 3 (only to cough them back up) and they had to deal with a possible momentum-shifting no-goal call as time expired in the second period that would've given them a goal lead entering the third. But their season-long resiliency shown through and Brandon Dubinsky's goal with 1:39 remaining kept their playoff hopes alive and erupted the Madison Square Garden crowd to give the Blueshirts a pivotal 3-2 victory.
The Rangers and Caps would play an even first period, with an 8-7 shots advantage for New York. The downside for the Rangers was that they desperately needed to find an early lead and build from it with the way this series had gone up to this point. New York would take two penalties and have two power plays of their own and managed to kill off both -- and generate no offense on one of their two 5-on-3 chances in the first.
The Rangers got on the board 5:30 into the second period when Erik Christensen ripped a bad-angle wrist shot past Michal Neuvirth on the power play. New York had an early man advantage chance but per the usual, couldn't do anything on it. The Capitals would take eight penalties in the game, the Rangers would have two 5-on-3 chances, yet they would only capitalize on this man advantage in the second period. The power play woes -- 1-for-7 nearly killed any chances of a Rangers win in this one.
Just when it looked like the Rangers would head into the second intermission with a lead, Alex Ovechkin re-directed a Jason Arnott pass past Henrik Lundqvist, who finished with 23 saves in the game. With seconds remaining, though, Ruslan Fedotenko rushed the puck down the left side and centered it from the corner and the puck went in as time expired. However, official review revealed that the puck hadn't crossed the line before the clock reached zero seconds and would be forced to play for their playoff lives in the third period.
Like it has been all season, the third period was the Rangers' strongest -- and it had to be in this situation. Vinny Prospal scored eight minutes in the period off of a Marc Staal shot that rebounded out and it looked like the Blueshirts would be able to pull this one out as momentum shifted on their side. Marian Gaborik, who played a pretty good game, took a cross-checking penalty about six minutes later, though, and Mike Knuble knotted the game back up, this time at 2-2.
It appeared that this game would head to overtime, with Rangers' fans stomachs in their throats ... but then, Dubinsky took the puck from the left corner and made a strong power move to the front of the net and flicked the puck that deflected and sailed over Neuvirth to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead at 18:21 that would ultimately win the game for them.
Suffice to say the Rangers are back in this series. It was a game they had to win; a 3-0 series deficit would've been extremely difficult to overcome. It is only one game, though, and the Rangers need to continue to find ways to generate offense in Game 4, which will be played on Wednesday. John Tortorella and his troops will definitely be taking extra time to work on the power play in the coming days.
The New York Rangers have been down 2-0 in a playoff series 20 times and have comeback to win the series only once (1996). After Friday night's 2-0 loss to the Washington Capitals, they'll need to do what practically no other team in the franchise's history has been able to do.
With the amount of times this Rangers team has faced adversity this season, it would not be a shock to see them string some victories together in this series. But if the scoring problems continue, this series could be done with two more games. The Capitals new style predicated on defense stymied the Rangers' attack, just as it did in game one. Scoring chances were rare, goals non-existent.
The Rangers came out of the gate ready to play hockey tonight, unlike Game 1 when they looked tentative. The team's style resembled their identity for much of the season, yet couldn't exactly mount anything substantial. They weren't able to parlay their strong first period, which they lead in shots, 13-7, into an early goal and as a result, the Capitals saw it as an opportunity to jump all over them in the second.
Two minutes and 11 seconds into the second period, Jason Chimera converted on a one-timer from Marcus Johansson, and the wheels fell off for the Rangers for the rest of the period. The next several minutes of the period the Rangers spent scrambling all over the place; they were out of position and were playing some of the most discombobulated hockey they've played all season. Ryan McDonagh took a questionable roughing penalty on Boyd Gordon and the Jason Arnott would beat Henrik Lundqivst after a bouncing puck found his stick to put the Caps up, 2-0. John Tortorella then called a timeout to calm his guys down, but it was too late.
The Capitals outshot the Rangers, 8-3, in the second period and quite frankly, the Blueshirts barely had the puck at all in the second frame. Any chance they had off rushing up the ice was often negated by terrible passes, offsides (Sean Avery had four or five in the game) or bad bounces.
The third period was a much different story but it really didn't matter in the end. The Caps played some stout defense and protected their lead well. The Rangers greatly controlled the puck possession of the period, but the Caps only allowed them to take six shots on net -- and when Michal Neuvirth was called on to make a key stop, he did. The Sean Avery-Brian Boyle-Brandon Prust line was seemingly on every other shift and it was extremely effective cycling and mustering a resemblance of offense. Don't expect Avery to sit out the next one as he was the Rangers best player on the ice (which is not a good thing, but is encouraging for him) and showed his agitative self as well.
In the end, the Rangers had two period-ending power plays that were just plain awful. They are now just 1-for-31 in their last 11 games and it's really been an Achilles' heel of this team lately. Altogether, though, the Rangers only lost by two goals. Henrik Lundqvist continues to be brilliant in net -- he made 16 saves, but many of them high-quality chances. They are sticking with a much more talented, top-seeded team and just need to find ways to get the puck in the back of the net. If they play like they did in the second period, this series will be over in a heartbeat. They need to consistently play their style of hockey -- and most importantly, start throwing more pucks on net. Neuvirth has been solid, but he hasn't been tested enough. Getting more offensive chances will be a must in Game 3.
The New York Rangers were undefeated this season when heading into the third period with a lead. While they were tied heading into the third tonight, it was the Rangers who took the lead in the opening minutes of the final period. But this time, the Rangers couldn’t hold on to their slim lead, allowing the Washington Capitals to come back and take Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series 2-1 in overtime. Alex Ovechkin tied the game with just over 6 minutes to play in regulation, and Alexander Semin’s opportunistic goal late in the first overtime period sealed the deal.
It’s been well-noted that the Caps have employed a much different, defensive-minded style of hockey this season, and it showed in the first two periods. The Rangers, who don’t generate much offense anyway, didn’t trouble rookie netminder Michael Neuvirth much, while Henrik Lundqvist was asked to do a lot for the Rangers to keep the game scoreless through two periods.
But the Rangers drew first blood on the first NHL Playoff goal by defenseman Matt Gilroy. It was a prototypical hard-working play that led to the goal, with Brandon Prust’s tough forecheck creating the opportunity. Wojtek Wolski set uo Gilroy from behind the net, and for a team who held on to leads so well throughout the season, it seemed to be just what the Rangers needed.
Washington evened the game with just over six minutes to go in regulation on an odd goal. Ovechkin and Niklas Backstrom drove towards the Rangers net, and stuffed away at the pads of Lundqvist. It seemed as though the Rangers netminder had kept the puck out, but the puck found its way behind the goal line. The referees did not give the goal signal immediately since the net had come off its moorings, but the goal was awarded after a video replay. The goal gave the Caps all of the momentum, and even though the game went deep into overtime, the Rangers never gave the feeling that they were really a threat.
The overtime was fairly even and the game seemed destined for a second extra frame, but a costly giveaway by the usually dependable Marc Staal squashed that. Staal tried to clear his zone with under two minutes left in overtime, but the clearance was caught in the air along the boards by Jason Arnott. Arnott centered to Semin, who rocketed a one-timed slapper past Lundqvist, taking Game 1, and perhaps sinking the Rangers, who could have greatly benefited from a Game 1 victory.
A big reason that the Rangers never really threatened after giving up the lead, or really ever sustained any great offensive pressure, is the disappearance of Marian Gaborik, who is quite frankly playing as poorly as possible. Whether its John Tortorella’s forechecking, cycling system not fitting Gaborik’s game, or if he’s simply been ineffective, something needs to be done to jolt the Rangers winger or they’ll be sent home soon. New York simply does not possess the offensive firepower to keep up with the Capitals, who even with their new low risk system still control the puck and generate scoring chances.
The Rangers will battle and grind, as they have all year. They will certainly not cave; they are a resilient bunch. But without Gaborik’s offense, or anyone else stepping up in that manner, good effort will only get them so far.
Despite the New York Rangers needing "help" to make the 2011 NHL Playoffs, this year's team was remarkably consistent given the fact that many of the players they were counting on to be big contributors were injured. Just four regulars played all 82 games this season, and the Rangers had to rely (for once) on their depth in the minors. What's different about this version of the Rangers, though, is that it has formed a true team identity -- one that predicates itself on out-working opponents. Tonight will be the first test of that identity when the games really matter as the Rangers visit the Washington Capitals for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Playoffs at 7:30 p.m. EST (MSG).
With a Game 1 preview all about setting the stage for what's to come, let's take a look at my keys to the series. Check out Joe's here.
1- Under John Tortorella, the Rangers have bought into his system and have formed a team identity that's admittedly not flashy but makes them a squad that's very hard to play against because they are hardworking, throw their bodies around, aren't afraid to sacrifice their bodies to block shots and are expected to play in both ends of the ice. If you don't buy into it, you don't play; there's no special treatment (just ask Marian Gaborik who sat for over 15 minutes against the Thrashers a few games ago). In the regular season, the Rangers have imposed their system on the Capitals and have shown that it works -- and being a much less talented team up front, they need to play this way to have a chance.
2 - The second key for the Rangers to win this series is getting pucks deep and working beneath the goalline. Sounds simple and boring, but it's when the Rangers do that that they're most successful. This team prevails when it dumps pucks deep in the zone, wins puck battles, establishes a forecheck and works from behind the goalline. They are not a finesse team who can work east-to-west and beat the Capitals with flair; they've played their best hockey when they play a north-south game and cycle the puck behind the net (which can be aggravating as a fan).
3 - Henrik Lundqvist. Plain and simple, if Lundqvist is on his game, he can win the series for the Rangers. I know there will be spurts when it will be Lundqvist vs. the Capitals and he'll need to be big. Lundqvist has played in 68 games this season, starting 26 straight because of Marty Biron's injury, but he's proven to be better the more action he receives -- and part of that is his overall mental toughness.
4 - Slowing down Alex Ovechkin. The tandem of Marc Staal-Dan Girardi has slowed Alex Ovechkin down to just two assists in the four games played, clearly frustrating him the past two games because they've played physically and been able limit his space. I don't expect him to have a quiet series - and it will be harder for Tortorella to match them against Ovechkin when they're playing on the road - but the Rangers' other pair, which consists of rookies Michael Sauer and Ryan McDonagh have grown immensely this season and will be counted on heavily as well to stop the Caps' most dangerous weapon.
5 - Scoring from all lines. The way Marian Gaborik has played this season, any scoring from him is icing on the cake, so I can't make him a key to the series. The fact is, this team has received contributions from all over this season (and lines have been interchangeable) - five players with 20-plus goals - and will need at least the top-three lines rolling because it makes them that much harder to match up against.
Tortorella has been mum about revealing his lines/scratches to the press, but revealed this morning that Matt Gilroy and Mats Zuccarello will be in. Steven Eminger and Sean Avery will sit. Michal Neuvirth is in goal tonight for the Caps.
Game 1 should be a fun one, so sit back and enjoy.
Wednesday, Apr 13, 2011, 7:30 PM EDT
posted by Joseph Fortunato about 2 hours ago
0 comments | 0 recs
posted by Joseph Fortunato about 23 hours ago
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With the playoffs only about 10 hours away it’s time we here at SB Nation New York give you your playoff predictions! Here they are:
No. 8 New York Rangers vs. No. 1 Washington Capitals: I went over what the Rangers would have to do to down the Capitals here yesterday, so I’m not going to go into crazy details about what the Rangers need to do to win. Although Washington is obviously heavily favored, I think the Rangers have too much life to count out.
My prediction: Rangers in 7.
No. 7 Buffalo Sabers vs. No. 2 Philadelphia Flyers: Personally I believe that Buffalo is one of the most dangerous teams int he playoffs this year, especially with how they had to fight just to get into the post season. But the Flyers are a very talented and experienced team, who’s only weakness seems to be their goaltending. The Flyers do have one weapon though, Chris Pronger, who can keep the big opposing scorers away from the net, and Philadelphia will have to use that to their advantage in this series. But, like with the Rangers, the Sabres have a goalie in Ryan Miller who can steal a series by himself. Still, I think the Flyers have too much talent to go down in round one.
My Prediction: Flyers in 6
No. 6 Montreal Canadiens vs. No. 3 Boston Bruins: It’s fitting that one of hockey’s best rivalries will be a first round matchup in this year’s NHL playoffs. Although Montreal fluttered a bit down the stretch, they have a good young team with tons of potential. The Bruins, who have been an elite team in the East since the beginning of the season, will look to crush their hated rivals with ease. I don’t think it will be that easy but Boston has had the Habs number this year. I think Boston’s blend of offense and superb goaltending win them this series. Tim Thomas has simply been too good to count out this season, and the Canadiens are still charged up over the Zdeno Chara hit (and we all saw how that effected them, getting routed 7-0 the next time the two teams met).
My Prediction: Boston in 5
No. 5 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 4 Tampa Bay Lightning: The “four v. five” matchup in the NHL playoffs has always been a great one, and this year’s competition will probably fit that mold. The Penguins are still down Sidney Crosby, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have firepower on their roster. As for the Lightning? They probably hold the edge in scoring with Martain St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos. The goalie edge? Miles and away to Pittsburgh, so this series might end up hinging on special teams play.
My Prediction: Penguins in 7.
No. 8 Chicago Blackhawks vs. No. 1 Vancouver Canucks: The Stanley Cup defending Blackhawks managed to sneak into the playoffs as the eight seed, their reward? Going up against the league’s elite team since the beginning of the year. Daniel and Henrik Sedin have destroyed better defenses than Chicago all season, and with the Blackhawks moving some many core pieces of that cup winning team this past off-season I just don’t see the upset happening.
My Prediction: Vancouver in 5
No. 7 Los Angeles Kings vs. No. 2 San Jose Sharks: Both the Kings and the Sharks boast big name players in this series. The Sharks have Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Danny Heatley (among others), while the Kings have Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Ryan Smyth. I still think the Sharks simply have too much firepower to fall in this matchup, but it won’t be easy.
My Prediction: Sharks in 6
No. 6 Phoenix Coyotes vs. No. 3 Detroit Red Wings: In a rematch between last year’s first round matchup, the Red Wings and the Coyotes will once again do battle in the playoffs. This series was such a great one to watch last year and I’m expecting more of the same this time around. I think both teams have the same type of firepower on offense, so this series might come down to special teams and goaltending. Just for the sake of Ilya Bryzgalov I might call an upset here.
My Prediction: Coyotes win in 7
No. 5 Nashville Predators vs. No. 4 Anaheim Ducks: Another great matchup in the “four v. five” slot. The Ducks, who have been energized by Corey Perry’s 50-goal and 90-point performance this year, have one of the best offenses in the league. Although the Predators have a good defense I think Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan, Teemu Selanne and Lubomir Visnovsky will be too much for them to handle.
My Prediction: Ducks in 5
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The first round of the 2011 NHL playoffs begins Wednesday, highlighted by the eighth-seeded New York Rangers visiting the top-seeded Washington Capitals at 7:30 p.m. The rest of the playoff matches are listed below:
No. 2 Philadelphia Flyers vs. No. 7 Buffalo Sabres
No. 3 Boston Bruins vs. No. 6 Montreal Canadiens
No. 4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 5 Tampa Bay Lightning
No. 1 Vancouver Canucks vs. No. 8 Chicago Blackhawks
No. 2 San Jose Sharks vs. No. 7 Los Angeles Kings
No. 3 Detroit Red Wings vs. No. 6 Phoenix Coyotes
No. 4 Anaheim Ducks vs. No. 5 Nashville Predators
You can visit the SB Nation Hockey Hub for complete details, including game-by-game schedules for each match-up. Click each match-up above to see full SB Nation breakdowns of each first-round series.
SB Nation New York will have everything you need to know about Rangers-Capitals, and SB Nation’s Hockey Hub will have the rest of the information for you. SB Nation’s Rangers website, Blueshirt Banter, is your place to discuss the action with Rangers fans.
The 2011 NHL playoff schedule was officially announced tonight on NHL Network. The No. 8 New York Rangers will face the No. 1 Washington Capitals and the series will begin on Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. EST at the Verizon Center. The Blueshirts went 3-1 (one of them being a shootout win) against the Capitals this season, but that was before their playoff opponents made some savvy trade-deadline moves and added guys like Jason Arnott, Dennis Wideman and Marco Sturm (whom they claimed off waivers the day after the Rangers 6-0 victory on Feb. 25). The playoffs begin a new season, though, and anything can happen (see the Flyers last season) ...
Here is a look at the full first-round schedule (all times Eastern):
Game 1: Rangers at Capitals - Wednesday, April 13, 7:30 p.m.
Game 2: Rangers at Capitals - Friday, April 15, 7:30 p.m.
Game 3: Capitals at Rangers - Sunday, April 17, 3:00 p.m. (NBC)
Game 4: Capitals at Rangers - Wednesday, April 20, 7:00 p.m.
Game 5: Rangers at Capitals - Saturday, April 23, 3:00 p.m. (if necessary) (NBC)
Game 6: Capitals at Rangers - Monday, April 25, TBD (if necessary)
Game 7: Rangers at Capitals - Wednesday, April 27, TBD (if necessary)
All games not shown on NBC will be broadcast on MSG.
-- See the complete first-round schedule at the SB Nation NHL Hub.
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